BERLIN — Chief communications officers are under increasing pressure to evolve their roles, compounded by their continued marginalisation when serious policy decisions are made at the companies they serve, heard delegates at today's EMEA In2 Innovation Summit in Berlin.

Telefonica UK director of communications and reputation Nicola Green noted that her role had evolved considerably, to the point where her department is now viewed as the "conscience of the organisation" by CEO Ronan Dunne.

"Whereas before we used to be at the end of the process, we’re now at the heart of it," said Green. "We are consulted on every decision that is made."

However, that type of change appears to be happening too rarely, argued Holmes Report CEO Paul Holmes — who pointed to the Volkswagen crisis as an example of why PR departments remain poorly valued by companies, not least because confidence in the function is rarely institutionalised.

Holmes also pointed to the function's inablity to grow their budgets as a symptom of the wider malaise surrounding CCO roles, citing Global Communications Report research.

However, Green countered with specific strategies that she has deployed to demonstrate the value of communications to her board members, whom she described as "internal clients." Aligning her department's scorecard with the broader business scorecard has been a crucial element in this approach, along with utilising the value of a campaigning mindset and an ability to handle crises.

That kind of thinking is likely to become increasingly important for communications departments. Kicking off the session, Hering Schuppener MD Christopher Storck cited Arthur W. Page Society research which positions the evolution in the CCO role against a backdrop of significant technological and societal change.

Accordingly, Storck believes there are now nine roles which the CCO can be expected to fill — ranging from communications controller to strategic counselor, cross-functional integrator, culture tsar, digital engagement architect and reputation steward.