According to PR Week, a new boardroom phenomenon is about to solve many a PR’s dilemma: enter the CXO or chief experience officer.

We’ve all had that sinking feeling when – despite our best efforts as communicators – the reputation gap that underlies our confident words is ripped wide open by a customer’s actual experience or some other reality check that publicly undermines the reputation of the brand (and let’s face it, everything takes place in public these days – there’s nowhere to hide, thanks to social media).

As PRs, we know that our campaign can only be as good as the truth behind it – whatever we say, if our words don’t reflect the quality of the service, the performance of the products or the behaviour of the senior management team, it won’t just be our communications programme that fails: it could well be the entire company.  And there isn’t very much we can do about it either.

In one of my previous in-house PR roles, I frequently had to make things happen before I could publicise them.  If the MD told me we were due to open a new store, appoint a new executive or initiate a customer promotion, my brief was not just to make a noise about these things but to ensure they got to the top of the relevant teams’ agendas and actually happened.  That might sound like a bit of a power trip – in reality it was quite scary because it carried more responsibility than I felt comfortable with at the time.

But this, it seems, will be the kind of power wielded by the CXO – except that as a member of the ‘C-suite’ executive team, this individual will have much more clout than a mere PR officer.  Responsible not just for for ensuring consistency of messaging across the entire organisation but also able to ensure that the customer’s actual experience is top flight – that every aspect of the company’s operation is attuned to its customers’ needs and focused on delivering them – this role will wield a lot of power.

PR practitioners should welcome any development that helps turn brands around so that they are fully facing their audience.  Straddling internal communications, HR, marketing and brand, product or service delivery, customer relations and external PR, the advent of the CXO position is really a natural progression in the evolution of the organisation.  It’s all about the customer.  And it’s about time too.

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