A seat at the tableBy Noelle Hawton, senior consultant

Most corporate communications leaders want a seat at the executive leadership table. Doing so allows the organization’s decisions to be viewed through the filter of corporate positioning and reputation. As with anything, however, there are pros and cons inherent in having the function report directly to the company’s CEO.

According to a recently released Corporate Executive Board (CEB) study, those who do report to the CEO have some nice perks:

  • Bigger Bucks: Communications budgets for functions that report directly to the CEO (29% of respondents) are twice the size of communications budgets that report in through HR.
  • Balanced Efforts: Those who report to HR (12% of respondents) say they typically focus most on internal communications, and those who report to marketing (20% of respondents) tend to focus primarily on external audiences. Only those corporate communications professionals who report directly to the CEO find a balance between the two.
  • Greater Value: The communications professionals who report to their CEOs say their function is more valued by the entire organization and they have more credibility.

Of course, there’s also is a down side (if that’s how you choose to view it). Respondents who report to the CEO cited more accountability and scrutiny, as well as having the CEO’s agenda dictate all activities.

How to make a case for a seat at the table

Making the case for a change in reporting structure isn’t easy (at best) and can be a bit of a land mine to navigate. Here are 5 tips for getting there:

  1. Ask to be included in executive leadership meetings and bring your most strategic A-game. Offer opinions and counsel about large-picture topics and how various scenarios will affect key stakeholders.
  2. Demonstrate curiosity, intellect and value. Spend your off-hours reading about best practices in your industry and others, and send along articles paired with your insight regarding salient points to members of the executive team.
  3. Serve as the expert. Position yourself as an expert and coach by having candid conversations with each executive about their comfort with making presentations and delivering consistent messages to employees and external stakeholders. Doing so will allow you to give real-time feedback, both positive and negative, and will help the team see the value of a strong communications performance and your role in it.
  4. Build relationships and cultivate sponsors. When working with members of the executive leadership team, including the CEO, don’t be shy about sharing your goal of serving as a strategic peer. Ask for specific feedback from each about the role communications plays in the organization and how they think it could be more effectively and strategically deployed.
  5. Prioritize. We often hear that our clients’ executive leadership thinks the communications function is tactical and not strategic. Avoid this fate by setting strategic priorities for the communications team and only execute against those. Resources spent on work that doesn’t support the organization’s strategic objectives should be scrutinized and possibly eliminated.

Does your communications function report directly to the CEO? If so, does your experience mirror the CEB study results? Tell us about it! Also, check out more Tunheim insights here.

Noelle Hawton is a senior consultant at Tunheim and leads the firm’s Corporate Communications practice. She can be reached at nhawton@tunheim.com.


Curious what professionals who plan and create engaging content read in their downtime?

Similar to the audiences we engage for our clients, it varies depending on our passions and what’s going on in the news and our lives. Review this quick snapshot of what’s piqued our interest this week — you might find some good business insights, a juicy piece of current events or pop culture, or a good video or two to amuse you during your weekend.

Stephen Colbert Leaving Character Behind To Take Over David Letterman’s Late-Night Spot

Submitted by Ryan Splawski, consultant, @ryan_splawski

The Late Night game just got a lot more interesting — and, more likely, younger skewing. Following in the footsteps of Jimmy Fallon taking over The Tonight Show at NBC, competing network CBS announced the replacement of David Letterman this week by none other than the clever, quirky and cerebral Stephen Colbert. Similar to Fallon, who has a large social following and has turned the Tonight Show into viral video after viral video, Colbert comes with a lot of social media clout. So much so that Rush Limbaugh called the decision a “war on the heartland of America.” It will be interesting to see how this new late-night battle plays out among a new generation of Roku-streaming, iPad viewing third-screen TV viewers. Let the games begin.

Rob Ford computer game

Submitted by Jonathan Wolfish, assistant consultant, @wolfish87

2013 was not the best year for Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford. Allegations of his possibly criminal misbehavior and abuses of office shed a very negative light on Mayor Ford. I just saw this computer game earlier in the week and thought it was pretty entertaining; however, I’m sure Mayor Ford’s people are probably looking for several ways to minimize its impact.

Why Is Public Television Against Public Schools?

Submitted by Paula Thornton Greear, ACE 

PBS has long been viewed as a supporter of public education; however, there are a growing  number of people that say the opposite is true because of ties to big money: the Walton family (Walmart), Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Eli Broad, business titan and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Joel Klein (former NYC schools chancellor and now a Murdoch employee), and more. Has big money been funding an attack – that has been funding the attack on public schools?

Divergent & an awesome prank

Submitted by Paula Wright, senior consultant

I always like to read the book before I see a movie, so I read Divergent and the sequel Insurgent last week while on vacation – perfect beach reading.

My favorite video this week was an April Fool’s joke on a teacher:

CBS 2′s Paul Magers – The Very Model of a Modern Magers Anchorman  

From Lou Ann Olson, senior consultant

This guy was THE hot Twin Cities anchor until about 10 years ago.  Here’s an update on how he’s doing in LA

More news about Millennials: The love user-generated content

Submitted by: Elizabeth Kitt, consultant, (@eakitt)

Oh, Millennials. As if they weren’t hard enough to figure out – and even harder to market to – a new study (from Crowdtap and Ipsos) shows they trust status updates, blog posts and restaurant reviews (otherwise known as user-generated content) more than professional reviews. But what I found most interesting/alarming is Millennials spend 5+ hours per day with UGC, making UGC 20% more influential when it comes to purchasing decisions than other media. Now back to Facebook to see if my friends agree…




Hockey fans (and Team Tunheim) celebrated yesterday’s announcement that Bill Robertson has been selected as the new commissioner of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), the most historic, tradition-rich conference in college hockey. A press conference was held in St. Paul yesterday and the room was quickly filled with friends, media friends, former and present colleagues along with Bill’s family to celebrate his success. Below is a video from the press conference in case you missed it. Congrats, Billy Rob!


Bill Robertson on WCCO radio: Final Four Economics, MLB Opening Day and Cable Carriage Disputes [4-5-14]

April 7, 2014

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Why you may need to rethink the state of content in your online newsroom

April 4, 2014

by Ryan Splawski, @ryan_splawski Gone are the days of waiting for the morning paper to land on the front steps. With smartphones and tablets, we now have access to news anytime, anywhere. Writing for a variety of print, broadcast and online platforms, reporters are challenged to create dynamic content that catches users’ attention in a data-heavy […]

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What’s @TeamTunheim Reading? [April 4, 2014]

April 4, 2014

Curious what professionals who plan and create engaging content read in their downtime? Similar to the audiences we engage for our clients, it varies depending on our passions and what’s going on in the news and our lives. Review this quick snapshot of what’s piqued our interest this week — you might find some good […]

Read the full article →

What’s @TeamTunheim Reading? [March 28, 2014]

March 28, 2014

Curious what the people who plan and create engaging content for a living read in their downtime? Similar to the audiences we engage for our clients, it varies a lot, depending on our passions and what’s going on in the news and our lives. Check out this quick snapshot of what’s piqued our interest this […]

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The rising popularity of podcasts: Why listeners are rediscovering podcasts

March 26, 2014

By: Natalie Wires (@NatalieWires) When I was starting my communications career, a director of digital strategy marched up to me and said, “You need to be listening to podcasts.” Why the heck would I listen to podcasts, I wondered? I thought podcasts were the product of aging geeks looking to spread their uninteresting ideas to […]

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