At the recent Global PR Summit in Miami, I had the privilege of participating on a panel with an international roster of communications consultants, all gathered to discuss the challenges of getting CEO’s and other C-suite executives to embrace the importance of communications.

Michael Murphy kicked off the discussion by citing research recently published by Forbes that reiterates the increasing influence of the chief communications officer in the C-suite and addresses the intersection of communications and corporate reputation.  Further, he pointed to additional research that shows that successful organizations have CEOs who understand and embrace the value of communications

And yet, many CEOs don’t buy it.  Some discount the value of communications and are looking for clearer ROI metrics. Others are highly uncomfortable with the new communications channels and with the speed they are invented, adopted and discarded.   What can we do to convince them that the CEO of the future needs to be the Chief Communicator and that there is value to strategic communications?  While I shared some tips from my experience, I also pointed out that I believe this is a temporary problem.

The next generation of CEOs will have communications skills embedded.  And I’m not talking about millennials, although I know everyone likes to talk about them.

To be sure, the millennial generation will come preprogrammed for communications, and perhaps even for over-sharing.  That will bring its own set of challenges for corporate communicators.  If you work with young adults in this age group, you already know this.  For an interesting and informative dive into the mindset of these future leaders, I recommend
Frankly Speaking,  a five-part series on Medium and particularly Part Three which teaches you how to Communicate Like a Pro.  This generation gets the value of storytelling.

I’m talking about the immediate next generation of corporate leadership. A 2014 Fortune article predicts that the “least-talked about” generation, Gen Xers, will be the next gen of CEOs.  While the boundaries of Generation X are fuzzy, most people agree that the oldest Xers are right around 50, and the Fortune article points out that they are “also at an age where their experience qualifies them for senior management jobs, and they’ll be in demand as Boomers keep retiring.”  U.S. News tells us to “Get Ready for Generation X to Take the Reins: The millennials-crazy media forget who our next leaders truly are.

While the generational portrait of Xers is often described in terms of latchkey kids, children of divorce, basement-dwelling slackers and political and institutional incompetence, it’s important to pay attention to the fact that they came of age during an incredible transformation in technology and how we communicate.  They remember rotary phones and WANG computers, and they grew up in a world without social media.  And yet, they’ve embraced, and often invented, many of the new channels. Xers brought us YouTube and Google, and GenX is the first generation to incorporate social media into their lives.

Further, they’re the only generation who regularly consume their marketing messages from
all of the main media channels including social media networks and mobile (unlike Boomers) and TV/cable (unlike Gen Y).”There are, of course, very diverse opinions about what types of leaders GenXers will turn out to be. My prediction is that they’ll be strong communicators; they’ll understand the power of a story, they’ll get that communication is a two-way street, and they’ll utilize all the channels that are open to them. I think the CEO of the future will be a strong communicator and have a unique ability to connect with their employees, their customers, their boards and other stakeholders.  Oh, and she’ll probably be a woman too. 

But I digress.