MONDAY 18 JAN 2021 3:53 PM


The Charter Institute of Public relations published a new skills guide ‘from comms professional to CEO,’ which explores what holds comms people back on their professional journey to leadership positions, including becoming CEOs. Based on qualitative research interviews with C-suite professionals, the report provides advice for public relations experts on how to make the journey to the top.

One of the key themes in the guide was the lack of visible role models of communications people making it into top jobs. However, most CEOs’ number one advice in the interviews was to always try, even if many top players historically have a financial or operational background.

“I’ve always thought the skill set of senior communications professionals makes us ideal CEO material but haven’t seen lots of people having made the leap. I think this is partly about self-confidence and partly because of a lack of visible role models. I hope this report will help tackle both of these issues and support any communications professional thinking about taking the step up to a CEO role to ‘just do it’” says founder of PR company How-Now Communications, Mike Browne.

According to Lorraine Langham, CEO of Future first, a company which connect pupils with alumni as relatable role models to boost confidence, working in comms gives people an invaluable range of kills, including problem solving, crisis management, great written and oral skills and collaboration.

Another central topic that came up across all interviews was the ability to identify gaps in ones curriculum, being able to maintain a level of self-awareness so to reflect and call out areas for development if the employer wont take time to do so. One way to do so, the guide suggests, is looking at job descriptions for CEO roles and identifying common elements.

“Be ready to contribute from a corporate perspective, not just a communications perspective when issues are being discussed. This means doing your homework and being on top of the corporate agenda,” says Tom Grinyer, CEO of the British Medical Association.

“Comms people have the ear of the CEO, we hold the secrets and know where the bodies are buried, use that proximity to be seen in a broader way,” adds Longham.