Communication Managers Roles Grid

Communication leaders have manifold responsibilities, ranging from reputation management, to steering communication teams and counseling top managers in decision-making processes. Yet, research into the many new roles of CCOs has been lagging behind.

  • The newly developed Communication Manager Roles Grid depicts the role diversity of today’s communication executives in eight dimensions.
  • It can be used for assessing individual competencies or setting personal targets. Likewise, the Roles Grid can help to strucuture teams.

Which roles are performed by chief communication officers?

Map - Hintergrundbild


In this role, the Chief Communication Officer is legitimized by other organizational members to act as an official ambassador on behalf of the organization. Thus, the ambassador provides direction to turn strategic issues into action. The ambassador or ‘visionary’ is a popular concept which is commonly used in management research.

» I act as a visionary and convey the corporate strategy to key stakeholders to ensure our corporation’s legitimacy. Through my unique contact points with important customers, investors, or politicians, I detect trends in the external environment proactively and inform top management about critical issues. In change processes, I create vision, promote change, and lead the way as a strategic pioneer of new ideas. «


The communication executive is responsible for providing platforms and channels to articulate strategic management decisions internally and externally. By multiplying corporate strategy through communication measures, the CCO supports strategy implementation and execution. Multiplicators break down the strategy into clear and easily remembered messages.

» Every employee should know and understand corporate strategy. My role is to communicate our strategic goals by selecting the right channels and language when addressing our different stakeholders inside and outside the organization. For instance, I set up communication activities that accompany the launch of a new corporate strategy. This is done by internal communications that facilitate a dialogue between top management and employees, and by addressing general publics. «

Communication Strategist

The main tasks of this role include deriving a communication strategy and linking it to corporate strategy. The communication strategist must have a good understanding of the company’s strategy to be able to break it down into concrete communication targets.

» I define overarching communication goals that are aligned with our corporate strategy and mission statement. In other words, I carry entrepreneurial responsibility that communication targets contribute to the long-term success of the company, for instance a professional reputation management or a unique brand positioning. « 

Professional Communicator

He/she implements specific communication measures that have been defined in an overall communication plan, and hence operates at a tactical level. Skills such as improvisation and editing are important aspects of the operational communicator repertoire.

» I support daily business operations by delivering professional communication. One of my main tasks is to produce communication materials, creating messages for internal and external communication, or maintaining social media platforms. Skills such as writing, editing, and working with media are indispensable in my function. « 

Strategic Manager

The strategic manager has to manage the communication department effectively. He should be able to identify potentials for innovation for the department in order to support the long-term growth of the organization. For fulfilling managerial positions, communicators should know popular management tools and concepts. They need leadership competencies for steering communication staff and external agencies.

» I am responsible for the long-term success of the communication department and its future contribution to organizational performance. My responsibilities include creating development programs for the communication staff and improving the department’s competencies in digital communication. «

Operational Manager

The operational manager focuses on routine tasks such as budgeting, staffing, controlling and analysis. Communication experts in this role must have competencies to manage resources and coordinate integrated messaging processes across shared, earned, owned and paid media.

» My task is to administer daily business processes, establish efficient routines, and implement top management decisions such as compliance guidelines. I evaluate the success of communication activities, interpret measurement data, and report to top management on the department’s goal achievement. In addition, I have regular meetings with my communication team to coordinate tasks and give feedback. «


In this role, the CCO draws the attention of top management to potential communicative risks, societal expectations and critical issues, and provides advice on strategic decisions. He is valued by internal partners for the ability to span corporate boundaries. The CCO has to be able to offer serious, frank, and even bold consultation to top management as well as to maintain a good relationship with key stakeholders.

» I see myself as a key policy and strategy advisor for future corporate development. Whenever our top management has to make strategic decisions affecting corporate legitimacy, I am asked to participate in strategy meetings. I consult based on my knowledge gained from monitoring key stakeholders. Our CEO frequently asks for my advice, even if there are no touchpoints with communication projects. « 


One of the main tasks of the CCO and other communicators is to enable other employees to communicate professionally. This includes the orchestration of many different voices of the organization. Coaching and feedback skills are essential to enable employees and executives to improve their personal communicative competencies in a world of polyphonic messages.

» I coach top executives and other departments to communicate professionally. This includes presentation skills, rhetorical training or contingency plans. I also write speeches for our top management and offer personal media coaching. Insights from issues management and monitoring help me in this role. «


Key facts

  • A systemizing tool: The Communication Manager Roles Grid (CRG) systematizes the multi-faceted tasks of today´s communication executives in eight dimensions and helps to better understand the different strategic and operational roles performed. The tool can be used to reflect on individual performance. It supports leadership when used to define success profiles or set personal targets.
  • Required management skills: A wide range of managerial competencies are needed to fulfill the many responsibilities of communication leaders. A solid comprehension of popular management concepts and tools is important. Moreover, a good understanding of the organization is relevant to be able to provide consultation to top managers.
  • Drawing a holistic picture: Communication executives can use the Roles Grid to better demonstrate their personal contributions to corporate success. In particular, they can emphasize their strategic roles as ambassadors of corporate strategy and advisors of top management.



The Communication Managers Roles Grid (CRG) can be used for...

  • Role reflection: By using the Grid, communicators can identify their roles within the organization and reflect on one’s personal role fulfillment. Furthermore, it outlines competencies for each of the eight roles.
  • Individual development: The grid can be used to identify individual needs in order to advance competencies. However, nobody has to have excellent skills for performing every role.
  • Analyze team competencies: You can use the grid to match competencies of team members to build up teams with a diversity of skills and to ensure that the right staff are in the right position for them. It assists with creating job profiles, too. 
  • Personal goal achievment: Finally, the Communication Manager Roles Grid can be used to set personal targets and report individual performance in all eight role dimensions. 



As a first step, an extensive interdisciplinary literature review helped to systematize existing academic knowledge on value creation. Publications from the year 2000 onwards were included and account for more than 800 academic pieces in 36 international journals. 

Secondly, empirical in-depth interviews with the CCOs of ten German and international blueship companies were carried out and supplemented by a secondary data analysis of more than 50 internal and external strategy documents, planning documents, and strategy formulations in annual reports of these ten companies.



Scientific background

Research into professional roles has been a very popular research topic in communication and management sciences for decades. An overview of our findings:

    • Universally applicable concepts are missing: Although a variety of role concepts exist, our literature review revealed that they are not universally applicable and that the distinctions remain fuzzy.
    • Popular research area: Research into professional roles has been very popular in communication and management sciences for decades. The origins for communication roles date back to the late 1970s and were characterized by a strong interest in diverging gender roles and related salary gaps. Today, research investigates diverse aspects such as leadership or competency development.
  • Varying research approaches: Over the years, many different role concepts have been suggested. Some are based on theoretical conceptualizations, some on normative ideas, others on surveys among professionals in different countries. Most studies have indicated that practitioners perform between two up to six different roles during their daily work.
  • The first typology: The pioneers of PR roles research, Broom and Smith proposed a four-role typology: 1. The communication facilitator, 2. The expert prescriber, 3. The problem-solving process facilitator and 4. The communication technician.
  • PR technician vs. PR manager: Over time, the four-role concept was simplified and reduced to only two role dimensions: the PR technician and the PR manager. In this widely known typology, technicians produce and disseminate materials, whereas managers develop communication strategies based on research and analysis and play an important role in decision-making processes.
  • Further differentiating the roles: In addition to the widely used two-role concept from North America, European researchers have suggested that communication practitioners have two additional roles: a reflective and an educational role.