Organization, roles and responsibilities

"CERN needs an overall communication strategy and harmonization of all units." Member of Extended Directorate

CERN needs not only a broadly accepted and utilized messaging and communications architecture, but also a single communications and information policy that entails clearly defined processes and procedures. This can best be achieved by creating the roles of a Chief Communications Officer (CCO) and a Chief Information Officer (CIO), who would work closely together to steer and implement CERN´s communications strategy. The following simple organization chart, Figure 2, mirrors current structures in other organizations:

Chart showing how CCO (content) and CIO (systems) roles overlap


Figure 2: Typical organization chart for communications

The CCO has line managerial responsibility for all communications channels, while the CIO has line managerial responsibility for all aspects of information architecture (IT). A dashed line joining the CCO and the CIO indicates close collaboration.

The situation at CERN is very different, with no overall communications policy or strategy applied uniformly across the Organization. While a typical corporate organization is neither possible nor desirable for CERN, a more strategic approach to communications is essential. CERN’s current organization chart for communications is shown in simplified form in Figure 3. 

Chart showing how the communications function at CERN is distributed across the organization


Figure 3: CERN’s organization chart for communications

The situation today at CERN is that several departments and experiments have independent communications functions, which occasionally follow diverging agendas.

This can be overcome by the creation of the CCO and CIO functions, and by establishing a clear distinction between the spokesperson and the CCO role. Working with senior management, the CCO defines and ensures a coherent communications strategy, while the spokesperson speaks on behalf of the organization and prepares communications for the media.

All full-time communications staff should be part of a single centralized team, working from a single centralized budget and taking their lead from the CCO. This would ensure unity of strategy and messaging. This approach cannot work for the experiments, however, as they are independent of CERN. In this case, the existing procedure of monthly coordination meetings should be maintained.

Figure 4 proposes a communications structure that respects the academic nature of CERN, while approaching proven corporate standards to enable efficient messaging. It ensures coherency of messaging by formalizing links between the CCO and other CERN units communicating to the outside world. It rationalizes the currently widespread communications function by organizing the communications group into three sections:

  • A press office
  • A content creation team
  • An audience engagement team

Personnel currently in other units at CERN whose main job description is managing the relationship with selected target audiences (including alumni, industry and job seekers) would join the audience engagement team. Technical web production and development functions currently in DG-CO would move under the responsibility of the CIO.

The communications agenda would be set by series of operational meetings as follows:

  • A quarterly meeting to the broad lines of upcoming communications;
  • A weekly editorial meeting;
  • A daily meeting to be held every morning involving the audience engagement team, along with a representative of the press office and one from the content management team.

The CCO would ensure broader coordination by attending, or nominating someone from their team, to attend meetings of LOG, EPPCN, InterAction, and IPPOG. 

A proposed organization for the communications function at CERN

Figure 4: Proposed organization chart for communications at CERN

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