More than seven in 10 global chief communications officers report that digital communications ranks as their top priority for the next 18 months, according to The Rising CCO VI, a survey conducted by executive search firm Spencer Stuart and Weber Shandwick.
CCOs in every region also report that digital and social media would be their closest working partners in the future. This aligns with a related trend of using data analytics widely to evaluate corporate reputation, refine messaging, and identify company supporters and allies, according to the study.
The importance of employee communications as a top tier priority differs regionally among global CCOs, who say they plan to make hires in the employee engagement and internal communications field in the next 12 to 18 months. Specific positons cited include global head of employee engagement, head of enterprise communications (internal and leadership) and employee engagement specialist.
As global CCOs focus on strengthening their connections with employees as part of their skill set today and in the near future, a large 83 percent report working closely with their human resources (HR) departments. Another 14 percent report that they do not currently work closely with HR, but their company would benefit from doing so.
“Effective and engaging employee communications is in great demand today as the communications function continues to touch all parts of a company’s business,” says George Jamison, who leads Spencer Stuart’s corporate communications business. “CEOs are asking their top communications leaders to ensure that employees internalise strategy and company purpose. Our research shows that CCOs are working hard to drive employee advocacy and deepen their relationships with stakeholders both within and outside the company.”
The research uncovered other top concerns on the minds of CCOs. They include:
- More than one out of two global CCOs (53 percent) have been impacted by shareholder activism. Of those who have been impacted by shareholder activism, 92 percent say their department was very or somewhat involved in addressing the event.
- Nearly one-half of global CCOs (47 percent) spend a great deal or a lot of their time preparing for or dealing with cyber security, followed by understanding shifts in consumer spending behaviours (45 percent) and managing financial crises (44 percent).
- 80 percent of global CCOs believe that marketing and communications departments are more collaborative than ever, and 54 percent expect the two functions to be fully integrated in the next few years.
- When asked what would be the one thing global CCOs would most like to focus on in their role if they had the time, the top answer was reputation (28 percent). (This question was asked on an open-ended basis.)
“Reputation management is a prime responsibility of the corporate communications position today. Nearly every CCO, 93 percent, places this responsibility at the top of their lists, regardless of region,” saysLeslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at Weber Shandwick. “Clearly, global CCOs take their jobs as reputation guardians seriously and are ever-vigilant about protecting their company reputations from harm, whether it be cyber threats, crises of any kind, or the growing importance of employee engagement.”