NEW YORK — With in-house communicators taking on more responsibilities, particularly surrounding corporate reputation management, companies are investing in creating larger teams to handle the charges, according to new research from The Conference Board.

The report, Corporate Communications Practices: 2018 Edition, found that roughly 70% of the 100 publically traded companies surveyed increased or maintained the size of their communications teams during the last two years. That figure included manufacturing, financial services and non-financial services firms.

That number grew to 90% when looking at just financial services companies. Half the number of companies with revenue above $25bn reported having communications teams at least 50-people strong, and 35% put the headcount at more than 100.  That’s a significant lift from 2016, when just 9% of those companies had teams 100 or more strong.

"This is a critical moment for the corporate communications function," said Alex Parkinson, a Conference Board senior research and associate director of The Society for New Communications Research. "It is both an opportune moment and a challenging one. Organizations need experts who can uncover and disseminate the right messages and deliver them to an audience that needs to be won over. At the same time, these experts need to inspire and motivate employees, and deliver insights to company leaders that can help them make smart strategic decisions."

The survey also looked at digital transformation, finding that while communicators are increasingly emphasizing big data, corporate comms teams are not equipped to maximize its potential. Writing ability is still considered the most important skill among communicators; Skills related to data expertise did not even make the top ten.