CCOs boast stronger tie to CEO, according to new survey

SAN FRANCISCO: The troubled economy has prompted organizations to expand the scope and responsibility of their chief communications officers, according a new survey.

SAN FRANCISCO: The troubled economy has prompted organizations to expand the scope and responsibility of their chief communications officers, according a new survey.

The survey, conducted by Spencer Stuart and Weber Shandwick, found that 58% of CCOs report directly to the CEO, up from 48% last year. While the recession has accelerated the growing importance of communications within organizations, this change has been under way for several years, said Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at WS.

“As soon as the Web arrived and then there was increasing scrutiny from [non-governmental groups] - the jobs of communications became much more strategic and crisis-oriented,” she added.

Communications' newfound prominence, however, has fueled rivalry with marketing teams. Forty-percent of those surveyed called the CMO their biggest rival.

“CCOs are competing with CMOs for budget and time with the CEO,” Gaines-Ross added, but said the survey was not able to determine whether the increased prominence of communications has amounted to larger budgets.

“What's right for the company from a communications standpoint often involves transparency and delivering uncomfortable messages,” said George Jamison, principal at Spencer Stuart, an executive consulting firm. “But from a marketing perspective this might cause problems. That's usually where there's conflict between the departments.”

Jamison added that the results present a greater opportunity for external PR agencies to play a bigger role in driving strategy at organizations.

"PR agencies that are strategic partners will only profit from this," he noted.

Similar to last year, the survey also found that CCOs who work for organizations that topped Fortune's “most admired companies” list typically had higher organizational status, longer tenures, and used social media more than other companies. The “most admired companies” also boasted PR budgets that were $5-million annually or higher.

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