Weber Shandwick study: Combining marcomms under one leader is advantageous

This trend is driven by "dramatic shifts" in digital media and a "stronger" relationship between brand and corporate reputation, according to the study.

NEW YORK: Chief communications and marketing officers say there are "many benefits" to combining both practices under one leader, according to a study released by Weber Shandwick on Wednesday.

Ten chief communications and marketing officers responsible for integrating those roles in their organizations were interviewed for the study between October 2013 and March 2014. The respondents hailed from various sectors across the US, Europe, and Asia.

The report was inspired by a previous study Weber Shandwick released last month, which found that the rate of businesses combining their corporate communications and marketing functions has increased 35% since 2012.

This trend is driven by "dramatic shifts" in digital media and a "stronger" relationship between brand and corporate reputation, according to the study.

"I think the way that communications and marketing has traditionally been set up was marketing focused on the customer and all the other stakeholders were in the bucket for comms," said Weber Shandwick chief reputation strategist Leslie Gaines-Ross. "Nowadays, you really can’t speak with a different voice to your different audiences, so it makes a lot of strategic sense to integrate."

The study found that companies can create and maintain a consistent message and voice across all channels by integrating communications and marketing oversight. They can also act more quickly, coordinate across disciplines more seamlessly, and leverage resources and budgets better.

"I think the biggest risk is that, in a newly evolving integration, it can take time to really gel," Gaines-Ross said. "There is a learning curve for everyone to learn new functions. Businesses also need to find the right talent, and because integration gives a company a much bigger budget, there is probably greater scrutiny."

She added that the combination of the two functions under one leader is not a threat to marketing and comms pros; it can actually provide a greater variety of career options.

"This trend does not suggest the head count is being reduced; in fact it is increasing," Gaines-Ross explained.

Respondents generally agreed that as the media environment evolves, organizations must reevaluate the alignment between marketing and communications functions.

"This is a rising trend. We are not saying this is going to totally take over the entire corporate environment where the two functions are integrated," said Gaines-Ross. "This is an evolving pattern. There is no industry standard yet in terms of how these kinds of roles would be titled and what specific responsibilities would fall under them."

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