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58 Percent of Global Corporate Communications Officers Now Report To CEO and Tenures Rise, According To Annual Survey


NEW YORK – In a time of unprecedented economic volatility, global corporate communications executives have actually seen their “stock” rise over the past 12 months. In The Rising CCO, an annual survey conducted by global executive search firm Spencer Stuart and global public relations firm Weber Shandwick with KRC Research, 58% of global chief communications officers1 (CCOs) surveyed report to the CEO, compared to 48% a year ago. Not only do more CCOs call the CEO their boss, but 40% of CCOs consider the CEO to be their biggest ally in the organization. This leadership momentum coincides with an increase in CCO tenure: in 2008, CCOs’ average tenure was 65 months, compared to 54 months in 2007. By comparison, the average tenure of chief marketing officers is 28 months, according to research conducted separately by Spencer Stuart.

“The data reinforces the fact that when many organizations endure critical times, CEOs are increasingly looking to the CCO for their strategic crisis communications and ability to quickly react to a variety of scenarios,” said George Jamison, who leads Spencer Stuart’s Corporate Communications and Investor Relations Practice.

The survey also found that experience in crisis communications and issues management is critical to a CCO’s success. According to CCOs surveyed, the need for crisis/issues management experience has increased 45% since 2007. Additionally, CCOs cite social media/blogging as the most frequently added function to their corporate communications departments in 2008, and they believe that social media/blogging will be their most important tool in 2009.

“It goes without saying that CEOs and boards are under tremendous pressure to navigate through the stormy seas of the current economic tsunami. Like never before, CEOs are depending on CCOs for crisis and issues counsel to steady their company reputations and calm stakeholders,” said Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross. “CEOs who do not communicate using traditional and social media do so at their own peril.”

As corporate reputation—anticipated to be the number one communications priority in 2009—endures extreme stress and the Internet provides unanticipated opportunities and risks, skills often “owned” by the CCO are in greater demand: crisis and issues management, social media monitoring and online engagement, reputation management, and management of a complex portfolio of stakeholders such as employees, investors, nongovernmental organizations and trade media. As one CCO said, “Crisis communication work, leading in a rapidly changing environment, and understanding new business/financial challenges” will be among the most challenging communications issues in the year ahead.
(related table)

Other key findings:

* Social media played a greater role in 2008 in North American corporate communications departments than in European ones. Nearly two in 10 (18%) communications departments in North America relied upon social media/blogging in 2008 as communications tools/resources, compared to less than one in 10 (7%) in Europe. Further, nearly twice as many North American CCOs report they added a social media/blogging function to their department in 2008 as European CCOs (41% vs. 22%, respectively). However, European CCOs are just as likely as their North American peers to expect social media to grow as a critical tool in 2009 (26% and 30%, respectively).
* CCOs report 11 board interactions in 2008 vs. 7 in 2007 (a 57% increase).
* CCOs who work for companies with “most admired” reputations are more closely aligned with CEOs. More than six in 10 CCOs (62%) at Fortune’s Most Admired companies report to CEOs, compared to only four in 10 (39%) at less esteemed Contender companies.2 Further, CCOs at Most Admired companies are much more likely to cite the CEO as an organizational ally than those at Contender companies (46% vs. 34%, respectively).
* CCOs differ in tenure and reporting line depending on their region. North American CCOs have been in their current positions for approximately 2 years longer, on average, than European CCOs (5 years, 10 months vs. 3 years, 9 months, respectively). Despite their shorter tenures, European CCOs are more likely to report directly to the CEO than their North American counterparts (66% vs. 53%, respectively).

1. Corporate Communications Officers included individuals with titles such as Chief Communications Officer, Head of Corporate Communications, Senior VP Communications, Head of Corporate Marketing, and Global Chief Public Affairs Officer.
2. Similar to the first annual survey conducted in 2007, responses are compared between CCOs in Fortune’s “world’s most admired companies” and those in “contender companies” (generally, most admired companies are the most highly ranked companies in an industry on overall reputation; contender companies are ranked in the industry’s bottom half).

About the Survey
The Rising CCO, now in its second year, examined the roles, responsibilities and opinions of CCOs in the world’s largest companies. The 159 survey participants come from companies based in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. Eighty-four percent of respondents work in global Fortune 500 companies.

About Spencer Stuart
Spencer Stuart is one of the world’s leading executive search consulting firms. Privately held since 1956, Spencer Stuart applies its extensive knowledge of industries, functions and talent to advise select clients – ranging from major multinationals to emerging companies to nonprofit organizations–and address their leadership requirements. Through 51 offices in 27 countries and a broad range of practice groups, Spencer Stuart consultants focus on senior-level executive search, board director appointments, succession planning and in-depth senior executive management assessments. For more information on Spencer Stuart, please visit

About KRC Research
KRC Research is a full-service market research firm that specializes in the kind of research needed for effective communications—communications that reach, engage and persuade. A unit of the Interpublic Group of Companies (NYSE: IPG), KRC Research offers the quality and custom service of a small firm along with the reach of a global organization. For over 30 years, we have worked on behalf of corporations, governments, not-for-profits and the communications firms that represent them. Staffed with market research professionals from the worlds of political campaigns, consumer marketing, journalism and academia, we are flexible, practical, creative, knowledgeable and fast, combining sophisticated research tools with real-world communications experience. To learn more, please visit

About Weber Shandwick
Weber Shandwick is a leading global public relations agency with offices in 77 markets around the world. The firm’s reputation is built on its deep commitment to client service, creativity, collaboration and harnessing the power of Advocates - engaging stakeholders in new and creative ways to build brands and reputation. Weber Shandwick provides strategy and execution across world-class practices such as consumer marketing, healthcare, technology, public affairs, corporate/financial and crisis management. Its specialized services include digital/social media, advertising, market research, and corporate responsibility. Weber Shandwick received the highest client-satisfaction honors in the 2007 Agency Excellence Survey by PRWeek U.S. and in 2008, was named Large PR Firm of the Year (PR News U.S.), European Consultancy of the Year (The Holmes Report) and Network of the Year (Asia Pacific PR Awards). The firm also won the United Nations Grand Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Relations for the past three years. Weber Shandwick is part of the Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG). For more information, visit


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