Geopolitical tensions, technological disruption, continuous transformation and other factors also creating more complexity, increasing C-suite reliance on communications

CHICAGO — Today, Edelman announced the release of a comprehensive global study revealing a dramatic shift in the importance placed on Corporate Communications by CEOs, Boards of Directors and other C-suite executives at the world’s leading companies. The “Future of Corporate Communications” research finds that the role of Corporate Communications has forever changed – shifting away from what has traditionally been viewed as a support function towards one increasingly recognized as an enabler of enterprise value.

“The Future of Corporate Communications,” among the most comprehensive studies of its kind ever conducted, is gathered from a quantitative analysis and in-depth interviews with nearly 250 senior-level global communicators. The report examines trends driving the evolution of the modern communications function and current and future priorities of today’s senior communications leaders. Edelman researchers also benchmarked the design of the corporate communications functions at more than 200 global companies, including the scope of responsibilities, operational model, budget, and investment for communications teams.

“We wanted to hear directly from communicators about what they are seeing, hearing, and feeling on the front lines,” said Dave Samson, Edelman’s Global Vice Chairman, Corporate Affairs. “We conducted this research to better understand the ever-changing landscape and learn how growing expectations and new rules of engagement are not only guiding communicators but the businesses and industries they represent. In an era of accountability for corporations, there are more demands – but also more opportunities – for corporate communications leaders who choose to lead differently.”

Notable highlights from the study include:

Communications has become more materially important to the C-Suite

Forty-six percent of CCOs surveyed now report to the CEO, compared to 34% in 2014. Seventy-seven percent said perceptions of the role of comms as a strategic business driver favorably changed within their organization during 2020.

The modern communications function is agile and multidisciplinary

The modern corporate communications function is agile, multidisciplinary, and insights driven. Eighty-nine percent ranked functional evolution in their top areas of internal investment for the coming year.

CommsTech allow comms to deliver greater ROI

CommsTech is ushering in a new era and communicators can use it to deliver quantifiable value to the business. Seventy percent report CommsTech as a top area of investment for the coming year.

The increased focus on employees isn’t a pandemic fad

The attention being placed on the workforce, workplace, and well-being of employees is here to stay. Nearly two-thirds report an increased focus on employee communications.

Stakeholders are holding companies more accountable

Expectations around social issues have shifted, and 73% report that these issues have shifted their communications priorities.

A modern organizational structure only gets you so far

Corporate Communications structures continuously transform. Forty-three percent report having a centralized structure, compared to 26% matrixed and 31% decentralized. In any model, it is important to focus on governance, process, and accountability.

Communications enables transformation

Communicators are increasingly acting as change agents, with 77% reporting that business transformation is driving their communications agenda.

The line between communications and marketing continues to blur

The rapid proliferation of available channels has led communications to play a bigger role in marketing. Sixty-five percent of CCOs rank marketing communications in their top five areas of increased agency partner investment for the coming year.

The corporate brand matters now more than ever

In an increasingly complex activist and multi-stakeholder universe, the corporate brand matters now more than ever. Nearly two thirds of CCOs said “Brand and Corporate Identity” is something their team is responsible for today.

Communications importance is increasing but resources are lagging

While CCOs are experiencing more functional responsibility, only 6% anticipate a budget increase of 15% or more this year.

About The Future of Corporate Communications

Research for “The Future of Corporate Communications” study focuses on two tracks: a quantitative survey fielded with 200 participants and in-depth interviews with 35+ senior communications leaders. Surveys and interviews were conducted between December 2020 and February 2021. Geographies spanned North America (85%), EMEA (7%), APAC (4%), and Latin America (4%), and sectors were divided between Public (49%), Private (49%), and Non-profit (2%). The survey was conducted by Edelman Data & Intelligence, an independent research firm that is part of the DJE family of companies. Data analysis was performed by an integrated team of Edelman organizational design subject matter experts and subject matter experts.

About Edelman

Edelman is a global communications firm that partners with businesses and organizations to evolve, promote and protect their brands and reputations. Our 6,000 people in more than 60 offices deliver communications strategies that give our clients the confidence to lead and act with certainty, earning the trust of their stakeholders. Our honors include Cannes Lions Grand Prix awards for PR (2016) and the Entertainment Lions for Sport (2021); Cannes Lions Independent Agency of the Year for the Entertainment Track (2021); Advertising Age’s 2019 A-List; the Holmes Report’s 2018 Global Digital Agency of the Year; and, five times, Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work. Since our founding in 1952, we have remained an independent, family-run business. Edelman owns specialty companies Edelman Data x Intelligence (research, data) and United Entertainment Group (entertainment, sports, lifestyle).


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