Chief Corporate Communicator Survey Reveals Disparity Between CEO Access, Having Say on Key Business Matters

January 9, 2019

Chicago, Ill. (Nov. 9, 2016) — A survey of chief corporate communicators released today by APCO Worldwide found that while the top communicators are getting time with the CEO, they usually don’t feel heard. The survey findings were discussed today at a roundtable breakfast at APCO Chicago, with a chief communicators from Astellas Pharma, Baxter International, Kellogg Company, W.W. Grainger and Zebra Technologies.

The study, conducted by APCO Insight, found 89 percent of respondents said they readily have direct access to the CEO, and 75 percent indicated their CEO understands the value of their company’s reputation. And yet only 52 percent of respondents indicated they report directly to the CEO. Additionally, when asked how much these professionals feel their opinion matters when business-critical decisions are being made, only one-quarter (26 percent) say they always matter. And, only 29% of chief communicators indicated they are a key business advisor to their CEO.

“There’s been huge movement in the increased importance of communications to the C-Suite in the last 25 years,” said Tina-Marie Adams, Managing Director of APCO Worldwide’s Chicago office. “But there’s still a huge gap to fill when the majority of chief corporate communicators neither consider themselves to be a key business advisor nor always feel their opinion matters on business-critical topics.”

Other notable insights from the survey of chief corporate communicators:

  • Only 47 percent say the communications function is highly integrated throughout the organization and with other teams.
  • 62 percent said that increased importance in social media has made communications more relevant (22 percent significantly more relevant, 40 percent somewhat more relevant).
  • Communication departments’ budgets are perceived to be treated equally by 53 percent, yet one-third (33 percent) still view communications budgets as being tighter compared to other departments or more likely to experience budget cuts.
  • When asked how communications is viewed across the C-Suite when it comes to contributing to the bottom line of the company, 20 percent said it is highly relevant and important.
  • Communications as a whole is viewed by 61 percent as being as important to other functions within the company.

When asked to give the next generation of CCOs advice on how to elevate the role and importance of communications in the C-Suite, respondents offered the following:

  • Show value/ROI; measure everything you can.
  • Be an expert on the competition.
  • Educate the C-Suite on the value of reputation.
  • Have a voice, push back, be confident.
  • Be a truth-teller.
  • Develop a finance/accounting acumen.
  • Know the business and the priorities.
  • Develop C-Suite relationships.

The survey was conducted in October 2016 and includes responses from 114 senior-most communications professionals in various industries across B2B and consumer.

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