Global chief communications officers are increasingly adding digital and social media into their department oversight and responsibilities. CCOs report that compared to years past, they are hiring more digital and social media experts (73 percent) and developing more relationships with influential Twitter users and bloggers (55 percent), according to The Rising CCO V, a survey conducted by global executive search firm Spencer Stuart and Weber Shandwick.

Social media is expected to have the single greatest impact on the CCO’s job over the next few years. An overwhelming 91 percent of CCOs expect social media to increase in importance more than other communications responsibilities. The finding is consistent across every region in the study, which includes North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America. Globally, CCOs expect mobile (73 percent) and video production (69 percent) to increase significantly.

“Corporate communications is in a constant state of evolution as the growth of social communications continues to change the landscape,” says George Jamison, who leads Spencer Stuart’s corporate communications business. “In some cases, corporate teams are driving change, others are striving to keep up. Our research shows that CCOs are working hard to equip themselves with the right tools and people to help them effectively navigate this world of change and stay socially-fluent.”

The vast majority of CCOs (86 percent) agree that the changes in the media environment in the past few years have had a significant impact on communications strategies, and they expect the landscape to continue to evolve. More than one-quarter of global CCOs (28 percent) expect the media environment to change extensively over the next few years. Another 51 percent are moderately bullish about change to come.

When asked to describe in their own words why they think the media environment will change, CCOs most frequently cited technological advancements, social media and developing media platforms.

One way the changing media environment is likely to impact corporate communications is through content publishing. Ninety percent of CCOs have content publishing on their agendas: 58 percent of CCOs report that they create and publish their own content; 18 percent report that they are in the process of preparing to become an original content publisher; and 14 percent say they are considering becoming an original content publisher as a future initiative.

CCOs also have greater responsibility for marketing today compared to several years ago. The number of global CCOs who have oversight for marketing increased from 26 percent in 2012 to 35 percent in 2014, a 35 percent increase.

“Greater marketing and communications convergence is likely driven by the increasing indivisibility of corporate and brand reputation that’s fast taking hold among leading global Fortune 500 companies,” says Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist for Weber Shandwick. “In a splintered media environment, having one clear enterprise voice is now mission critical.” 

The vast majority (84 percent) of global CCOs agree that corporate reputation and brand reputation are indivisible today. Likely closely associated with this relationship is a rise in reported prominence of public relations as a marketing mix component. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of CCOs agree that public relations has risen in status in the marketing mix over the past few years.

Despite the increased interest in digital and social, global CCOs report that their external communications focus more on traditional media (64 percent) than social media (36 percent). CCOs use traditional and social media for different purposes and see effectiveness in integrating both for some communications activities, including crisis resolution, and not for others.

Nearly two-thirds of CCOs (63 percent) find traditional and social media to be equally effective for resolving a crisis or issue. And at least half of global CCOs report that traditional and social media are equally effective for retaining customers (58 percent), attracting new customers (54 percent) and creating awareness of a new product or service (50 percent). Traditional media is viewed as more effective for announcing financial performance (76 percent) and promoting the visibility of senior executives (54 percent), while social media is more effective for attracting talent (56 percent).

North American and Asia Pacific (APAC) CCOs are most likely to agree that the field of corporate communications has successfully kept pace with the changes in the media environment.

CCOs in all four regions represented in the study expect social media to increase the most in importance as a communications tool over the next few years. However, APAC CCOs are more likely than others to report that the company website will increase the most in importance. Latin American CCOs also expect digital community management and video production to increase in importance. 

European and Latin American CCOs are most likely to oversee marketing in addition to communications.

North American CCOs are the most likely to be currently creating and publishing their own content.

And APAC CCOs are most likely to be in the process of preparing to become original content publishers.