LONDON — The role of the chief communications officer and chief marketing officer will continue to evolve as a direct result of an increasing business focus on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) and its link with reputation, according to a survey of leading CMOs and CCOs.

Surveyed for the Influence 100, PRovoke Media’s comprehensive annual report on the world’s most influential in-house communications and marketing leaders, there was again a clear view – which emerged for the first time last year – that the responsibilities of the CCO role would evolve as a direct result of an increasing focus on ESG, purpose and social impact – and the link with reputation – while the CMO role would likely have a more performance-driven bent.

Diversity, equity and inclusion continues to be a spotlight theme for the industry this year, and there’s been a slight shift in what CCOs require of their PR agencies, and how committed they think the industry is to diversity. In 2020, the number of our respondents who agreed or strongly agree that their PR agencies must have an ethnically diverse team was up from 67% in 2019 to 86%; last year, it was down to 78%, and this year it was back up to 83%.

Around the same number as last year were neutral on this question: 15% compared to 16% in 2021 – still up notably on 7% in 2020. The number of in-house leaders who disagree or strongly disagree that their agencies must have ethically-diverse teams, however, has dropped from 6% last year to under 3% this year.

There is a more stable level of conviction when it comes to whether our respondents think the communications industry is committed to recruiting, retaining and promoting people of color: 54% agreed or strongly agreed, compared with 52% last year – and just 37% in 2017. A further 29% were neutral, down from 32% last year. However, 17% of our Influence 100 still think the industry is not committed to resolving issues of racial inequity – up from 14% last year – although, for the second year running, no-one strongly disagreed.

There is an equally broad spread of opinion about whether the industry is committed to recruiting, retaining and promoting people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds: 43% agree or strongly agree, compared to 37% last year and 33% in 2020 year, while 29%% are neutral on this point, but 24% disagree or strongly disagree, compared to 18% last year.

When it comes to gender, there’s again been a worrying drop off in the number of CCOs who agree or strongly agree their PR agencies must have a gender-balanced account team, down from 82% in 2020 to 73% last year, and now 71%. The number who said gender balance was not a requirement of their agency teams was up a little, from 2% to 5%, but still down on 11% in 2020; 24% remained neutral on this question.

The number of our influencers who agree that the industry is committed to recruiting, retaining and promoting women was fractionally up on last year, at 85%. A further 10% took a neutral position (down from 16% last year) with only 5% saying they disagreed with this statement and no-one saying they strongly disagreed.

The full report on future challenges for CCOs and CMOs and their views on diversity can be found here, along with their views on integration, measurement and use of data and analytics.

Profiles of the Influence 100 can be found here; insights into their demographics and background here; and further research into budgets and how they manage agencies can be found here.