LONDON — The future of the chief communications officer and chief marketing officer roles will be driven by increasing global complexity and the rise of artificial intelligence, 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 that the responsibilities of CMOs and CCOs would evolve as a result of an increasing focus on ESG, purpose and social impact – and the knock-on effect on reputation – but, unsurprisingly, AI was also a recurring theme this year, for the first time.

Many of our influencers still feel that there will be more integration and coordination between the CCO and CMO roles – if not a blurring of the roles – to meet businesses’ future challenges.

Diversity, equity and inclusion has been a spotlight theme for the comms industry for three years now, but it has been noted on several occasions in the pages of PRovoke Media in recent months that commitment to DE&I seems to have slowed down.

This year’s Influence 100 survey bears this out, with the number of respondents who agreed or strongly agreed that their PR agencies must have an ethnically diverse team was down from 83% last year to 78%. The proportion who agree the communications industry is committed to recruiting, retaining and promoting people of color was up to 57%, from 54% last year – and just 37% in 2017.

There is even more conviction that the industry is now committed to recruiting, retaining and promoting people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds: 65% agree or strongly agree, up significantly from 43% last year and nearly double 33% in 2020.

When it comes to gender, there was another concerning drop 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% in 2021, 71% last year and now 67%. The number who said gender balance was not a requirement of their agency teams was up from 5% last year to 8%.

However, the number of our influencers who agree that the industry is committed to recruiting, retaining and promoting women was up dramatically from 85% to 97%.

This tranche of Influence 100 research also looked at the areas of ‘social good’ that our influencers saw as a priority for the year ahead. ESG was cited by 29% of respondents in 2021, then 34% last year, and this year it was up again to 41%.

And, again, this part of the survey demonstrates that DE&I has indeed dropped down the agenda for in-house communicators: the percentage of respondents anticipating diversity, equality and inclusion being their top “social good” priority for the year ahead dropped from 15% last year to just 5%.

The impact of artificial intelligence, especially generative AI, on the PR industry has been a dominant topic of discussion in recent months, so we asked our Influence 100 to what extent their teams are using generative AI tools. Only 5% say their teams are now using these tools regularly, but 24% said they were using generative AI a moderate amount and 57% said a little, indicating that in-house teams are at least starting to play with the new technology or use it in moderation; only 14% said their teams had not used generative AI at all.

We also asked our influencers to comment more broadly on how they think AI will impact the communications industry. There were no neutral responses to this question: everyone agreed the impact would be significant, ranging from “game-changing” to “like an earthquake”.

A full analysis of the future challenges for CCOs and CMOs, and their views on diversity, ESG and AI can be found here, along with their views on integration, measurement and use of data and analytics.

The Influence 100 report can be found here, including profiles of all 100 leaders and Q&As with a selection of this year’s cohort; insights into their demographics and background; research into budgets and how they manage agencies; and their views on the brands who have managed their reputations best and worst over the past year, and the agencies they most admire.