BRUSSELS--30 percent of Europe’s communications chiefs think that their departments are replaceable, according to new research.

The finding is reported in the 2011 edition of the European Communication Monitor, which surveys 2,209 comms professionals across 43 countries. The study is conducted by the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA) and the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD), and supported by Grayling.

One quarter of respondents, meanwhile, do not believe that their comms departments play an important role in the overall performance of the organisation.

These results come despite mounting evidence that the comms function is increasing in power and influence. 18 percent of comms directors now have presence on the board, and 60 percent report directly to the CEO.

This power is not necessarily reflected in the comms department’s relationships with other functions; only a minority (48 percent) of comms pros believe that their department generates financial and material assets for the organisation.

42 percent of respondents, meanwhile, believe that the term ‘PR’ is a discredited label for the profession. Many respondents favour alternative labels, such as ‘corporate communications’ (68 percent), ‘strategic communication’ (61 percent) and ‘communication management’ (56 percent).

The report also finds that communications is extending its function beyond generating publicity and managing media relations: In eight out of ten organisations the communication department is responsible for communicating with a wide range of stakeholders such as the media, consumers, employees, investors, or politicians.

The survey identifies two main issues relevant for the next couple of years. ‘Coping with the digital evolution and the social web’ continues to be the most important issue according to 55 percent of respondents. 44 percent identified ‘linking communication efforts with business goals’ as an on-going challenge for the comms function.

‘Building and maintaining trust’ has lost ground as a hot issue for communication practitioners, but it is worth noting that 93 percent claim they want to enhance trust in the organisation and/or its brands rather than in leaders or businesses at large.

In terms of social media, the report concludes that structures are missing in most comms departments. 48 percent said KPIs to measure social media activities are not currently planned.