AMSTERDAM--New research reveals that just a quarter of chief communications officers make it to executive committee level at their companies.

The study, conducted by the EACD, the University of Amsterdam’s school of communication research, and executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates, analysed the executive committees at FT500 companies, finding that only 24.2 percent include their CCOs as a member.

The findings are especially pronounced in Europe, and among financial services and professional services firms, where CCO representation on the executive committee is relatively low. 

The research also reveals that CMOs are more likely than CCOs to find a seat at the top table. The finding comes as the marketing and communications functions see increasing integration, raising questions about the future viability of the CCO role.

Most companies (52.4 percent) include neither the CMO or CCO on the executive committee. If only one of these executives sits on the executive committee, it is far more likely to be the CMO (23.2 percent) rather than the CCO (13.2 percent). Just 10.9 percent include both on the executive committee.

The study found that, in North American companies, 33.8 percent of top communications officers hold executive committee membership, compared to just 23.5 percent of comms heads at European

In certain sectors, meanwhile, CCOs are considerably more likely to maintain a presence on the executive committee. Healthcare comes out on top, with 38.2 percent of companies from this sector recording CCO representation on the executive committee. This compares to 29.1 percent of consumer firms, 27.3 percent of industrial and natural resources firms, and 23.4 percent of technology/media/telecoms firms.

In contrast, CCOs hold an executive committee seat in only 14.7 percent of financial services firms and 8.7 percent of business/professional services firms.

Surprisingly, executive committee status does not appear to bear any relation to the degree of public relations risk that a company faces. Instead, It is more likely to be a function of CEO preference and the capabilities of the CCO in question. The likelihood of a top communications officer sitting on the executive committees is effectively identical across both B2B and B2C firms. In addition, as compared with lightly regulated industries, heavily regulated industries were not meaningfully more likely to have a top communications officer on the executive committee.

The study is part of the 2013 European Communication Monitor, unveiled at the European Association of Communication Directors annual meeting in Brussels last week.