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Chief communications officers see eye to eye with CEOs on strategies like AI, but there’s a disconnect on who actually leads communications

by | Nov 9, 2023 | Public Relations

Happy Communications Week! The high-profile comms event is in full swing in the heart of Texas, and one of many highlights so far has been the gathering’s signature event, the Future of Communications Conference, where a new industry survey was unveiled in which CEOs and communications leaders chimed in on how they view each other’s roles and responsibilities, what they value most, and their views on pressing industry issues like artificial intelligence and the return to work.  

The third annual Survey of Communications Leaders was conducted by comms media giant Ragan Communications, producer of the event since 2019, and market research partner HarrisX, surveying 375 CEOs and communications leaders. One key finding was the disparity between chief execs and comms leaders on who actually leads communications for their companies: a vast majority of CEOs say they lead external communications (78 percent) as well as internal communications (73 percent), while only 15 percent of communicators agree with that assessment. 

Chief communications officers see eye to eye with CEOs on strategies like AI, but there’s a disconnect on who actually leads communication

“These insights have the potential to influence how we implement technology into our work and how it is poised to influence how we approach comms overall,” said Diane Schwartz, CEO of Ragan Communications, in a news release. “It’s an exciting time to be a communicator and a critical time for communications to lead the way for organizations.”

Chief communications officers see eye to eye with CEOs on strategies like AI, but there’s a disconnect on who actually leads communication

Key findings include: 

Employee communications is the function that brings the most value

All respondents noted that employee communications was the number one area of the communication function that brings the most value. Notably, employee communications ranked number 2 for CEOs, but was the top selection for other communications leaders, pointing to the fact that communicators understand employees are a brand’s number one advocate—and adds context to the disparity about which position truly oversees communications.

The communications industry is optimistic and ready to embrace AI

Communications leaders have a positive view of AI’s net impact on each area of their organization, particularly analytics and marketing and improvement in productivity. In addition, 82 percent of CEOS have a positive opinion of it. 

Chief communications officers see eye to eye with CEOs on strategies like AI, but there’s a disconnect on who actually leads communication

The level of trust between members of an organization’s C-suite remains high, with CCOs winning trust from CEOs for their work

Communications leaders’ trust in CEOs is slightly lower than last year but remains very high., but the percentage of communicators who trust the judgment of the CEO when it comes to external communications has fallen from 95 percent last year to 91 percent currently.

In addition, the survey results show that the larger the organization is, the less the C-suite confers regularly with communications leaders.

Also, 85 percent of CEOs and communications leaders are taking steps to prepare for a recession; 38 percent of respondents cut travel budgets and 24 percent are downsizing teams.

Chief communications officers see eye to eye with CEOs on strategies like AI, but there’s a disconnect on who actually leads communication

“We’re excited to bring together the industry’s most innovative leaders in Austin this year,” said Tiffany Guarnaccia, founder of Communications Week in 2014, co-chair of the Communications Week board and CEO and founder of Kite Hill PR, in a news release. “As someone who is fascinated by the intersection of communications and technology, I’m looking forward to seeing how this new data will spark conversation and how innovation can move our industry forward.”

Download the full survey report here.

In conjunction with HarrisX, Ragan Communications surveyed 375 CEOs and other high-ranking communications officials to gain insight on the industry. The survey was conducted online within the United States from August 11 – September 11. 

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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