Chief Communications Officers Grow Influence, Responsibilities, and Team Size – and In Turn, Compensation

Korn Ferry Survey Examines Trends Among Senior-Most Communications Executives in the Fortune 500

NEW YORK, NY – June 1, 2023 – Amid the challenges of operating through the pandemic and an increasingly complex business and regulatory environment, a new survey by Korn Ferry (NYSE: KFY) validates the increasingly critical role of the Chief Communications Officer (CCO).

More than ever, Chief Communications Officers are serving as trusted advisors to CEOs and the C-Suite on virtually every issue that affects the organization. Korn Ferry’s latest Chief Communications Officer survey among Fortune 500 CCOs indicates the position is growing in scope and becoming a more prominent leadership role within organizations, and in turn, CCOs are growing their team size, organizational resources, and their own compensation packages.

The 2023 Chief Communications Officer Survey includes responses collected from the senior-most communications executives in the Fortune 500 during April 2023 and delivers these key findings compared to a similar study that Korn Ferry conducted among CCOs in 2014-2015:

CCOs have a seat at the table:

  • 40% of top communications executives report directly to the CEO, an increase from 37% in 2014-2015.
  • Among CCOs who do not report to the CEO, reporting relationships are shifting, reflecting changing organizational dynamics. For example: · Fewer CCOs report to the Chief Marketing Officer (9%, down from 12%). · More CCOs report to the CHRO (13%, up from 9%) or the General Counsel (11%, up from 4%) reflecting the function’s increased focus on employee communications, crisis communications, and an ever more complex legislative/regulatory environment.

Communications executives have broadening purviews:

  • Corporate Communications, Media Relations, Issues & Crisis Management, and Social & Digital Media continue to be the leading responsibilities in a CCO’s scope.
  • Areas with increased emphasis and a key a part of the CCO role include: Corporate Reputation (95% in 2023 versus 89% in 2014-2015) and Internal Communications (96% in 2023 versus 91% in 2014-2015).

Communications teams are growing: The CCO’s increasing mandate around the organization’s reputation, values, and culture is reflected in the growth of their teams:

  • 25% of respondents have teams of 100+, up from 16% in 2014-2015.
  • 10% of that group have teams of 250+, up from 4% in 2014-2015.

“In today’s dynamic and chaotic business environment, the CCO is the one officer with a finger on the pulse of all the organization’s stakeholders, at a time when all are vocal, disruptive, and demanding action and greater transparency,” says Richard Marshall, Korn Ferry’s Global Managing Director, Corporate Affairs search practice. “The need to have a clear and compelling narrative has never better more important, and as a result, we’re seeing the role, and the resources allocated, being reshaped to meet the demands of the business.”

“It’s been an unprecedented market for CCO talent during the past two years,” added Peter McDermott, Korn Ferry Senior Client Partner, Corporate Affairs. “We saw compensation packages escalate – some exceeding seven figures – for top talent at the peak of the market.”

As the CCO’s roles and responsibilities have increased, so has their compensation. Even through several years of a pandemic, the majority of CCOs in 2023 reported higher base salaries compared with 2014-2015 levels.

  • Base Salary: Half (50%) of communications leaders have base salaries of $400,000 or higher. More than one-third (34%) have base salaries of $450,000 or higher, up from only 18% in 2014-2015.
  • Bonus: Most have a bonus target at or above 50% of their base salary, with 25% of respondents reporting a bonus target at or above 80% of their salary.
  • Long-Term Incentive: More than two-thirds (67%) of respondents have an annual LTI target at or above 50% of their base salary, with 37% of respondents having an LTI target at or above 75% of their base salary.

While the CCO role is increasing in terms of influence and impact, there is a clear need to increase diversity and representation at the highest ranks of the communications function. There is strong gender diversity in communications leadership, with 57% of survey respondents identifying as women, however, much progress is needed when it comes to increasing ethnic and racial diversity at leadership levels, as 84% of survey respondents identified as white.

Increasing diversity and representation at all levels and fostering inclusion are top-of-mind for CCOs and are top priorities regarding their approach to hiring and retention. When it comes to other hiring priorities, media relations, internal communications, executive communications, and issues/crisis management are the top skills CCOs look for in candidates.

About the Survey

The 2023 Korn Ferry Chief Communications Officer Survey collected data from senior-most communications professionals at Fortune 500 companies in April 2023. A total of 82 communications professionals participated in the survey.

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm. We work with our clients to design optimal organization structures, roles, and responsibilities. We help them hire the right people and advise them on how to reward and motivate their workforce while developing professionals as they navigate and advance their careers.

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