Corporate communications teams are growing in size

Corporate communications teams are growing, particularly in larger companies, a new report from The Conference Board has found.

Corporate Communications Practices: 2018 Edition, which studied more than 100 publicly traded companies in America, found that nearly half of companies with revenue above $25 billion said their communications teams comprised more than 50 people. More than a third said their team exceeded 100. Just two years ago, fewer than one in ten companies reported 100-person teams.

More than nine in ten financial services companies have increased or maintained their size of the communications teams, and they also show the highest tendency to unite corporate communications and marketing teams under the same leader, with more than half reporting such an arrangement.

However, despite more than 70 per cent of communications teams growing overall, budgetary restraints persist, as most companies report unchanged or decreased budgets over the past financial year.

The gender gap also remains a challenge as, although communications teams employ more women than men, the survey found that this isn’t being translated into leadership opportunities, particularly in the largest companies surveyed.

The report highlighted further trends, such as the rise in communicators developing their own metrics to align their performance with business objectives, whilst social media is taking a broader role within companies beyond corporate communications.

More teams are turning to Instagram and YouTube, perhaps as result of the growing focus on storytelling and content creation, with 86 per cent of teams in high-revenue companies reporting responsibility for these areas.

Digital transformation, however, is being slowed down by a lack of data expertise, despite communications teams believing big data to be important. When looking at skills most sought-after by communications teams, the top ten, led by writing ability, did not include skills related to data.

In fact, the one skill that is particularly relevant for big data—mathematical and statistical competence—ranked among the lowest levels across all industry and size categories, coming dead last overall.

‘The traditional skills, roles, and responsibilities of communicators appear to be in high demand from companies,’ said the report’s author Alex Parkinson, senior researcher at The Conference Board. ‘But our findings suggest that although the practice is modernizing in terms of its responsibilities, it needs to better prepare itself with the type of modern data expertise that is beginning to define companies through digital transformation.’