In some ways, the communications function of a big company in 2017 looks a lot like it did in 2007. Employee communications and media relations are still near-universal responsibilities, and social media has been a persistent focus area since it began to appear on corporate radars in 2008.
One major trend that stands out in over a decade of CEB, now Gartner data on the topic is the increased specialization of the function. Ten years ago, the average comms team was responsible for an average of 14 out of the 20 standard activities that they might be expected to take on. Five years ago, communicators were responsible for 12.4 activities on average, which is due to a clearer delineation between Communications and other functions (see chart 1).
Chart 1: Average number of responsibilities taken on by communciations teams By year Source: CEB analysis
Note: Activities were standardized across 2007, 2012, and 2017 datasets.
This trend has continued steadily since then. Now, in 2017, the average communications function is responsible for 10.3 out of 20 activities, which is a drop of over 25% compared to 2007. Clearly, communications leaders are focusing more on their teams’ core strengths that distinguish the function and create value for the firm that funds them.
Among the activities that have declined the most since 2007 are marketing and advertising, and corporate social responsibility. In 2007, over 60% of communications functions allocated some of their budget to those activities, compared to just over one-third in 2017.
Many comms managers in CEB, now Gartner’s networks say that their teams continue to play a vital consultative role in marcomms and CSR initiatives. However, other parts of the company now tend to own and provide resources for those activities, freeing up communications for priorities like change management and building the corporate narrative.