Global corporate communications officers are being valued more and now report directly to company CEOs, according to a survey from executive search firm Spencer Stuart.

‘The Rising CCO’ survey conducted by the firm, in partnership with global public relations firm Weber Shandwick and KRC Research, says that 58% of global chief communications officers (CCOs) surveyed report to the CEO, compared to 48% a year ago.

Not only do more CCOs call the CEO their boss, 40% consider the CEO to be their biggest ally in the organisation.

This leadership momentum, according to the survey, also coincides with an increase in CCO tenure in 2008 – CCOs’ average tenure was 65 months, compared to 54 months in 2007.

“The data reinforces the fact that when many organisations endure critical times, CEOs are increasingly looking to the CCO for their strategic crisis communications and ability to quickly react to a variety of scenarios,” said George Jamison, who leads Spencer Stuart’s Corporate Communications and Investor Relations Practice.

As corporate reputation encounters extreme stress and the internet provides unanticipated opportunities and risks, the report indicates skills often ‘owned’ by the CCO are in greater demand: crisis and issues management, social media monitoring and online engagement, reputation management, and management of a complex portfolio of stakeholders such as employees, investors, nongovernmental organizations and trade media.

“Like never before, CEOs are depending on CCOs for crisis and issues counsel to steady their company reputations and calm stakeholders. CEOs who do not communicate using traditional and social media do so at their own peril,” explained Weber Shandwick’s chief reputation strategist, Dr Leslie Gaines-Ross.