News: Time for PR to be seen as mission critical as HR, says CIPR CEO

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ALMOST half of FTSE 100 boards and executive leadership teams (ELTs) lack a director of communications, director of corporate affairs or similar dedicated position according to new research published by the CIPR, the world’s only royally chartered body for PR professionals.

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The findings have been published one year on from the CIPR’s first analysis of the FTSE 100, which found a near identical lack of dedicated communications support. A worrying lack of progress has been made despite surging inflation arguably making communication with customers, employees and suppliers more important than ever.

The research found that only three FTSE 100 companies have a dedicated communications expert on their board of directors while just 56 companies have a communications figure on their ELTs or management committees. This represents a mere 8 per cent increase on 2022 where 52 companies had communications figures on ELTs or management committees.

The lack of dedicated communications expertise is made even more stark by a comparison with HR, with 84 of the FTSE 100 having a dedicated figure on their ELTs or management committees. The data suggests that while HR expertise remains a key concern, corporate reputation management is still not considered a board level issue by leading global companies.

By sector, the analysis highlights a concerning picture: just 39 per cent of industrial goods and services firms have a dedicated communications professional on their ELT’s, despite the economic backdrop. Retail, real estate and leisure don’t perform much better, with fewer than half of companies featuring communications figures on their leadership teams despite the acute problems facing the high street and continued inflationary pressures.

Alastair McCapra (pictured), CEO of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), said, “We said last year that some of the biggest companies were playing reputational roulette, so it is disappointing to see such little progress. The FTSE 100 are some of the most heavily scrutinised companies on Earth, so it is vital that communications is seen as a boardroom or executive leadership team issue, starting by literally having an expert in the room. A poor communication strategy can have a material effect on a business’ bottom line, so it cannot afford to fall down the pecking order.

“Inflation will be squeezing margins, meaning business to business communication is more important than ever. What’s more, consumers will be paying greater attention to the announcements and activities of companies. Combined with rolling, twenty-four hour news the risk of reputational damage is significant.

“HR is rightly seen as being mission critical and it’s time that PR is, too.”