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42% of CMOs and CCOs struggle to retain CEO interest in marketing communications, says research

A gulf separates how much CEOs think they engage with marketing and how much their marketing team thinks they really care about communications. Whilst 95% of CEOs claim to work effectively with marketing, 42% of CMOs say that they struggle to keep their CEO involved in communications. This is according to research commissioned by communications agency Speed.

Despite 84% of CEOs believing that external communications is critical to business growth, the research further supports the gap that exists, with 70% of CEOs providing a range of reasons for not engaging their CMO and only half (50%) of them meeting regularly with their CMO or involving them in board and strategy sessions.


  • 95% of CEOs say they readily engage with their company’s communications and marketing programme
  • 84% of CEOs believe a robust communications strategy is critical to business growth
  • Only 50% of CEOs regularly involve their marketing and communications lead in strategy/board sessions about the overall business strategy
  • 42% of CMOs struggle to engage their CEO when it comes to communications
  • 84% of CMOs agree their CEO believes a robust external comms strategy is critical to business growth
  • Only 50% of CMOs agreed their CEO regularly meets with their team to discuss objectives and approach
  • Only 53% of CMOs regularly take part in strategy meetings to ensure business strategy and communications strategy are aligned
  • 50% of CEOs believed that they are not necessarily the most appropriate spokesperson for the business

Discussing the findings, Laura Tallett, director of business and corporate at Speed Communications, says: “Buy-in from the senior leadership team is key to a successful marcomms programme, yet there are still many challenges within organisations when it comes to engaging CEOs in the communications process. Whilst there are many CEOs who truly appreciate that communications is a strategic function that drives business value, there are still a significant number who don’t understand the importance of this process, and the value of their involvement.”

Time pressure

Looking at why CEOs are failing to get on board with communications, Tallett says: “Over a third of CEOs claim that ‘lack of time’ is the reason they don’t get more involved with marketing and communications. How much time you dedicate to something is an indication of where you place your importance, so this is where the real obstacle lies; it’s the value placed on marketing and communications that is the challenge amongst CEOs.

Lack of confidence

“Half of CEOs also believe that they are not necessarily the most appropriate spokesperson for the business, something we believe stems from lack of confidence and unwillingness to engage. The CEO plays an integral part in building brand awareness and identity, and as the head of an organisation, they will directly influence the personality of the business. It’s those marketing led organisations such as the likes of Amazon and Uber, that will take a leading role on the global business stage.” 

Tallett concludes that there is a real challenge that needs to be overcome in educating the CEO and leadership teams around the value of marketing and communications: “Marketing teams need to work hard to demonstrate that marketing and communications is an investment and not an expense, and that the CEO is central to this. By delivering insights into brand reputation, brand value and demonstrating the impact that marketing and communications has on supporting the business strategy, marketing teams can educate their leaders on the importance of what they do.

“CEO engagement must be central to drive market credibility and respect. A high-growth, marketing-led business needs increased levels of engagement and a CEO who wants to make a difference.”


The research was commissioned by Speed Communications and involved interviews with 250 UK CEOs and 250 CMOs.

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