The rate of chief communications officers who also lead marketing is up 35% in the past two years, a Weber Shandwick study shows, hastened by the digital era.

convergenceThe integration is being sparked by radical business changes like spinoffs, cost-savings and streamlining, or a desire for senior leadership to reach stakeholders with a cohesive approach.

"This is how corporate identities get built today," said one chief communications and marketing officer. "The thinking is that all stakeholders want to understand product brands and the company that stands behind them … the way to engage them is not pure marketing or pure communications or pure citizenship, but a hybrid of all those things."

While the changes have come from the executive suit, digital media has hastened the convergence. "You don't see the same ad spends – you see digital spend," said one CCMO. "There are so many ways to communicate now."

The firm interviewed 10 CCMOs to produce the "Convergence Ahead" report (PDF).

The benefits of integrating communications and marketing are a consistent message, better leverage for resources and budgets, more nimble organizations and more efficient planning upfront for various channels like traditional media, social and video, WS found.

Global corporate practice chair Micho Spring said companies where marketing focuses mainly on customers and corporate communications targets stakeholders have an unnecessary layer of complexity.

WS outlines six steps to integrate communications and marketing in the report.