Communications leaders are playing a larger role in every aspect of a company’s decision making, according to a newly released report from Edelman.

The Future of Corporate Communications” surveyed 218 heads of communications to get a look at how they think their jobs—and the overall state of corporate communications—are changing.

The big takeaway: CCOs are taking on duties that go far beyond what was once expected of them. Survey participants reported that they now spend close to one-fifth (18 percent) of their time “advising the CEO on non-communications activities.” More than half think of themselves as strategic partners or advisors to their organization’s business leaders—up from slightly over a third who said that two years ago.

A key function of the expanded role is that communications leaders are being brought into the conversation about important business decisions at an earlier point. More than a quarter (27 percent) say they are consulted before a decision is taken, with 64 percent saying they are asked to weigh in on tentative decisions as a way of gaining perspective on stakeholder considerations. Just nine percent said they are not asked until after a decision has been made.

Edelman study on the Future of Corporate Communications: I am typically brought into the conversations about important business decisions with other senior leadership

Heads of communications are also taking a bigger role in managing the tools and talent required to fuel more data-driven decision making. Close to half (44 percent) said that they are investing more heavily in communications technology than they did last year.

The rise of the importance of employees as stakeholders has also impacted the jobs of communications leaders. That’s especially important when it comes to a company’s stance on social issues, where employees are putting the most pressure on organizations to act. Comms leaders say they are expected to drive culture and employee experience through such strategies as ensuring clear communications and transparency, as well as maintaining a positive and supportive work environment.

Because of that, survey respondents say that comms leaders will be a key factor in shaping the next phase of stakeholder capitalism. More than three-quarters (76 percent) say ESG considerations are “mostly or fully” integrated into their communications strategy. They add that helping move those considerations forward will require better data and analytics, increased enterprise action and increased comms budgets.

However, those increased budgets may not be on the way. While 55 percent of those surveyed in 2021 expected comms budgets to grow over the next year, that number slid to 40 percent in this year’s study.

The Edelman study was initially fielded in June of this year, with extensive interviews being conducted in July and August.