3 minutes, 38 second read Rhodri Harries, Managing Director, Kaizo
Many may have suspected this for a while now. A new report has confirmed that CEO confidence is plummeting worldwide. Diverse, in some cases disastrous, and in all cases worrying, political, economic and social issues are gripping the corporate agenda. Brand managers, corporate communications functions and agencies should take note; global leaders are more than a little concerned about their corporate image, brand reputation and their ability to protect it in a crisis, according to a new global study.
The Worldcom Confidence Index has highlighted that confidence levels across a range of business and communications issues have dropped by over 20% since last year.
Alongside revelations of low confidence in the ability to deal with regulatory changes, global tariff issues and employee-related worries, are some stark findings highlighting risks around managing and protecting reputation. Fueling this seems to be a lack of confidence in the ability to engage with influencers and media to do this, according to the report’s findings.
CEO and CMO comments on social media
The study, which is an analysis of online content from more than 58,000 chief executive and chief marketing officers, used innovative artificial intelligence to track and interpret publicly available social media content. It covers the subjects that these groups are willing and able to talk about online, raising some new and recurring challenges for marketers and communicators to address.
Socio-economic forces, such as impending global recession, may be amplifying these concerns and making business leaders examine their ability to effectively prepare and manage communications during a crisis. Whatever the truth of this, confidence levels in their ability to do it are falling.
Protecting reputation is becoming critical
With such a high degree of political and social unrest and upheaval, the concern over a business’ ability to protect its reputation during a crisis feels business critical, says the report. As a global study, there many complex and diverse contributing factors. What seems clear, however, is a need for greater focus on proactive campaigning to support rigorous, tested systems to highlight potential risks.
Many are already focusing on purpose-led campaigning to proactively enhance brand reputation. The increasing rise and promotion of these campaigns shows a broader, deeper business concern for reputation, as opposed to simply a CSR tick box exercise.
However, this is still not widespread across brands globally. While many see the value of owning purpose, they are not so ‘front-footed’ in their approach.
Influencers and media
The report also highlights an increasing source of concern around the impact that influencers and media can have on a brand and CEO’s confidence in their company’s ability to manage the effect they have.
While influencers are ranked as the most important audience in the study, there is little confidence in effectively reaching and mobilizing them.
The global insights show a gap – or perhaps an opportunity – in terms of a business’s ability to communicate effectively with influencers or meet their needs and to have the right impact for the brand. This could clearly be a result of the confusion that exists around the role they play: as an earned channel where relationship and collaboration is based on shared values, storytelling, news and context; a paid channel where the relationship is more commercial; or most likely something of a mix. This varies from market to market.
Working with influencers
A clear opportunity appears to exist to help educate some CEOs and CMOs on the role an influencer can and should play and how to work with them in a collaborative and effective way. This is especially important as influencers play a key role in balancing public opinion in a crisis, as well as advocating a company’s products and services and enhancing its brand’s reputation.
Global leaders lose confidence in media
Perhaps more concerning is the lack of confidence global leaders still have in the media, a channel they are generally more familiar with, in terms of creating the right impact for their businesses.
Leaders are more confident in their abilities to reach shareholders, customers, suppliers, and even government officials than they are the media.
The recent renaissance of traditional PR skills in terms of media relations is clearly set to continue as brands need to focus on core values and reputation and how these play out in the news.
Confidence may be low, but the opportunity for the communications industry to play a significant role in changing public perception has arguably seldom been higher.