6 top concerns for corporate communications leaders

Reputation management and working with upper-level executives top the list of nettlesome issues keeping external communicators up at night, according to a new survey. Consider these insights.

What’s on the minds of corporate communications executives?

The Reputation Institute performed an analysis to identify trends and discover what leaders around the world care most about, their challenges and opportunities, and how corporate reputation impacts their roles and the companies they represent.

In 2018 our data and insights team spoke with over 170 top-level executives and directors who lead their company’s respective corporate communications teams. We specifically connected with executives representing North America, Latin America, EMEA and APAC, across 17 industries.

Here are the six top concerns for communications leaders:

1. Reputation is a top priority, yet few have plans to manage it.

Reputation capability starts with initial exploration and understanding of the business rationale and culminates in full integration that guides long-term strategy for a company.

For context, in 2014, most companies were in the early to mid-stages of their reputation capabilities, while only 15 percent were at the most advanced stages of either cross-functional or full integration.

In 2014, over 60 percent of corporate communicators view reputation as a high priority for companies. However, only 16 percent reported that they had plans to manage reputation.

Moving to 2018, a higher proportion of companies are moving towards advanced reputation integration, with a 17 percent increase in either cross-functional or complete integration.

With this shift towards integration, comes an enhanced sense of readiness. In 2018, 67 percent of corporate communicators report that they are ready to take on and manage reputation.

Yet, despite this sense of readiness, companies are not equipped to properly manage their reputation. Only a third of respondents are taking proactive steps to strategically implement reputation efforts and only 43 percent are measuring it among stakeholders crucial to their business strategy.

2. CEOs are responsible for corporate reputation.

At a time when 88 percent of corporate communicators state that corporate reputation is of moderate to high priority at an executive level, CEOs are taking matters in their own hands.

While many companies have communicators that are primarily accountable for reputation, increasingly they are feeling that other executive leaders—especially the CEO—are assuming more responsibility for reputation management. The study reports that 27 percent of respondents see the CEO as the predominant manager of reputation, while only 19 percent place that responsibility with corporate communicators.

3. Top challenges are executive buy-in, KPIs and process implementation.

Under pressure from the CEO, many communications pros are frustrated by internal challenges like getting buy-in for a data source that measures reputation and that aligns with other corporate KPIs and business results.

Communicators strongly believe that reputation has a financial impact on their companies, but they require a better understanding of business-enhancing proof points.  Lack of a process for implementation and internal barriers that prevent cross-functional collaboration are also an ongoing challenge preventing progress.

4. Most organizations want to be enviable employers.

Many communicators ranked becoming a better employer as a top priority. Gathering data to educate companies on their current standing as an employer and what it takes to become the employer of choice was a top concern for many respondents,

5. Many leaders worry about reputation impacting revenue and positioning.

Fifty-six percent of chief communications officers strongly believe that corporate reputation has a financial impact on their company. They also believe reputation affects:

  • Culture and workplace
  • Customer choice
  • Business strategy and positioning among key stakeholders

6. Leaders believe reputation measurement is essential for competitive advantage.

Brand reputation is a major force shaping the world and moving markets. Companies need a robust reputation measurement system to better understand the cause and effect of their company’s reputation

It is crucial to identify the drivers and elevated risks of what shapes reputation. Different macro trends impact different companies in equally different ways.

Ana Angelovska is the research director for Reputation Institute. A version of this article originally appeared on the company’s blog.

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