And the Walls Come Tumbling Down: Global Risk Inspires Biz/Gov Collaboration


Knowing what keeps their CEOs up at night is both a blessing and a curse for communicators; with knowledge comes great responsibility. Thanks to two recently released in-depth surveys of CEOs from around the world, by PricewaterhouseCoopers and IBM, respectively, executives can now see what issues are top-of-mind for organizational leaders and plan their future strategies accordingly. Results from both surveys reveal that CEOs are almost unanimously considering a handful of trends when planning their business strategies: foremost among them are the need for continued innovation, concern over economic uncertainty and the risks and opportunities presented by an increasingly global business environment. The latter factor especially has contributed to business leaders' change in management strategies. According to the IBM survey, 80% of CEOs said they face substantial change in the next three years, up from 66% in 2006. As the degree of change sharpens in the face of globalization and the subsequent need for integration, these CEOs are struggling to keep up. In this vein, according to the IBM survey, CEOs identified the top three change drivers as: 1. Market factors: 48% 2. People skills: 48% 3. Technological factors: 35% All of these drivers are intertwined with communications executives' responsibilities and skill sets. In the context of market factors specifically, the surveys identify a unique situation that hinges on one of communicators' core competencies: collaboration between businesses and governments to help shape regulation, from labor laws and tax regimes to IPO listing requirements and environmental legislation. Indeed, the PricewaterhouseCoopers Global CEO survey revealed that many CEOs are taking more proactive approaches to government relations in order to become more involved in the policy-making process. "I would characterize our relationship with government as a partnership rather than some distant association," said Rupert Stadler, chairman of the Board of Management for Audi AG, in a PwC interview. "All of the discussions have a similar aim of trying to understand the position of each party. We are all working in the same direction." Connect The Dots Taking on the weight of the world (somewhat literally) to help their businesses or those of their clients influence regulation and policy-making is by no means the sole charge of communications executives. However, both CEO surveys revealed piqued interest of CEOs in this realm, though they are unsure of how to approach it (for a list of questions related to risk and regulation management that communications executive should consider, see sidebar). "If you got the CEOs of the top 20 U.S. manufacturing companies together, you'd get a concurrence that the risk of the United States and the [rest of the world] turning inward in a more protectionist way, following years of steady, progressive trade liberalization, is the single biggest risk we have," said Jim Owens, chairman and CEO of Caterpillar Inc. "We've got to think about how we can do a better job of working with the public at large to help them understand the benefits of global engagement and international competition, and how these can benefit and lift everyone." Lifting "everyone" is a key piece of Owens' statement for communicators considering their increasingly prevalent role in engaging with all stakeholders, from employees to media to investors. In terms of collaborating with government and policy makers to help "control" the destinies of their business, CEOs need the input of strategic advisers to understand potential impacts on each of their stakeholders. Communications executives should be ready to provide this in the context of a global business backdrop that increasingly requires integration to align strategies, connect with stakeholders in far-flung locations and have a finger on the pulse of local conditions. Boning Up On Government Relations The PricewaterhouseCoopers survey also recommends the following recipe for effective collaboration: Take a strategic, long-term view of the regulatory framework within which a business operates; Create an effective dialogue between the regulator and those regulated to ensure (at an early stage in the policy- and law-making process) that the objectives of the legislator/regulator can be translated into practice, and unintended consequences can be reduced or completely avoided; Recognize that the languages of business and regulation can be very different--and make the effort to understand those differences; Allocate time and resources to collaborating on the co-design of regulations; and, Invest in the development of the personal relationships and mutual trust that are necessary to achieve shared objectives. Most communications professionals (and senior executives in general) probably haven't brushed up on government affairs since Intro to International Relations class in college. But the new emphasis being placed on global integration and collaboration with government to shape future regulation is as good a reason as any to anticipate challenges and help shape strategic messaging that will communicate the value of connecting business' and governments' shared interests to all stakeholders. It's a small world, after all. PRN CONTACT: For more coverage of the PricewaterhouseCoopers and IBM 2008 Global CEO surveys, check out upcoming issues of PR News, or visit http://www.prnewsonline.com for excerpts of the reports. Million Dollar Question(S) The recently released 11th Annual Global CEO Survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers gives communicators in all walks of life a unique glimpse into the business hopes and fears these leaders face in the future. Specifically with regard to cross-border collaboration and rapidly evolving global business markets, CEOs are almost unanimously thinking about the risks these changes will present, and the ways in which their organizations can collaborate with governments to shape the regulatory environment. Communicators can leverage this top-of-mind concern of their/their clients' CEOs by anticipating the questions each scenario presents and shaping strategies to address them. Managing Risk: How can I ensure that my organization is taking the right risks and exploiting the right commercial opportunities in a much more volatile world? How can I establish a culture in which every employee makes decisions that reflect our business strategy and risk appetite? How can I manage the risks associated with participating in business networks, and the increasing number of risks that are outside my direct control? How can I be sure that the risk-management systems we have introduced are effective? How can I integrate risk management into our strategic scenario-planning? Managing Regulations: How can I ensure that my organization complies with the regulatory requirements of different countries as effectively as possible? Are some of these regulations likely to become global in scope? How will the increasing prevalence of business networks change the regulatory environment and the regulations we need? How can I establish a productive dialogue with government officials and regulators in the areas of regulation that most affect my organization? Are there other companies, NGOs, consumer groups or other bodies with which I should be collaborating to improve the regulation of key areas of concern?

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