According to a new study, there is a strong link between a company’s corporate communications organization and the company’s ranking on Fortune magazine’s “World’s Most Admired Companies” list. Also, findings reveal that the professional background, communications priorities and inter-organizational relationships of the executive—or chief communications offier—who leads a company’s corporate communications department, indicate whether that company's orporate communications department will make a positive impact on a company’s reputation.
The survey compares responses from communications officers in the “world’s most admired companies” with those in “contender companies” (generally, most admired companies are the most highly ranked companies in an industry on overall reputation; contender companies are ranked in the industry’s bottom half). The 141 survey participants were top corporate communications executives from Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. and Europe.
The survey, which was conducted by global executive search firm Spencer Stuart and global public relations firm Weber Shandwick with KRC Research, examines the changing role of today’s CCO.
“In a fast-paced and dynamic business environment, communications officers are increasingly seen as a business partner for the CEO and leadership team in the stewardship of a company’s reputation,” said George Jamison, corporate communications practice leader at Spencer Stuart. “CCOs are expected to create value and mitigate risks for the corporation by developing innovative strategies to proactively communicate with a company’s myriad stakeholders.”
The research found that communications executives in the world’s most highly regarded companies have more prominent organizational status and longer tenures than their counterparts in contender companies. Additionally, approximately one-third of CCOs from the most admired companies cite corporate reputation as their number one priority for 2008, compared to fewer than one-quarter of CCOs from contender companies (34 vs. 21 percent, respectively). Contender company communications executives said they were spending more time working on product-related issues and crisis communications, while most admired CCOs said they spent more time on corporate social responsibility and building corporate reputation.
“Our research identifies how the corporate communications function can be a critical force in driving a company’s reputation in good times and bad,” said Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at Weber Shandwick and leading corporate and CEO reputation expert. “With the right organizational structure and partnership at the top, the best CCOs can significantly contribute to building shareholder value and corporate reputation.”