Crisis Management is Number One Success Factor for Global Chief Communications Officers, According to Annual Survey 

NEW YORK, June 26, 2012 – Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of global chief communications officers (CCOs) say that crisis management experience is today’s prerequisite for success.

Weber Shandwick Names Gail Heimann President, Chief Strategy Officer; Frank Okunak, Chief Operating Officer

This requirement has nearly doubled since the survey debuted in 2007 when 33 percent said the same. These findings come from the annual survey, The Rising CCO IV, conducted by global executive search firm Spencer Stuart and global public relations firm Weber Shandwick.


Considering that more than 70 percent of global chief communications officers report that their companies experienced a threat to their reputations in the past two years, it is not a surprise that 65 percent of CCOs say improvement in corporate reputation is their highest priority.


Crisis comes at a high cost to organizations that deal with them – most CEOs (74 percent) spend time on the resolution. It takes approximately 15 months to get past the problem and such crises beget a host of other issues, such as more media scrutiny (60 percent), more governmental scrutiny (51 percent) and reduced employee morale (42 percent).

The global business events of the past few years have demonstrated in stark clarity the cost of damage to a corporate reputation. As a result, experience in crisis management is essentially a mandatory requirement for CCOs today. As our 2012 research shows, crises take time to fade and CEOs are right in wanting the best talent with them in the bunker when they find themselves in the media and political spotlight.

George Jamison

Spencer Stuart’s Corporate Communications business

Social Media Helps Crisis Resolution
Forty percent of global CCOs say they are prepared to manage a social media threat to their reputation today compared to 33 percent in 2010 and social media is the fastest-growing communications tool for CCOs in all regions. However, social media is not the root of all crises today that CCOs must deal with. Nearly one-half of CCOs (46 percent) whose companies suffered a crisis in the past two years said that social media did not play a role in the crisis, and only seven percent said the crisis began in social media. However, when social media was involved in a crisis-making event, CCOs said it was more likely to help resolve the crisis than make it worse (34 percent vs. 22 percent, respectively).

In 2012’s Rising CCO survey, social media is expected to grow dramatically and have a tremendous impact on corporate communications department budgets. It is encouraging to see that global CCOs are embracing social media’s ability to temper a crisis and consequently diminish additional reputation loss.

Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross

Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist

Corporate Social Responsibility is a Rising Reputation Safeguard
Nearly eight in 10 global CCOs (76 percent) believe that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is critical to safeguarding reputation. For this reason, approximately one-half (52 percent) of global CCOs say the need for a dedicated CSR communications professional is growing and nearly four in 10 (38 percent) have either hired individuals with CSR communications expertise during the past year or plan to hire such individuals over the course of the next year. CSR expertise is given a higher priority on the agendas of companies that have experienced a crisis in the past two years than on the agendas of those who have not experienced a crisis (82 percent vs. 63 percent, respectively).


Measuring Communications Effectiveness
How are CCOs judged? The leading metrics for gauging CCOs and their communications effectiveness are positive media coverage (80 percent) and employee satisfaction/engagement (79 percent). Notably, employee satisfaction has risen dramatically in importance since 2007 (from 61 percent in 2007 to 79 percent in 2012).

Regional findings:

  • North American CCOs feel they are the most prepared to deal with a social media threat to their companies’ reputations.
  • Each region is dealing with a different top expectation from senior management. In North America, CCOs are expected to be on top of social media, in Europe it is corporate reputation and in APAC it is media coverage sentiment or favorability.
  • All three regions rank media coverage favorability and employee engagement as top criteria for evaluating communications effectiveness. However, North Americans also weigh in the CEO’s opinion, European CCOs regard quantitative awareness and attitudinal data highly important and APAC CCOs take into consideration awards and recognition.
  • North American CCOs do not seem to be ramping up their departments for communicating their corporate responsibility initiatives to the same extent as European or APAC CCOs.


About the Survey
The Rising CCO, now in its fourth year, examined the roles, responsibilities and opinions of CCOs in the world’s largest companies. The 142 survey participants came from companies based in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America. The majority of respondents work in global Fortune 500 companies. The survey was conducted online from January to March 2012.