News from EUPRERA
The cult of CEO is big business - 03.11.2013
Results of the European Chief Communication Officers Survey (ECCOS) 2013
A survey of some of Europe's top heads of communication by EUPRERA researchers and Ketchum has revealed how strong the cult of the business CEO is becoming. With company news, successes and failure now so frequently attributed to specific individuals, the image of business leaders has become vital in terms of corporate reputation. Nine out of ten corporate communication experts throughout Europe say their CEO's capacity to deal with the media and other critical audiences has become interwoven with the overall success and reputation of their corporations. Explaining the headline results of this survey Professor Ansgar Zerfass (Leipzig University), leader of the international research team, said: "The reputation of business leaders at large organisations is now so important. CEOs can make and break corporate brands. Gone are the days of figureheads gliding effortlessly behind the scenes. Today leaked career moves and public failure can infect a brand severely and quickly. In many cases the brand of the CEO has become shorthand for the brand of the organisation."
Specifically the survey revealed:
- 93.1% of 579 Chief Communication Officers agreed that their CEO's communication skills in small group settings were an important factor for the overall success of an organisation.
- 92.2% of 579 Chief Communication Officers agreed that their CEO's communication skills facing the media and large audiences were an important factor for the overall success of an organisation.
- 90.5% of 579 Chief Communication Officers agreed that their CEO's personal reputation was an important factor for the overall success of an organisation.
- 81.7% of 579 Chief Communication Officers agreed that their CEO's knowledge of strategic communication was an important factor for the overall success of an organisation.
- Looking at different audience types: Overall the areas in which CEO reputation was regarded as most important were internal communications (24.6%), public & community relations (19.9%) and financial communications (19.3%) - source 467 Chief Communication Officers.
- Breaking this down further: In terms of joint stock companies, the audiences to which CEO reputation was regarded as most important were financial communications (25.1%) and internal communications (24.0%). In terms of private companies, the audiences to which CEO reputation was regarded as most important were internal communications (25.5%), public & community relations (23.0%) and political communication (21.3%) - source 467 Chief Communication Officers.
- 83.2% of Corporate Communication teams were actively working on the positioning of their CEO. 66.9% were actively working on announcements and tools relating specifically to their CEO. 66.7% were actively working on a communication strategy for their CEO and 60.3% were actively monitoring their CEO's reputation - source 557 Chief Communication Officers.
- 30.8% of CEO messages were designed to convey their functional competencies (having the right skills to do the job). 30.3% of CEO messages were around ethical competencies (having the right values). 24.7% were around cognitive competencies (having the right knowledge) and 14.2% were around personal behaviors (having the right conduct) - source 458 Chief Communication Officers.
Professor Dejan Verčič (University of Ljubljana), member of the international research team, added: "The top executive of a company articulates and symbolises what their organisations are and what they stand for. Essentially, they reduce company complexity and enliven the brand. We are living in an age of responsibility and accountability where the public are looking to identify with real people. Business leaders, who can easily be categorised as heroes or villains, are at the forefront of this change."
The days of a distant, barely invisible corporate authority is gone, explains David Gallagher, Ketchum's CEO of Europe: "The public are more interested in the individual who leads a company. They are interested in CEO personalities. The personalization of company stories is demanding CEOs be the brand." Professor Joachim Klewes, Senior Partner of Ketchum Pleon in Germany: "The public often identify more with the people leading corporations than they do with the corporations themselves. Positioning the CEO as someone who can be remembered and trusted needs careful planning. Companies who think it can be left to fate are taking a huge risk."
The full ECCOS report is available at
About the survey
The European Chief Communication Officers Survey (ECCOS) analyzes the views of 579 Heads of Communications in corporations based across 39 European countries and employs 43 qualitative interviews with Chief Communication Officers of global companies headquartered in Europe. The research was conducted by a research team of leading academics from five European universities, coordinated by the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA) and supported by Ketchum, a leading global communications firm with operations in more than 70 countries across six continents. EUPRERA and Ketchum cooperate in the fields of research and thought leadership by supporting the annual European Communication Monitor and additional projects like this study.