Crisis management the leading skill for top communicators

Crisis management has emerged as the single most important prerequisite for top corporate communicators.   And that importance has increased dramatically in the last few years.

Two thirds of Chief Communications Officers (CCOs) around the world told researchers that crisis management experience is today’s key prerequisite for success. That proportion has doubled since 2007 when only 33% said the same.

These findings are from the report The Rising CCO IV, produced for Weber Shandwick, which reinforces the importance of crisis management as a core executive skill.  A total of 142 top corporate communication professionals in North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America were surveyed – mainly in global Fortune 500 companies – and more than 70% reported that their organizations had experienced a crisis threatening their reputation in the past two years.

The impact of a crisis was well recognised, and of the companies which had suffered such a reputational threat in the period, the crisis took an average of 15 months to resolve, and the CEO had played an active role in the corporate response in almost three quarters (74%) of the cases.

George Jamison of research company SpencerStuart said global business events of the past few years had 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.”

Given the results of the survey it is not surprising that improving corporate reputation tops the list of senior management expectations for corporate communications this year, closely followed by increasing positive media coverage. The importance of social media as a source of reputation risk was also well recognized, yet only one in four of the top communicators was confident that their company was well prepared to deal with a social media-based threat. 

And while the companies reported committing increasing resources to social media, nearly half of those which had a recent crisis believed social media did NOT play a role in the crisis and only 7% said the crisis began in social media. Furthermore, looking forward, the CCOs concluded that, despite the ubiquitous coverage of social media, traditional media relations edged out any single social media channel as the tool which will increase most dramatically in importance over the course of the next year.

While some of these findings are not surprising, they highlight the importance of reputation as a key crisis risk.  The survey also reinforces other research previously reported in Managing Outcomes showing thatfar too many organizations are ill-prepared to deal with a crisis and that the focus of effort must extend beyond the conventional tactical and operational risks.

To benchmark your organization’s crisis preparedness contact Tony Jaques.  During August and September the first hour of consultation is free of charge.

About managingoutcomes

Issue and crisis management expert
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