Our recent study demonstrates the tangible business value of business leader communications.  It aims to bridge the 'communication gap' and provide data to confirm the link between communications strategy and business value.  This is especially important now considering that:
  • Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, CEOs have been under a lot of pressure to take a broader leadership role demonstrating how their companies are helping in the health and economic recovery.
  • Consumers are demanding that corporate leaders be more vocal on issues other than their business.
  • Investors are no longer content with only a healthy bottom line, but increasingly demand companies commit to and communicate about ESG standards as sine qua non conditions for investing
  • With the proliferation of digital channels, internal and external stakeholders expect the C-suite not to hide behind press releases and communicate in a personal and transparent way.

81%

of the 100 top-performing companies that we evaluated, we found that the vast majority are currently led by CEOs that actively communicate regularly

100%

of female CEOs of the top-performing companies had a distinct brand and communication style

USD$260 Billion:

Is the total amount that CEOs who had a track record of communicating helped protect in the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic

Key Findings

  • Fast growth companies are virtually synonymous with CEOs who prioritize communication – over 80% had a brand: Of the 100 top-performing companies that we evaluated, we found that the vast majority, or 81 percent, are currently led by CEOs who consistently communicate and have a distinct brand.
  • CEOs with a distinct brand better withstood the negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis, protecting US$260 billion in shareholder value: CEOs who had a brand and communicated regularly performed better than their industry peers during the COVID-19 pandemic by an average of two percent – this stronger investor confidence translates into US$260 billion in additional shareholder value. The CEOs with no brand and the ones who only communicated about their business and bottom line had stock price performances that were closer to their industry averages. Furthermore, out of the pool of CEOs that had a brand, those CEOs who embraced the growing importance of ESG and ‘stakeholder capitalism’ outperformed their industry peers by an average of 3.75 percent.
  • Even before COVID-19, many of the best- performing CEOs increased their emphasis on communication over the last 5 years: Fast-growing companies have increasingly embraced communication as a tool to support their businesses’ growth over the years. This was true even before the COVID-19 pandemic, with companies either choosing more vocal leaders or leaders becoming more vocal over time.
  • Stakeholder capitalism trend already strongly embedded among fastest growing companies: While conversations around ESG and stakeholder capitalism have steadily gained pace among the business community, many of the fastest growing companies led by example. Of the CEOs valuing communications, nearly 40 percent can be considered as ‘stakeholder CEOs’ or CEOs who have publicly taken a stance about issues that were not directly related to their business, such as social, political or environmental issues.
  • Communication a priority for leaders across all sectors: Vocal CEOs were a feature of fast-growing companies in all sectors except for basic materials – this is true even of industries that are highly regulated and traditionally discrete. While leaders in the healthcare sector are traditionally perceived to eschew the vocal communications styles of more consumer-facing companies, the growth leaders in healthcare bucked this trend. Of the 22 CEOs of the fastest-growing healthcare companies we evaluated, 19 were vocal and had a brand
  • Vocal CEOs a phenomenon across geographies: Most studies looking into CEO communications tend to focus on US companies, with some coining the term ‘CEO Activists’ for CEOs playing an active role in the US political process*. Our research shows that while American CEOs more frequently take a stance on controversial issues, European leaders are no less vocal. In fact, the Euro Stoxx index had the largest share of active vocal CEOs.
  • Communication a priority for all female CEOs: All women who held the highest position in their company considered communication an important part of their leadership. While significantly underrepresented – of the 128 CEOs evaluated here, only 6 of them were women (4.7%) – all women CEOs in our study had a distinct brand and communication style.
  • Social media communication has become a key tool for CEOs: More CEOs are actively engaging on social media than ever before. Over 40% of CEOs across the FTSE 100, CAC 40 and DAX 30 are now actively engaging on LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Instagram. In the first eight months of 2020, 69 CEOs in our study collectively posted on social media a total of 3,224 times, or an average of 47 times per active CEO. Five CEOs posted over 20 times per month. ‘Generalist’ CEOs who engage on a range of topics gain the most traction - the broader the range of topics CEOs cover, the greater the engagement across their posts.
  • Business leaders believe they should publicly engage with social and political discourse: The ability of businesses to handle crises has been a defining factor in their success during the pandemic. Although 97% claim to be taking actions or investments over the next 12 months to prepare for future crises and 87% agree that their leaders are better prepared for future crises. Over the coming year, G20 companies expect to face the heaviest scrutiny in relation to their employee wellbeing, data privacy arrangements and ESG practices. To try and influence the narrative surrounding these factors, 82% of G20 business leaders believe they should publicly engage with pressing social or political discourse.

INSIGHTS

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Lessons for leaders communicating online during a crisis

July 8, 2021—More CEOs are actively engaging on social media than ever before: over 40% of CEOs across the FTSE 100, CAC 40 and DAX 30, a trend that has been accelerated during the past year as CEOs were forced to lead from home. This presents its own risks, but also opportunities when managing a crisis given the fact that CEO-shared content receives considerably higher engagement than content shared by company channels.

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Leading from the front: Effective social media engagement for business leaders

May 21, 2020 - Leadership in the age of social media - Social media has fundamentally transformed the way that leaders communicate. As employees, investors, media and the public have become accustomed to using social media channels, an increasing number of business leaders are seeing the opportunities to engage with these audiences on the channels where they are spending their time.

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Leading from the Front: Successful Strategies for the Social CEO

January 13, 2021 - Most large companies have embraced social media channels to communicate with their customers, employees, investors and other audiences. From Twitter to Facebook, and Instagram to LinkedIn, the last decade has seen businesses engage on these platforms in increasingly sophisticated ways.

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The CEO Brand and Its Impact on Business

July 10, 2020 - New research by FTI Consulting sheds light on the role of the CEO on a company’s valuation. While this is one factor among many, the research indicates that companies whose CEOs demonstrate strong leadership, and were publicly vocal, better withstood the negative impacts of the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. This stronger investor confidence translates into as much as US$260 billion in additional shareholder value.

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