One-Third of Global Chief Communications Officers Unprepared to Deal With Social Media Threats, According to Annual Survey

- Need for Crisis/Issues Management Experience Soars in Critical Importance -

Oct 26, 2010, 09:15 ET from Weber Shandwick

NEW YORK, Oct. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Corporate and brand reputations face greater risk from online threats today. According to The Rising CCO III, an annual survey conducted by global executive search firm Spencer Stuart and global public relations firm Weber Shandwick, 34 percent of global chief corporate communications officers (CCOs) report that their companies experienced a social-media based reputation threat during the past 12 months. Yet, just as many -- 33 percent -- say they are not prepared for managing these types of online reputational threats.

Social media threats are top of mind for CCOs of the world's largest companies this year. They forecast that the most critical challenge as well as the greatest opportunity in the year ahead is social or online media, with 54 percent citing new/social media experience among the most important qualifications for tomorrow's communicators. CCOs worldwide are ramping up to meet the challenge: Social media/blogging is expected to be the fastest-growing function in communications departments in the next 12 months, having risen dramatically from 28 percent (2008) to 41 percent (2010) in two years.

"Online threats to corporate reputation are escalating the social media imperative when it comes to the new skill sets and experiences required of today's CCOs," said George Jamison, who leads Spencer Stuart's Corporate Communications Officer area. "Credible experience in this area has shifted from 'nice to have' to 'must have' for the most desirable corporate leadership roles."

Need for Crisis & Issues Management Experience Escalates

As social media challenges rise in importance among communications executives, so too has general crisis preparedness and response planning.  In fact, crisis/issue management has soared during the past three years of the survey as a critical skill set for tomorrow's successful CCO. It is considered nearly twice as important in 2010 (61 percent) as it was in 2007 (33 percent).  

"It is no surprise that both social media threats and crisis preparedness have risen simultaneously in importance on CCO agendas," said Weber Shandwick's Chief Reputation Strategist Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross. "The general public and other stakeholders are much more sensitive to corporate wrongdoing today and expect companies and CEOs to respond immediately, to communicate transparently and to listen carefully to their complaints and recommendations online. The reputation stakes online today are higher than ever before."

Other Risks to Consider

The survey also revealed that some essential communications and reputation-building tools may be in danger of being overlooked as a result of the changing business climate and budgetary restraints. According to the study, competitive intelligence/risk assessment has fallen in priority in communication departments for the next 12 months. In 2008, this function was the second most important communications resource planned for 2009, reported by 22 percent of CCOs. In the 2010 survey, it fell to sixth place, with only nine percent of respondents expecting it to be the area that will increase. Similarly, environmental responsibility has declined as a critical developmental area despite its value in building and protecting reputations – it fell from a low 11 percent in 2008 to four percent in 2010 planning.

Employee Engagement Important

CCOs increasingly report that employee engagement metrics are among the top effectiveness yardsticks by which they are judged, growing by 33 percent from 2007 to 2010. This emphasis on internal communications is not surprising given increased attention paid to how employers are facing challenges to retain their best talent as the economy recovers.

Other key findings include:

  • North American CCOs are the most likely to have experienced a social media threat to their companies' reputations in the past year. They are also the most likely to feel well prepared for dealing with such threats. By far, APAC CCOs are the least confident in their preparedness, although many (52 percent) are striving to formalize their social media efforts.
  • Media sentiment has consistently been at the top of the CCO's list of effectiveness measures in our ongoing research. In 2010, media favorability rose even higher as a barometer of communications success, from 75 percent in 2007 and 74 percent in 2008 to 84 percent in 2010.
  • The tenure of global CCOs rose by an average of four months from 2008 (65 months) to 2010 (69 months). North American CCOs are the most tenured (85 months).

About the Survey

The Rising CCO, now in its third year, examined the roles, responsibilities and opinions of CCOs in the world's largest companies.  The 127 survey participants came from companies based in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.  Seventy-eight percent of respondents work in global Fortune 500 companies. The survey was conducted online throughout May and June 2010.

About Spencer Stuart

Spencer Stuart is one of the world's leading executive search consulting firms. Privately held since 1956, Spencer Stuart applies its extensive knowledge of industries, functions and talent to advise select clients – ranging from major multinationals to emerging companies to nonprofit organizations–and address their leadership requirements. Through 50 offices in 27 countries and a broad range of practice groups, Spencer Stuart consultants focus on senior-level executive search, board director appointments, succession planning and in-depth senior executive management assessments. For more information on Spencer Stuart, please visit

About Weber Shandwick

Weber Shandwick is a leading global public relations agency with offices in 73 countries around the world. The firm's success is built on its deep commitment to client service, our people, creativity, collaboration and harnessing the power of Advocates - engaging stakeholders in new and creative ways to build brands and reputation. Weber Shandwick provides strategy and execution across practices such as consumer marketing, healthcare, technology, public affairs, financial services, corporate and crisis management. Its specialized services include digital/social media, advocacy advertising, market research, and corporate responsibility. In 2010, Weber Shandwick was named Global Agency of the Year by The Holmes Report for the second year in a row; an 'Agency of the Decade' by Advertising Age, Large PR Agency of the Year by Bulldog Reporter, and Top Corporate Responsibility Advisory Firm by CR Magazine. The firm has also won numerous 'best place to work' awards around the world including "Best Multinational Firm to Work For in EMEA" by The Holmes Report and a "Top Place to Work in PR"  by PR News. Weber Shandwick is part of the Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG). For more information, visit


Jennifer Norton

Weber Shandwick


Tim McNary

Spencer Stuart


SOURCE Weber Shandwick