January 25, 2016 By FTI Consulting
Fortune 500 CEOs are often in the media spotlight by virtue of the high profile company they lead as opposed to any concerted effort to get noticed. But what about the CEOs of other significant, but slightly smaller companies? How do they choose to engage with the media and where are the opportunities for these leaders to stand apart from their peers as thought leaders and respected communicators to key company stakeholders?
To find out, FTI Consulting conducted a comprehensive traditional and social media audit and analysis between June of 2014 and 2015 of CEOs from companies ranked 500 to 550 on the Fortune 1000 list. This four-part series will explore the current state of communication among CEOs whose industries span Technology, Financial Services, Telecommunications, Industrials, Energy, and Retail & Consumer. By determining their present communication behaviors, we will identify what steps these lower-profile CEOs might take in order to become more effective advocates and ambassadors for their company.
Previous FTI research has shown that investors value a CEO’s reputation even over a company’s products and services. In a 2011 survey, 85% of investors responded that they think CEOs should be engaged on policy matters, while 78% of investors wanted companies to be more vocal on policy issues. When a CEO acts as a thought leader, their halo extends to the business they lead; improved CEO reputation means an improved company reputation, and thus a greater enterprise value.
To conduct a comprehensive audit of CEO activity outside of the Fortune 500, FTI reviewed approximately 2,000 articles from the top 10 daily newspapers, top 25 business publications, wires, and regional publications. The below infographic shows the most commonly discussed topics by CEOs, in both articles and quotes.
Of the topics discussed by CEOs, earnings were by far the most common subject of conversation, followed by acquisitions. Also discussed, though less widely, were: leadership change (9%), industry news (6%), business growth (5%), cybersecurity (5%), strategy (5%), community engagement (4%), tax fraud (4%), and stock performance (3%).
Opportunities for engagement
While the majority of CEOs studied utilized media as a platform for earnings announcements, few touched upon the topics of industries, growth, or strategy or other subjects that would help build their profile as a thought leader or industry expert. A relatively small investment of time and effort to expand the scope and cadence of CEO communications could provide significant benefit to a company’s reputation and position in the market.
Although a keynote speech or well-placed op-ed is often a powerful tool to enhance the profile of a CEO, companies can also gain benefit from other activities that demand considerably less effort. In the next of this four-part series, we will explore why wire services may be the most effective platform to communicate important messages to key stakeholders.