by Brenda Barwick
Gone are the days when CEOs and social issues were mutually exclusive. Today, business leaders of all company sizes are challenged about adding their voice to a conversation or not. Fortunately, a just released report provides some insight.
The annual Global Communications Report was released last month by the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism that examined the impact of communication. This is the first year that USC partnered with Chief Executive magazine and questioned 200 business leaders who run small, mid-size and large corporations across the U.S. When asked about their most important communication goals, 44% of CEOs reported to sell their products and services, while 39% stated to differentiate from competition, and virtually no one stated shaping their company’s position on social issues.
At a time when high-profile corporations, such as Nike and Levi Strauss, are speaking out on societal issues, the vast majority of U.S. CEOs have little interest in being part of the conversation. When asked which societal issue they plan to speak publicly about, 60% said they were unlikely to comment about any social issue in 2019. For the 40% of CEOs who stated they plan to speak out, the most pressing topics were data privacy (45%), healthcare (41%) and diversity/inclusion (28%). The lowest ranking issues were immigration (15%), fake news (13%) and gun control (2%).
Based on this report’s findings, the needle is moving toward CEOs participating in social issue conversations, but it is still a minority of CEOs. It will be interesting to see if the numbers change any in next year’s report, especially in light of an election year. If you’re interested in the full Global Communication Report, feel free to contact me and I’ll email it to you.