CEOs Loose the High Ground

Findings from a recent Edelman survey (The Edelman Trust Barometer) in the UK have suggested that trust in CEOs has plummeted as the public is increasingly looking to less senior figures as spokespeople for their organisation. Incredibly, the CEO has now become one of the most distrusted authority figures with a nine percentage point drop year on year. This situation has largely been driven by the adverse media reporting of excessive salary increases for the top tier of management and the awarding of huge bonuses.

Many in the communications industry find the figures unsurprising in light of the current economic situation, rising unemployment and the increasing impact of social media. Given that the public strongly believes that companies place profits ahead of everything else, this situation is not going to change any time soon, particularly when there appears little sign of a sustained global economic improvement.

Rather than looking at this situation as a problem, however, it should be seen an opportunity. Economies needs big business but it is widely believed by many commentators that private sector growth in the medium-term will be the ultimate solution to economic recovery. By creating increased employment opportunities and market growth, the CEOs who are better advised and can openly demonstrate a greater level of empathy with society as a whole, will take the place of those leaders who appear blind to society's concerns.

People expect businesses to do much more than create jobs and make money. They also want, and expect without compromise, companies to act more ethically, management to treat employees as they themselves would want to be treated, and play a much greater role helping the local communities in which they operate.

Social media will play a key role in the communications process so the new generation of CEOs will need to very savvy with regard to how they promote their organisations and themselves in the public domain, at the same time improving shareholder value.

Lloyd Mullenger
Senior Partner