CEO survey shows reliance on comms and crisis plans

NEW YORK: Facing some of the toughest challenges of their careers,

US CEOs are re-addressing their crisis management plans and placing

increasing emphasis on their own, and their corporations'

communications.



Of the 194 CEOs who answered the 2001 PRWeek/Burson-Marsteller CEO

Survey, 21% said they had no crisis plan whatsoever when the terrorists

struck on September 11. Another 63% had a crisis plan, but found it

inadequate for dealing with the events. Just 19% thought their plan was

excellent and worked well.



Accordingly, an astonishing 63% have already started to readdress their

crisis planning in the wake of the tragic events, suggesting that

agencies' crisis practices are experiencing an increase in work.



More than ever before, CEOs also appear to be recognizing the importance

of being the spokespeople for their corporations, especially at times of

crisis: 85% of survey respondents said it was absolutely vital or very

important for the CEO to be the figurehead. This compares to 42% who

said it was very important last year.



Burson-Marsteller CEO Chris Komisarjevsky commented, "Corporations are

increasingly personal for the stakeholders, and their personalities are

often cast in the image of the CEO. The qualities, values, and beliefs

they demonstrate, particularly in a crisis, can have a huge impact on

their corporations' reputation. This research shows CEOs see that

link."



CEOs who responded to the survey also gave a ringing endorsement of

their PR departments and agencies. While 24% admitted they had cut the

size of their communications staffs in the last 12 months, only 5% were

planning cuts in the next year. Additionally, 75% of respondents said PR

should be the last discipline to be cut - out of advertising, sales

promotion, direct mail, and PR - in a soft economy.



Last year, 45% of CEOs said PR was very important for raising brand

awareness, a figure that shot up to 56% in this year's survey. And 55%

of CEOs said PR was very important to safeguarding a company's image

during a crisis, compared to 46% last year.



Perhaps responding to the national decline in interest in the internet,

37% of CEOs said the net is actually less important to their marketing

plans than it was a year ago. Another 43% said it was as important as a

year ago, and 20% said it was more important.



For more results and analysis of the CEO survey, see p. 19-26.



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