Communications critical to strategic corporate initiatives, survey finds

NEW YORK: A study conducted by FD and Forbes Insights finds that while CEOs, senior strategists, and communications pros agree that communications is critical to the success of strategic initiatives, there is disagreement about the role communications plays.

NEW YORK: A study conducted by FD and Forbes Insights finds that while CEOs, senior strategists, and communications pros agree that communications is critical to the success of strategic initiatives, there is disagreement about the role communications plays.

The FD/Forbes Corporate Strategy Survey questioned 163 CEO, senior strategists, and communications professionals, and found that 90%, 86%, and 96% of respondents, respectively, believe effective communications is critical to the success of strategic initiatives. According to the survey, strategic initiatives are externally-focused initiatives defined by their ability to “drive the business,” including a new market entry, repositioning or rebranding, and a new product launch.

However, the three surveyed groups disagree about the role of communications in strategic planning. Fifty-one percent of CEOs and 47% of strategists said communicators should play an active role in strategy development and execution, while only 39% of communicators agreed, seeing themselves more in an advisory role.

“We pick up on this awareness that a strategic initiative is greatly advantaged by having the chief communications officer engaged early in the process,” said Ed Reilly, CEO of FD Americas, “and it's up to the chief communications officer [to be involved] early enough and to offer value add as the process unfolds.”

The study also found that respondents believe strategic initiatives fail for five common reasons: unforeseen circumstances (24%), lack of understanding (19%), flawed strategy (18%), poor match between strategy and organizational capabilities (16%), and lack of accountability (13%).

“The second most cited reason for failure is failure of stakeholders to understand,” adds Reilly. “When that happens, CEOs hold communications responsible.”

The survey was conducted online from late January to early March 2009 and was executed in conjunction with the Association for Strategic Planning and the Council of Public Relations Firms. Ninety CEOs, 47 senior strategists, and 26 comms professionals participated.

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