‘Crisis management and corporate brand rising up agenda’ – FTSE comms chiefs

The need for better crisis-handling ability and a more defined sense of corporate purpose was rising up the agenda of FTSE 100 companies even before the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a new report by executive search firm Watson Helsby.

How corporate brands are perceived is increasingly important to business, a new study has found (Photo credit: Getty Images)
How corporate brands are perceived is increasingly important to business, a new study has found (Photo credit: Getty Images)

The annual survey of comms leaders in Britain’s biggest corporations was carried out before the coronavirus crisis. It reveals that 78 per cent of FTSE 100 firms employed someone in the group director corporate affairs/corporate comms role, and 76 per cent of those reported to the chief executive – a level that has remained consistent in recent years. 

However, the remit for this role had already been evolving. Corporate brand continues to rise up the agenda, with 60 per cent of respondents reporting that sustainability has become a bigger and more time-consuming part of their role. 

One director of comms said: “It has become 85 per cent of my workload over recent months”, while another reported: “This has accelerated more in the previous two years than in the previous 15.”

Also read: Global pandemic reinforces the value of the corporate comms function

Forty per cent of the FTSE comms leaders said their firms already had a ‘well-established corporate purpose that was understood by all stakeholders’, while another 30 per cent said purpose was ‘quite advanced and in place for over 12 months’. Fourteen per cent described their corporate purpose as ‘embryonic’, but ‘getting started or shortly to launch’.

“How do we become a purpose-driven organisation, that is the big priority for this year,” said one respondent before the COVID-19 crisis began. Another said: “We are turbo-charging our social value proposition this year – it’s a business imperative.”

Since the coronavirus outbreak, it has become accepted that many large corporations have responded by switching their core production over to socially beneficial alternatives to help those affected.

The percentage of women in FTSE 100 corporate comms director roles has risen from 39 per cent last year to 44 per cent now, but this is still short of the 51 per cent recorded in 2017. On average women at this level are paid 7.5 per cent less than men, with an average salary of £235,000 (male average: £253,000).

The good news for comms directors overall is that 32 per cent reported increases in their budget for 2020 – compared with only 10 per cent last year – while 30 per cent said budgets were reduced for this calendar year. 

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