With economic crisis on horizon, CEO confidence in corp. image and brand reputation dips

by | Aug 17, 2020 | Public Relations

As brands and businesses continue to battle through the COVID fallout, fears of an imminent economic dip remain on CEOs’ minds, according to new research from the Worldcom PR Group, which recently released its Confidence Index (WCI) monthly report for June 2020. As predicted in the May report, CEO confidence in corporate image and brand reputation took a hit. Not only did confidence in the topic see the third largest decline since May (down 5 percent), but the topic also dropped out of the top five topics of confidence for CEOs. Leaders in India had the highest confidence in corporate image and brand reputation and Bulgaria the lowest.

“Our monthly tracking of leaders’ confidence is uncovering invaluable insight into the trending issues,” said Roger Hurni, chair of Worldcom, in a news release. “The results for brand and collaboration topics show that CEOs have many challenges to consider if they wish to emerge from the crisis with loyal customers and empowered employees.”

With economic crisis on horizon, CEO confidence in corp. image and brand reputation dips

A bellwether for the economic crisis to come

The impact of the pandemic is beginning to erode the confidence of leaders over the age of 65—whose confidence levels fell the most since May—down 4 percent. As this generation has experienced more recessions/crises than any other, this decline in their confidence may be a bellwether for the severity of the economic crisis to come. There was the same decline in confidence in financial and economic influences on success. We expect to see this fall further in July. Slovakia had the lowest confidence in this topic and the U.K. the highest.

With economic crisis on horizon, CEO confidence in corp. image and brand reputation dips

Is Zoom fatigue a new factor?

Another interesting result was the decline in confidence in the use of technology to collaborate. While the pandemic has seen a surge in the use of online collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, this result may indicate growing fatigue with online meetings.

U.K. leaders top the WCI for most topics and Bulgarian leaders come last for most

Fifteen countries were added to the monthly results tracking in June—bringing the total to 30 around the world. This surfaced low levels of confidence in Central and Eastern Europe. CEOs and CMOs from these countries had the lowest confidence in 12 of the 23 topics, with Bulgaria coming last for six of those. Slovakia came last in the country confidence rankings. The U.K. on the other hand, appeared at the top of the WCI for nine of the 23 topics, closely followed by France which had a top score for seven topics.

With economic crisis on horizon, CEO confidence in corp. image and brand reputation dips

North America and Australasia the only regions to see a decline in confidence

The global WCI score saw a small improvement since May—up 0.3 percent. Confidence among Australasia’s execs declined 5 percent since May, while confidence of North American leaders dropped 1 percent. The results show interesting variations in the areas of most concern. For example, leaders in North America were least confident about handling sexual harassment and other bad behavior, while leadership in Asia was least confident about the impact of the way political leaders communicate on social media.

With economic crisis on horizon, CEO confidence in corp. image and brand reputation dips

“I am really pleased that we have doubled the number of countries covered by our monthly tracking,” said Todd Lynch, managing director of Worldcom, in the release. “It means the Worldcom Confidence Index provides unrivalled global insight into the issues of the moment from a CEO and CMO perspective. We will continue to add countries to our tracker over the coming months.”

With economic crisis on horizon, CEO confidence in corp. image and brand reputation dips

The Worldcom Confidence Index 10

The Worldcom Confidence Index highlights concerns/confidence across 23 topics and six audiences. The top 10 findings for June, “The Worldcom Confidence Index 10,” are shown here:

  • #1 As predicted in May, confidence in brand reputation fell out of the top five CEO topics of confidence
  • #2 Decline in confidence of leaders aged over 65 may be a bellwether for the severity of the economic crisis to come
  • #3 As the financial implications of the pandemic began to bite, leaders’ confidence in financial and economic influences on success saw the fourth largest decline (down 4 percent) to #18 on the WCI
  • #4 Employer brand, keeping employees, and giving them the new skills they need to be more productive in the ‘new normal’, all saw increases in leader engagement
  • #5 Confidence in using technology to collaborate and innovate saw the fourth largest fall. Perhaps this points to employees beginning to struggle with lack of face-to-face contact
  • #6 Reducing plastics and other sustainability issues saw the biggest increase in attention from leaders (up 7 percent) but the biggest fall in confidence—down 7 percent
  • #7 Influencers extended their lead as #1 audience for leader attention—up 3 percent since May. But confidence in the ability to satisfy influencers fell by 8 percent. Customers and employees also saw increases in attention
  • #8 Confidence levels in June were 28 percent lower than in November 2019 despite a tiny (0.3 percent) improvement
  • #9 Central and Eastern European countries had five of the seven lowest confidence scores
  • #10 Confidence among Australasia’s execs declined 5 percent since May—leaving the score just above the Regional average. Confidence of North America’s leaders dropped 1 percent. Regions show clear variations in areas of most concern.

With economic crisis on horizon, CEO confidence in corp. image and brand reputation dips

Access the complete Confidence Index here.

The study was able to operate at this scale, and in nine different languages, because the data was captured using a breakthrough approach powered by artificial intelligence (AI). The chosen research firm, Advanced Symbolics Inc.(ASI), has developed a patented method of building representative samples and then capturing information with their AI tool.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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