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KETCHUM'S ONLINE MAGAZINE YEAR 2008    ISSUE 3

EXPECTATIONS & FRUSTRATIONS: HOW THE PUBLIC PERCEIVES CORPORATIONS AND CEOS

Street Smarts

Global surveys typically reveal differences in views among regions, and Expectations & Frustrations was no different. However, while Influentials' expectations of corporations varied on some topics, the final statistics still support some overarching themes. Here are a few of those themes and the survey numbers behind them.

Survey Stats on CEOs

  • Influentials favor visionary CEOs.
    • Influentials in every country except Brazil cited being a visionary as among the top reasons to admire a CEO. This attribute ranked highest in Argentina, where 70 percent of Influentials cited it; in the U.S., the U.K., France and Italy, 44 percent of Influentials did.
    • Brazilian Influentials (55 percent) put creativity at the top of admirable CEO attributes, followed by delivering strong financial results (53 percent), carrying out programs well
      (52 percent), and being a visionary (45 percent).
  • CEOs should be ready to communicate in a crisis.
    • At least 70 percent of respondents in 10 of the 11 countries said that a CEO should personally communicate with stakeholders during a crisis. In Italy, 66 percent of
      Influentials agreed. Financial results and changes in company structure also were leading topics.
    • In all nations, at least 45 percent of Influentials believe a CEO should be engaged in employee communications.
  • Consumers, investors and employees should be top concerns.
    • Influentials in all nations agreed that consumers and investors are among the top three stakeholder groups CEOs should pay attention to.
    • At least 57 percent of Influentials in every country except France and China said employees should be a top concern for CEOs.
    • In France and China, the board of directors outranked employees as a top stakeholder, with 75 percent of French Influentials and 68 percent of Chinese Influentials citing it.
    • Community members and public interest groups ranked low among the stakeholders that Influentials want CEOs to listen to. In China, 19 percent of respondents said
      public interest groups were most important, and in Germany 14 percent said community members were most important. Those percentages were the highest among
      all countries.
  • It's a tough job.
    • Most Influentials agree that the job of being CEO is getting tougher. In China, 81 percent of Influentials said the CEO job is getting more difficult. Respondents in France,
      the U.K. and Brazil were the least likely to agree, with fewer than half (45 percent, 47 percent and 48 percent, respectively) believing the job is getting harder.
  • Hardly anyone wants it ... except in developing markets.
    • More than half of Influentials in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Germany, France and Spain said they would not want to be CEO of a large corporation. However, in India,
      84 percent would take the job, compared to 77 percent in Brazil, 66 percent in China and 63 percent in Argentina. In Italy, 53 percent would want to be CEO and 47
      percent would not.

Survey Stats on Corporations

  • Trust in corporations is lacking.
    • Influentials in Brazil and India have the highest level of trust in corporations, with 37 percent of respondents in both countries saying they trust them. Trust is lowest in the
      U.K. and Germany, where 7 percent and 8 percent of respondents, respectively, trust corporations.
    • In every country except Argentina, major media is trusted more than corporations. Even in India and Brazil, where trust is highest at 37 percent of Influentials, 53 percent
      and 45 percent of respondents, respectively, trust major media.
    • Trust in NGOs is either on par with or higher than trust in corporations in every country except China, India and Canada. In China, 31 percent of Influentials trust
      corporations, compared to 18 percent who trust NGOs. In India, corporations outrank NGOs, 37 percent to 23 percent. In Canada, the two institutions are much
      closer, with 11 percent of Canadians trusting corporations and 10 percent trusting NGOs.
  • Influentials expect corporations to help prevent global warming.
    • Brazilians have more trust in corporations than do most other nations, but they expect a lot, too. About 80 percent of those surveyed said they believe corporations play
      an important role in preventing global warming. That's on par with expectations of government, which 82 percent of respondents said play a significant role.
    • German Influentials have the next highest expectations, with 64 percent of those surveyed holding corporations responsible; that's slightly higher than the 62 percent who
      put the onus on government.
    • In the U.S., 50 percent of respondents believe corporations are responsible for preventing global warming, compared to 44 percent who hold government accountable.
      By contrast, 42 percent of respondents hold corporations accountable for increasing access to adequate healthcare and just 29 percent say corporations play a key role
      in increasing access to education. Meanwhile, in both cases 53 percent say government is accountable.
    • Respondents in Italy had the lowest expectations in this area, with just 18 percent of those surveyed holding companies accountable for preventing global warming. That
      compares to 29 percent who hold government responsible.
  • Employees should be a major priority – especially in the U.S.
    • While every country surveyed ranked “compensating employees fairly” as being an important focus area for corporations, in the U.S. this factor outranked 10 others,
      with 85 percent of those surveyed saying it was important. By comparison, just 59 percent of U.S. Influentials said “creating shareholder value” was important.
    • In Brazil, 90 percent of respondents said fair compensation was important, on par with “producing to meet consumer needs” and “environmental stewardship.”
    • When asked to choose between contributing funds to local schools and giving employees a 20 percent pay increase, Influentials in nine of the 11 countries surveyed chose
      employee raises. The largest percentage of respondents choosing employees was in Spain, where 78 percent said they would give employee raises if they were CEO of a
      large company. Canada and Brazil favored contributing to schools in the tradeoff.
    • When asked to choose between having small investors lose 10 percent of the value of their stock and laying off 10 percent of the workforce to cut costs, Influentials in
      10 countries clearly sided with preventing layoffs. In India, respondents were just as likely to lay off workers as they were to have small investors face declining values.
    • In Germany, 61 percent of respondents said keeping jobs in the country should be a company's top investment – well ahead of other investments such as bigger dividends
      for shareholders (6 percent) and research and development (46 percent).
  • But globally, research and development should be the highest concern.
    • Influentials in most nations surveyed said R&D should be the top investment for corporations. China led the pack, with 65 percent of respondents saying it was important.
      That compares to 35 percent in China who believe keeping jobs in the country should be a top priority and just 3 percent who said companies should invest money in
      communities.
    • In every country surveyed, R&D was seen as more important than paying bigger dividends to shareholders, making political contributions and investing money in
      communities.
    • In the U.S. and Canada, just 35 percent and 33 percent of respondents, respectively, said R&D was a top priority; however, in both countries R&D fell behind keeping
      jobs in the country, with 44 percent of Canadians and 47 percent of those in the U.S. saying jobs should be the top investment.