CEO Monthly July 2017

6 CEO MONTHLY / JULY 2017 , insights into what the public expects from business leaders today. While our survey shows that Millennials are favourable toward CEOs speaking out, Weber Shandwick’s audits of company reactions to recent policy decisions revealed that many CEOs are also not responding. This latest survey also asked consumers what they think the risks are of not speaking out. Half of Americans (47%) believe the biggest risk of a CEO not speaking out on a hotly debated issue is some form of criticism, whether it comes from the media (30%), customers (26%), employees (2%) or the government (9%). Top perceived risks do not differ by generation. Additional findings In addition to the results outlined above, our research also finds the following: • Millennials are more likely to have heard of CEO activism (48%) than Gen Xers (29%) and boomers (35%). • Millennials are more favourable in general of CEO activism (42%) than Gen Xers (25%) and boomers (24%). They also exhibit favourability even when an issue is unrelated to the company’s direct business (37% Millennials, 19% Gen Xers, 17% boomers). • Half of Millennials (50%) think CEO activism has an influence on the government compared to 31 % of both Gen Xers and boomers. Perhaps that is a strong reason for why they favour CEOs taking a stand. • Millennials perceive the primary reason CEOs take a public position on an issue is to get attention in the media (36%). This is followed by selling more products or services (22%), showing how the issue aligns with their corporate values (21%), and building their company’s reputation (21%). Millennials are most likely to have taken an action because of a CEO’s stance on an issue (74%) followed by Gen Xers (63%) and boomers (55%). The top action taken by Millennials is talking about the CEO’s stance with people they know. Given Gen Xers’ and boomers’ general displeasure with CEO activism, it is not surprising that they register their displeasure by boycotting a CEO activist’s company. “Our research on CEO activism continues to show strong enthusiasm among the Millennial generation for CEOs speaking out,” said Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist of Weber Shandwick. “For companies looking to increase sales, recruitment, innovation and word of mouth, Millennials’ bias toward CEO activism should not be overlooked. This generation is heavily purpose- driven and is already changing the game when it comes to how we work and where people want to work.” A Guide to CEO activism CEOs speaking out on hotly debated current issues comes with both risks and rewards, and the generational gap we revealed in response to CEO activism makes these factors even more pronounced. Based on our study, Weber Shandwick identified 15 strategies that CEOs and their companies should consider when approaching activism, 10 of which are below. For more information, click here to read the full CEO Activism in 2017: High Noon in the C-Suite report. • Don’t ignore the slippery generational slope. Millennials are moving into the next generation of leadership and they do not want their CEOs to be bystanders. • Estimate the price of silence. Millennials are watching. • Be fully prepared to commit time and company resources. • Look in the mirror to make sure your organisation practices what it preaches. You will be held accountable. • Consider the channels, messages and tone of voice used when speaking out. Ensure the reasons behind the CEO’s stance are clearly articulated and vetted. • Strength in numbers such as petitions, coalitions, etc. might be a viable solution to a steady drumbeat of contentious political and social issues. • Have a crisis preparedness plan for a potential social media firestorm. • Expect to be asked to speak up the next time a hot button issue arises. • Develop a thick skin and anticipate criticism. • Establish a firm link between the issue, your company’s values and its business. About the research Weber Shandwick partnered with KRC Research in March and April 2017 to conduct an online survey of 1,021 U.S. adults 18 years of age and older, representing the general population of America. It is the second annual wave in of our CEO Activism research. They survey describes CEO activism to respondents as follows: “In the past year or so, some chief executive officers (CEOs, or top leaders of companies) have spoken out publicly and taken a stand on controversial issues. For example, CEOs have spoken up about social, political and environmental issues such as climate change, income fairness, same-sex marriage, immigration, gun control and discrimination.” The generations are defined as follows: Millennials (ages 18-36), Gen Xers (ages 37-52), boomers (ages 53-71). For more information, visit