G&S News Release – Senior Business Leaders Gain Ground in Corporate Reputation Study

Senior business leaders gain ground in corporate reputation study, but miss opportunity to bond with millennials and Gen Xers

NEW YORK – April 26, 2016 – The American public is recovering confidence in senior business leaders, but social media is a missed opportunity to build trust among millennials and Gen Xers. These are among the key findings of the 2016 Global Street Fight Study™ released today by G&S Business Communications.

The annual study conducted online by Harris Poll for G&S Business Communications reveals that recovering confidence in business leadership is particularly strong among opinions elites. Compared to 2014, this influential sub-segment is nearly twice as likely to say that senior leadership is stronger today than it was five years ago.  Opinion elites are also twice as likely to describe senior leadership as “very innovative” and “very bold” as compared to 2015. They also believe that senior leaders today are doing a better job of responding to crisis situations.

The numbers break out as follows: 

  • 78% of Americans think senior leadership at large companies is stronger (12%) or about the same (66%) today compared to five years ago
    • 19% of opinion elites think it is stronger (versus 17% in 2015 and 10% in 2014)
  • 20% of opinion elites think senior leadership is very innovative (versus 11% in 2015 and 10% in 2014)
  • 20% of opinion elites think senior leadership is very bold (versus 10% in 2015)
  • 65% of opinion elites say senior leaders at large companies have responded to crisis situations very well or somewhat well in just the past year (up from 49% who said the same in 2015)

“We’ve seen a remarkable shift in the past 12 to 24 months from reputation triage to reputation rebound,” said Steve Halsey, G&S principal and managing director of business consulting. “But is it enough of an improvement to satisfy the C-Suite and, more importantly, the general public?”

G&S joined forces with Harris Poll four years ago to probe public opinion of senior business leaders in the face of intense global competition and economic uncertainty. While this year’s study paints a picture of recovering confidence among opinion elites and the general public, it also reveals that more can be done to build and grow reputational equity among millennials and Gen Xers.

“There’s a huge gap in the social media space,” said Carol Gstalder, consumer insights North America business leader at Nielsen and co-author of the annual Global Street Fight study. “Nearly two thirds of the general public say it’s at least somewhat important for senior leaders to be active on social media today, yet the majority of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social media presence whatsoever.”

In particular, senior business leaders who don’t friend, tweet or post are missing an opportunity to build trust among younger Gen Xers (ages 35 – 44) and the coveted age 18 to 34 demographic of millennials. According to the Global Street Fight study, about three in five millennials (61%) and nearly half (47%) of younger Gen Xers follow one or more senior business leaders on social media and they are more likely to trust information about a company when it comes from social media.

“These groups aren’t looking for selfies or personal anecdotes from senior leaders on social media,” said Gstalder. “They want company information from company leaders, and their specific interests are aligned with topics that help to shape company reputation.”

Results of the Global Street Fight Study demonstrate that millennials have a greater interest in company-related social media content from senior leaders as compared to the general public, while opinion elites have the greatest interest.

  • 41% of millennials/36% of the general public/54% of opinion elites would like senior leaders to address their company’s vision
  • 38% of millennials/35% of the general public/45% of opinion elites would like senior leaders to address their company’s products/services
  • 35% of millennials/32% of the general public/42% of opinion elites would like senior leaders to address customer service issues/experiences

The study also found that 67% of millennials and 61% of younger Gen Xers find senior leaders more trustworthy when they are transparent on social media.

“In many respects, social media is the new battle ground in the global street fight for corporate reputation,” said Halsey. “It gives stakeholders the opportunity to see a company through the lens of its leader and for senior leaders to see through the lens of those they hope to influence.”

About the Survey

The 2016 G&S Global Street Fight Study was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of G&S Business Communications.  The annual study explores consumer perceptions of CEOs. A total of 2,018 adults aged 18 and older were queried online within the United States from March 24 to March 29, 2016 via Harris Poll’s QuickQuery omnibus product. For complete research method, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Mary C. Buhay, G&S Business Communications. To obtain the complete study online, please visit the G&S website.

About The Harris Poll

The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. Learn more at www.harrispollonline.com and follow them on Twitter, @Nielsen.

About G&S Business Communications

G&S Business Communications is an independent business communications firm with headquarters in New York and offices in Chicago, Raleigh, N.C., and Basel, Switzerland. The firm’s global network extends across more than 50 countries through its PROI Worldwide partnership. G&S integrates business and communications strategies, using a full range of communications services, to build sustainable relationships for clients along the entire value chain. We inspire action that means business. Learn more at www.gscommunications.com and follow them on Twitter, @GS_Comms.

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