Election Spotlight Brings CEOs Into the Forefront

February 26, 2017

By: Elizabeth Borrelli

The chief executives of big companies are always keen to promote their companies and their brands in the media. But in the fourth quarter of 2016, the outcome of the presidential election gave CEOs even more to talk about in traditional and social media. They needed to consider new perspectives, potential regulation and employee culture, while navigating through months of uncertainty.

This was particularly true in the Technology, Financial and Manufacturing sectors, as leaders including Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, Elon Musk and Mary Barra engaged in the public conversation.

At FleishmanHillard, we’ve been actively studying the visibility, public statements, topics and communications vehicles of 30 of the most influential U.S. CEOs. Our recently released Q4 report studies not only these political election-based comments but other key trends this quarter.

Key findings from the Q4 2016 report include:

  • The U.S. presidential election had a significant impact on CEO conversation, making it the top conversation driver this past quarter. CEOs across sectors endorsed their preferred candidate and also released statements on the outcome of the elections. Notably, these statements were distributed through a variety of methods including proactive statements, employee newsletters and video interviews.
    • This resulted in distinct changes in their communications approach such as more active CEOs, more frequent employee communications, candidate endorsements, regulatory conversation and statements on the future outlook of their industry.
  • For the first time in 2016, Financial Services CEOs were one of the most active sectors and surpassed Manufacturing and Consumer CEOs in terms of volume. This can be attributed to the significant impact of the election on this industry which led people to look to these senior leaders for their opinions.
  • Manufacturing CEOs are continuing to increase their visibility quarter by quarter, while Financial Services has seen tremendous growth this quarter following three quarters of declining conversation. Healthcare was the only sector that was less active this quarter than in Q3.
  • A notable new trend in the conversation is Consumer CEOs using social media as a key platform for employee-focused communications.

This CEO communications tracking report is an ongoing initiative of FleishmanHillard to identify dominant language, messaging, positioning and best practices to collect valuable insights that can be used to inform communications strategy and identify trends and opportunities for corporate executives. The report provides a quarterly update on overall communications trends of CEOs as well as an analysis of individual CEOs across five business sectors: Technology, Financial Services, Healthcare, Manufacturing, and Consumer Goods and Services.

Click here to access the report.

Betsy Borrelli is senior vice president and partner of New York’s Reputation Management practice. You can reach her at elizabeth.borrelli@fleishman.com for more information.