Knighthood ‘hysteria’ and CEO reputation

Fred Goodwin, former Royal Bank of Scotland boss, has been stripped of his knighthood. The de-knighting comes hot on the heels of RBS chief executive Stephen Hester’s forced decision to turn down a controversial bonus worth £1 million. Former Confederation of British Industry chief Lord Digby Jones, a former trade minister under Labour, said there was “the faint whiff of the lynch mob on the village green” about the decision to strip Sir Fred of his title. Questions are now being asked – is the government anti-business?

It’s an interesting time to be a chief executive of a high profile business in a high profile industry. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, published last week, there is a deepening sense of distrust of both business and government. CEOs were the least credible public spokesperson for a business or organisation, with only 30 per cent of respondents finding them credible.

Research we recently conducted for the Business Leaders in Communications Study (BLCS 2012) echoes these findings – and turns up some worrying statistics. We surveyed communications directors in 95 leading UK and global companies – including BP, BT, Citigroup, London Stock Exchange, John Lewis, AON and others leading firms. More than eight in ten said they think the CEO/Board perceive communications as a critically important function. Yet they estimated that CEOs in their organisations spend on average only 17% of their time on formal communication.

Commenting on the findings, David Bickerton, Direction of Communications for BP, believes that ‘What these findings are pointing to is the rapid evolution of Corporate Communications Director role into something that would be better termed the Chief Reputation Officer’. It would appear that many businesses, not just those in the banking industry, would benefit from this redefinition of the role.