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Managing CEO communication and positioning: A cross-national study among corporate communication leaders

Ansgar Zerfass (Institute of Communication and Media Studies, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany and Department of Communication and Culture, BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo, Norway)
Dejan Verčič (Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia)
Markus Wiesenberg (Institute of Communication and Media Studies, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 1 February 2016

6501

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the practices of positioning Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and other top executives in the public sphere and approaches to manage their communication activities.

Design/methodology/approach

A neo-institutional framework is used to explain the growth of CEO positioning in mediatisated societies. Research questions are derived from previous research and tested in a quantitative online survey with 512 heads of corporate communication in 21 countries across Europe and a qualitative survey with 42 communication leaders in 12 countries.

Findings

The majority of companies position their CEOs and/or other top executives, but only a minority guide these activities through a sound management process. European CEOs are primarily presented based on their functional and ethical competencies. A minority of communication leaders prefer the uniform positioning of their CEOs in different markets; others argue for localised approaches. More companies in high-power distance countries have a specific communication strategy for their CEOs, compared to companies in low-power distance countries. Significant differences were also identified between listed and privately owned companies.

Research limitations/implications

The study indicates the importance of CEO positioning from the perspective of corporate communication leaders. Investigating the expectations and experiences of CEOs themselves might provide additional insights.

Originality/value

The paper presents the first large-scale study on CEO positioning, informs practitioners on the state of practice in Europe and identifies knowledge that can be integrated into education of business and communications students alike.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Declaration of conflicting interests: the authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship and/or publication of this paper.

Funding: the authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this paper: the European Communication Monitor 2013 and the qualitative research which was used to collect data for this paper was supported by Ketchum Europe, London.

Citation

Zerfass, A., Verčič, D. and Wiesenberg, M. (2016), "Managing CEO communication and positioning: A cross-national study among corporate communication leaders", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 37-55. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCOM-11-2014-0066

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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