Davos Agenda

This is what chief communication officers see as the biggest risks and opportunities in 2023

CCOs assess the risks and opportunities that CEO's must navigate in 2023

CCOs assess the risks and opportunities that CEO's must navigate in 2023 Image: World Economic Forum/ Greg Beadl

Georg Schmitt
Head of Digital and Marketing; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum Geneva
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Davos Agenda

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • From sustainability to complex geopolitical shifts and a potential recession, CEOs have a lot to navigate in 2023.
  • How these issues are managed often falls on the organization's Chief Communications Officer (CCO).
  • CCOs give their unique perspective on current and impending business risks and opportunities to help CEOs successfully steer their organizations through these turbulent times.

Whatever the size of your organization, your customers, employees, suppliers, investors and other stakeholders have a growing list of expectations for it. Greater diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), optimal sustainability and enhanced workers' rights are among some of your stakeholders' demands. Alongside this, there are external factors to navigate: complex geopolitical shifts, the lingering COVID-19 pandemic and a potential recession. Presenting how you manage all these challenges is key and for that CEOs are increasingly relying on their Chief Communications Officers (CCO).

A survey, carried out by Page entitled CCO views in 2023, asked CCOs from organizations worldwide what they see as the key business risks and opportunities for organizations today. And, it asked CCOs for the advice they have for CEOs looking to manage those dangers and harness that potential for growth.

When asked: what are the critical risks you see from your unique perspective as a CCO that should be on most businesses’ radar in 2023?, approaching half (41%) said economic uncertainty, which covers inflation; recession; and potential redundancies. Nearly one-third (32%) cited employee challenges, which include attracting and retaining top talent; employee engagement; and the future of work. Geopolitical risks, which cover issues concerning China, energy policy and security; military conflict; and rising nationalism and protectionism, were the concern of 30% of respondents. And, a quarter highlighted trust and division, which encompasses trust in business, government and media; political polarisation; racism; DE&I; and misinformation.

The opportunities CCOs see opening up in 2023

When asked, what would you say are the one or two biggest areas of opportunity for businesses from the CCO perspective?, 65% said stakeholder capitalism, which covers ESG/sustainability; energy transition; the stakeholder value model; leadership on societal and geopolitical issues; and aligning values and purpose. Nearly a third (32%) said employees and culture, which covers employee engagement; culture transformation; DE&I; attracting/retaining top talent and the future of work. And, 18% highlighted enterprise transformation, which encompasses digital transformation; misinformation; audience analysis/targeting; and supply chain resiliency.

Other notable advice to CEOs from the survey of CCOs include:

As businesses prepare for increasingly challenging economic conditions, do not lose or abandon the focus that has been placed in recent years on employee engagement, ESG and DE&I.

There isn’t a way of playing it safe anymore. Polarisation means you have to choose, intentionally, which reputation risks you take on and embrace…There isn’t a way of avoiding them.

Focus on your company’s unique value proposition and be specific about how it makes the world a better place.

At this week’s Annual Meeting in Davos, many of the CEOs attending are accompanied by their Chief Communications Officers or Chief Marketing Officers. It will be an opportunity for them to gather and discuss critical issues facing businesses and their unique role in helping address them.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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