RESEARCH: Here’s how CEOs feel about speaking out on issues of public interest

Findings of the 2022 HarrisX/Ragan CEO-Communicators Perceptions Survey reveal that CEOs are more willing to speak on societal issues when they matter to employees.

Results of Ragan and HarrisX Poll

Communicators are at a crossroads each time a hot topic of public debate, from social justice issues to ESG and beyond, enters the news cycle. Is it appropriate for your organization to comment? Is taking a stand the right thing to do? What does it mean to take a stand, anyway?

Ragan Communications partnered with research consultancy HarrisX in the fall of 2022 to understand how and when CEOs and communications leaders feel it’s appropriate for organizations to take a stand on issues of public interest, and the factors that influence their decisions.

The survey was conducted by HarrisX from Oct. 11-24 within the U.S. among 360 CEOs and high-ranking senior communications.

Asked whether organizations should take a stand on political and social issues, 63% of CEOs said yes and 37% said no. Just  58% of communications leaders agreed brands should speak out.

Those numbers rose when respondents were asked whether organizations have a responsibility to challenge public policies when they threaten employees’ rights — 76% of CEOs said yes and 74% of communications leaders said no.  This drastic increase in support demonstrates how attuned leadership is to the opinions of internal stakeholders—and offers a reminder that organizations can avoid reputational risk by tying larger purpose and values commitments back to a positive employee experience.

Those numbers fell again when each group was asked if standing up for employee rights should happen even if it meant losing revenue, with 61% of CEOs and 66% of comms leaders agreeing.

The fact that fewer CEOs said they support employee rights at the expense of revenue than those who support taking a stand overall is telling. Of course, failing to stand up for employee rights can bring about revenue losses in different ways as employees who experience a disconnect between their personal sense of purpose and the corporate purpose of their employer may very well leave, causing a loss of productivity and talent. It’s on communicators to connect the dots for the rest of the C-suite here.

Download the HarrisX-Ragan Key Findings Report here.

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