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Digital Readiness Survey from Zeno Group Finds Social Media to Be Corporate Reputation Blind Spot for Executives

Survey suggests more than one-third of CEOs ignore their company's social media reputation when making important business decisions

NEW YORK, Dec. 10, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Zeno Group, the award-winning mid-size public relations agency, today released findings from the Zeno Digital Readiness Survey, which reveals many executives fail to consider social media reputation when making business decisions.  In fact, more than one-third of executives (36 percent) say that the CEO of their company does not care or cares little about the company's reputation in social media.  In addition, while most organizations say they would take some action to respond to an online crisis, at least 10 percent report their organizations would not take any action at all to engage with audiences online to address a damaging article or social media post.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20121210/DC26625-INFO)

The online survey polled 300 U.S. corporate executives, spanning a range of industries and titles of VP or higher, including C-suite executives, such as CEOs, presidents and chairmen.  Notably, over half of respondents described their firms as primarily business-to-business (B2B) companies, and all companies had annual revenues of at least $1 billion.  

From a sector view, the Zeno Digital Readiness Survey reveals a stark difference between B2C (business-to-consumer) and B2B companies in not only executive attitudes toward social media, but also in their ability to respond to an online challenge.

Specifically, the Zeno Digital Readiness Survey finds:

  • B2B companies lag their B2C counterparts when considering social media reputation.  B2C-focused executives say their company's CEO frequently considers social media reputation in their decision-making, with 70 percent indicating it's always or sometimes a factor, compared to 57 percent of B2B executives.  This leaves a significant number of B2B executives (43 percent) who indicate the CEO largely ignores their company's online reputation, compared to only 30 percent from the B2C sector.
  • B2C companies are prepared to respond more quickly to online audiences in a crisis.  63 percent of B2C executives believe their firms could respond to a negative online post within 24 hours compared to only 45 percent of B2B executives.
  • B2B companies are less likely to engage online in a crisis.  B2B executives are twice as likely to say that their firm would not engage an audience online at all to defend their reputation (13 percent, compared to 6 percent of B2C executives).

The overall findings suggest social media is a "corporate reputation blind spot," especially for B2B companies – a concerning notion considering social media now accounts for almost a quarter of people's time spent online.[i]  As a result, companies that continue to ignore the online community or dismiss its influence are putting their reputations at risk.

"Given the explosive growth of today's digital platforms, the Zeno Digital Readiness Survey shows a much larger percentage of companies than one would expect turning a blind eye to valuable customer views and insights," said Mark Shadle, managing director of Zeno's Corporate practice.  "These businesses, regardless of sector, risk serious reputational damage, as well as miss out on important stakeholder feedback, when they ignore social media conversations about their companies and their industries."

Attitudes toward social media reputation also appear to differ by company size.  Executives in larger firms (with more than 10,000 employees) are more likely to say their CEO always or sometimes considers their company's social media reputation, as compared to those at companies with less than 10,000 employees (71 percent versus 55 percent, respectively).  Among smaller firms, the tendency to ignore social media reputation is even more pronounced; 45 percent indicate it is rarely or never considered in decision-making, compared to 29 percent of larger firms.

Similarly, when looking at company size by revenue, larger firms are also more likely to respond quickly to a damaging issue online, with a majority of the largest firms (with revenue of $10 billion or more) saying they could react within 24 hours (63 percent), in contrast to 42 percent of smaller firms (less than $5 billion in revenue).

"In these results, we see too many organizations that are still not ready to use social media to their advantage, either to advance their reputations or defend them," added Shadle.  "Maintaining a positive social media reputation is no longer an optional communications strategy, but instead is a business imperative to be embraced by the entire organization, all the way up to the CEO's office."

About the Survey

The Zeno Digital Readiness Survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive between  October 4-11, 2012 among 300 corporate executives at companies with revenue of $1 billion or more.  No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

About Zeno Group

Believers in the fearless pursuit of the unexpected, the award-winning Zeno Group operates as one firm across eleven full-service offices in New York, Chicago, Santa Monica, Dallas, Silicon Valley, Toronto, London, Beijing, Delhi, Jakarta, Singapore, and three satellite offices in Amsterdam, Sao Paolo and Tokyo.  Zeno is the 2011 and 2012 winner of the PR Week US Mid-Size Agency of the Year and 2011 Holmes Report US Creative Agency of the Year. The firm's practice areas include consumer, health, technology and corporate, all supported by planning, digital engagement and media.  Clients include: AstraZeneca, Bacardi, Bausch & Lomb, Brocade, DreamWorks Animation, Emirates, Facebook, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Kia Motors America, Life Technologies, Lipton, Micron Technology, Inc., Nature's Path, Oak Investment Partners, Office Depot, Q -Cells, Pizza Hut, RIM, Sears, Seattle's Best Coffee and VeriFone. Zeno Group is a member of the Daniel J Edelman Company. Please visit us at zenogroup.com, like us on Facebook or follow us @zenogroup.

Mark O'Connor
Zeno Group
[email protected]
212-299-8960 (O) 
203-246-9534 (M)

[i] "State of the Media: The Social Media Report, Q3 2011," The Nielsen Company, September 2011

SOURCE Zeno Group

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