Economic Pressures and Heightened Scrutiny Inspire New Approaches to Corporate Strategy
U.S. business leaders recognize the increased volatility associated with the post-crisis economy and are approaching their companies’ most strategic initiatives with more caution than ever before. The new FD/Forbes Insights Strategic Initiatives survey of 180 C-level executives, senior strategists and communications professionals found that businesses are reluctant to increase investments and hiring today because of uncertainty in the regulatory environment (36%) and the tax environment (39%) over the next 12 months.
With that said, the Strategic Initiatives survey, conducted by FD, the Strategic Communications segment of FTI Consulting, Inc. (NYSE: FCN), in partnership with Forbes Insights, the Council of Public Relations Firms and the Association for Strategic Planning, also uncovered overall optimism that well-considered plans can still yield productive initiatives. Respondents believe there is room for growth, but they are being more selective and taking careful steps to be more informed and better prepared than in recent years.
“As the study suggests, this no margin-of-error environment hasn’t curtailed managements’ ambitions,” said Betsy Neville, the study’s co-author and head of FD’s corporate communications practice. “Companies have maintained a commitment to growth investments and are moving ahead cautiously with certain key initiatives such as entering new markets and making acquisitions and divestitures.”
At the same time, executives are taking careful steps to ensure implementation is successful, such as increasing stakeholder alignment; a critical insurance policy to ensure each and every strategic initiative is designed and executed properly. These more stringent expectations are being driven by several factors, including:
Respondents agree that a strategic initiative has the ability to change a market, competitive position or business model. Also, when undertaking strategic initiatives, CEOs (37%) and senior strategists (38%) maintain the view that they should involve multiyear commitments of resources to new markets and new ventures. New market entry (44%), new product launch (35%), and repositioning or rebranding (31%) are the most common current initiatives reported.
“The emphasis on resourcefulness has ushered in a new way of doing things, and the implications can’t be ignored,” said Bruce Rogers, chief brand officer, Forbes. “There can be no question that strategy is aligned with external perceptions, and understanding and commitment is earned from all internal stakeholders.”
This year’s study offers comparative data to the first survey conducted in 2009, which found that communications is viewed as a critical component to carrying out corporate strategy but is often times overlooked during the planning stages and through some stages of execution. The 2009 survey further uncovered that companies do not have evolved collaborative partnerships between strategy and communications functions, which would better help the success of strategic initiatives.
Key findings include the following: