At a Page event nearly eight years ago, former GE Chairman and CEO Jack Welch — the legendary “manager of the century” who was a paragon of corporate leadership — used two words to describe the relationship between the chief executive and chief communications officer (CCO): truth and trust. He regarded the CCO as his closest confidant, whose ability to see around corners and tell it like it is was a crucial asset. Prescient as ever, Welch’s view on the importance of the CCO has only become more accurate with time. 

Next week, Page will host a reception at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting. It’s the first time CCOs will have their own place at Davos to gather and discuss critical issues facing business and their unique role in helping address them. Ahead of that meeting, we asked CCOs in the Page membership for their perspective on the year ahead — the critical risks and opportunities that they see and the advice they think CEOs need to hear right now. Here’s what we heard: 

Question for the CCOs


By far the top opportunity cited by CCO respondents (65% of them) was stakeholder capitalism, particularly leadership on ESG and sustainability and addressing climate change and the energy transition. “[The] ability to be a leader on sustainability and ESG matters in mitigating political and social risk,” one CCO wrote. Others noted the opportunity for their enterprises to provide values-based leadership on societal and geopolitical issues. 


As economists debate soft versus hard landings, 41% of CCO respondents cautioned that economic difficulty is the top risk, particularly the prospect of layoffs. “How to message caution without creating alarm or dampening morale is a thin line,” one CCO said.  


The second-ranked risk was employee issues, mentioned by 32%, and an equal percentage listed employees and culture as an area of opportunity. Attracting and retaining top talent is critical in a market where there are nearly two jobs for every applicant. The pandemic has irrevocably changed the work experience and, along with it, employees’ expectations of where, how and when they do their job. CCOs are leaders on corporate culture and employee engagement, and are now increasingly focused on “employer brand” as an expression of the differentiated experience of working for their company.


Thirty percent of CCOs listed geopolitical risks as their top concern, citing China, energy security, military conflict and growing nationalist/protectionist agendas. At the same time, 25% discussed waning trust in business, government and media, political polarization, racism and misinformation, signaling the challenges of earning and keeping trust in an increasingly divided society. 

Finally, we asked CCOs what advice they think CEOs need to hear from them right now. Here are a few that stood out to us: 

Question for the CCOs

“There isn’t a way of playing it safe anymore. Polarization means you have to choose, intentionally, which reputation risks you take on and embrace. … There isn’t a way of avoiding them. Neutrality is a position now.”

“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.”

“Continue to talk about the importance of mental health and to openly offer support and resources.”

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