Communication of supervisory board chairs is a practical and research challenge

Insights into the communication of supervisory board chairs

Supervisory board chairs have become important communicators. So far, their external communication has been severely limited. This is changing. In addition to disclosure requirements, voluntary dialogue with investors or journalists is becoming increasingly common. On the one hand, this is due to the inclusion of the investor dialogue in the German Corporate Governance Code in spring 2017 and, on the other hand, due to the increasing requirements of stakeholders.

However, for a long time, it was unclear how supervisory board chairs, as well as investor relations and public relations officers, deal with the challenge of more active communication let alone how this communication should be implemented.

The following is based on a comprehensive study that offers unique insights into the communication of supervisory board chairs of listed companies. This is the first study to systematically explore their complex communicative role.

The communication of supervisory board chairs challenges previous research on communication management and strategic communication. An underlying assumption of past research is that communication adds value to corporate goals and that the communication strategy is derived from the corporate strategy. However, this understanding cannot be applied to the communication of supervisory board chairs.

The supervisory board plays a special role in the dualistic system of corporate governance. On the one hand, the board is a central body of the company and supervisory board chairs act as spokespersons for the board and thus for the company. On the other hand, however, the supervisory board’s monitoring task requires a neutral, independent position. The supervisory board monitors the implementation of corporate strategy but, due to the division of labor with the management board, it is not responsible for its implementation and is therefore not subordinate to it. Rather, with its decision-making authority, it sets the limits for the actions of the executive board.

This comprehensive analysis shows that the communication management for supervisory board chairs is still in its infancy. Both the analysis, planning and evaluation of communication are inconsistent and incomplete. The central goals for communication are to establish transparency and cultivate relationships with internal and external stakeholders. A communication charter for the supervisory board can provide an important basis for communication management.

Stakeholder requirements

Who are the relevant stakeholders and what requirements do they place on the communication of supervisory board chairs?

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Communication measures

With whom, how often, and in what way do supervisory board chairs communicate?

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The role of investor relations and public relations

What role do corporate investor relations and public relations functions play when it comes to the communication of supervisory board chairs?

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