Supervisory board chairs have a whole range of internal and external communication measures at their fingertips

Communication measures of supervisory board chairs

We identified a whole range of internal and external communication measures based on expert interviews with supervisory board chairs and investor relations and public relations officers from 10 DAX and MDAX companies.

Regarding the communication of supervisory board chairs within the company, it is fair to say that exchange within a supervisory board body primarily takes place at meetings, but also in numerous personal discussions in preparation for these meetings. When exchanging information with the executive board, the focus is on providing the supervisory board with information – as the foundation for its work. In addition, the two chairs discuss various topics, with the supervisory board chair acting as a sounding board for strategic considerations.

The conduct of communications by the supervisory board chair with internal stakeholders is based primarily on dialogic communication measures such as personal formal or informal discussions as well as telephone calls.

The manner, frequency and intensity of internal communication are determined by the personal communication style of the supervisory board chair. However, the relationship with the executive board and its assessment of the relevance of communication also have an influence.

Concerning the supervisory board’s disclosure obligations, it can be stated that these are fully embedded in the company’s regular communications. These include primarily the Supervisory Board Report within the Annual Report, the explanation of the report at the Annual General Meeting, corporate governance information on the IR website, and press releases on topics relevant to the supervisory board.

Supervisory board chairs regard dialogue with investors as legitimate but reserve the right to decide with whom and in what constellation these discussions are held. Investor dialogue is a personal or dialogue-based instrument of external communication used by supervisory board chairs. The investor relations department is an important personnel resource for the chairs of the supervisory board concerning investor dialogue as well as discussions with proxy advisors.

The communication of supervisory board chairs with the media and other stakeholders is not defined by law and is therefore purely voluntary. While voluntary communication with journalists is based on background discussions as well as interviews, other dialogic communication measures, such as the use of social media channels or personal discussions with politicians and even customers, were identified – the latter, however, represent a special format.

Communication with internal stakeholders

Supervisory Board

In addition to the regular meetings of the supervisory board and its committees, personal discussions take place to prepare for and follow up on meetings

Executives

There are numerous dialogue formats between supervisory board chairs and executives, e.g., during presentations at meetings, dinners, etc.

Executive Board

Supervisory board and executive board chairs exchange views in regular meetings, while discussions with other executive board members tend to take place less frequently

Employees

In special situations, supervisory board chairs may also act as internal spokespersons to explain the board’s view

Communication with external stakeholders

Investors

Investor dialogue is in a dynamic development process, but so far only affects some of the companies - although all the companies surveyed are considering a modus operandi. A few companies hold annual or regular corporate governance roadshows

Journalists

Voluntary communication with the media is dominated by background discussions, but on-the-record interviews are also becoming more frequent

Politicians

In special situations or as inaugural visits, there are personal non-public discussions between supervisory board chairs and politicians - whereby the CEO is always involved

Proxy advisors

There is an occasional dialogue in the run-up to the Annual General Meeting or at corporate governance roadshows

Public

Personal social media channels of supervisory board chairs will be a relevant challenge in the future

Customers

Personal discussions with customers in the event of complaints represent a special form of communication by supervisory board chairs