NEW YORK: Almost two-thirds of brand owners hope to enhance their corporate reputation through communications, but only 40% are prepared to deal with a social media crisis, new figures show.

Spencer Stuart, the executive search firm, and Weber Shandwick, the public relations network, polled 142 senior communications executives worldwide, a majority of which worked for Fortune 500 companies.

In all, 65% of participants reported that the current priorities of senior management included improving corporate reputations. Increasing positive media coverage logged 60%.

Providing heightened support for brand marketing hit 56%, compared with 55% for expanding social media capabilities, 46% for building stronger stakeholder relationships, and 45% for reducing costs.

A 71% share of the panel revealed their firm had faced a "crisis" with potential to damage its status in the last two years. These issues typically took 15 months to resolve, and CEOs played a part in this process for 74% of relevant organisations.

Overall, 40% of contributors believed they were ready to deal with a social media threat, an improvement on the 33% recorded in a similar study from 2011.

Among the enterprises also listed in Fortune's ranking of the world's most admired firms, 54% thought they were prepared to manage social media threats, versus an average of 29%.

The main concern in a crisis, besides preserving reputation, were intensified media scrutiny on 60%, more governmental attention on 51%, and a greater amount of social media criticism on 42%.

Some 65% of interviewees agreed crisis management was a prerequisite for a chief communications officers. Another 41% stated that experiencing such an event increased readiness for equivalent future problems.

More broadly, 39% of the sample suggested social media was the factor most likely to influence their budgets in the upcoming year, standing at 37% for the global economic situation and 34% for regulation.

Securing favourable media coverage continues to be the primary metric used to evaluate the effectiveness of communications among senior managers, on 80%. Media impressions, by contrast, scored just 34%.

A further 76% of respondents thought corporate social responsibility played a vital role in safeguarding a company's reputation, and 59% reported it was "embedded" in the company culture.

Data sourced from Weber Shandwick; additional content by Warc staff