CEOs are scrutinized more than ever in this age of the Internet and social media. And because a CEO’s reputation is tied so closely to that of the business, CEO reputation management is a critical business strategy.
Why is CEO Reputation Management So Critical?
About half of all Americans view CEOs and other corporate leaders as “bad,” according to a Harris Poll. Only about one-quarter of them view corporate leaders as “good,” with the rest remaining neutral.
Americans want their CEOs to be ethical and trustworthy, yet, the perception is that many of them don’t fit the bill.
Here are reasons why businesses should be concerned about this statistic and work to improve their CEO’s reputation.
CEOs Are Brand Ambassadors
When customers and investors think of your company, they think of the CEO as well. Consider, for example, Facebook. When people think of Facebook, they think of Mark Zuckerberg. When they think of Amazon, they think of Jeff Bezos.
If you want the public to have a favorable opinion of your brand, they’ll also need to have a favorable opinion of you, the CEO.
Financial Impact of CEO Reputation Management
A strong, positive CEO reputation can positively influence stock prices. However, when a CEO’s reputation is sullied by scandal, the business’s stock values fall as well.
- When the founder of Papa John’s Pizza, John Schnatter, used a racial epithet in a conference call in May 2018, its share price fell 5.9 percent in just one day of trading, erasing $96.2 million in market value.
- When Chip Wilson, then CEO of Lululemon, commented that its yoga pants didn’t really suit larger women, its share price plunged. Wilson also lost his job as a result.
- In a recent Weber Shandwick survey, global executives attribute 44 percent of their company’s market value to the CEO’s reputation.
- A CEO’s reputation also influences private investors, according to a Brunswick Group study.
The CEO’s reputation also can influence customer’s purchasing decisions, according to Weber Shandwick.
If the CEO receives bad press, the company is more likely to receive bad press, as well. The reverse also is true. If the company receives bad press, the CEO will need to be particularly proactive to avoid receiving bad press themselves.
Employees also consider the company and CEO’s reputation when determining whether to apply for jobs or accept job offers. In a recent survey, 55 percent of job seekers who had read a negative review of a company decided against applying for a job there.
What Has Caused This Change in How People View the CEO’s Reputation?
Today, anyone with a computer can share an opinion about a CEO on social media sites or through their own blogs. Once shared, that opinion can go “viral,” spreading rapidly by being shared by others.
Interviews that CEOs give to traditional media outlets, such as the New York Times, also appear on the Internet and can be readily shared. A CEO can no longer maintain a low profile.
Another factor is the practice of “data scraping.” Computer “bots” scan the Internet and collect the CEO’s private information and then publish it in one of several online directories.
Almost anyone with a credit card can access these directories; some are even accessible for free.
If A CEO Does Nothing, Will the Negative Information Disappear?
No. Most negative content stays on the Internet and also stays in searches, although the position of the negative information in searches can be controlled. If a CEO doesn’t engage in a CEO reputation management campaign, others will determine their reputation.
One negative or out-of-context comment in an interview that has gone viral can damage the CEO’s career and the company.
A “data scraper” may have found a previous arrest or bankruptcy from many years ago; publishing can also sink the CEO and company. In many cases, this type of personal content can be removed.
What Does a Good CEO Reputation Management Campaign Involve?
A CEO reputation management campaign involves actively monitoring the Internet and social media and proactively creating positive content so that the negative content is buried. A good campaign also includes helping the community.
Information can exist on the Internet in various places, including Websites such as Glassdoor, business periodical sites, and Websites and social media of other people or companies. CEOs should be proactive by monitoring content once a week or hiring a firm to do so for them.
Although CEOs are widely written about and evaluated on social media, only about 61 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have established a social media presence. Those who have not done so are making a mistake, according to a CNBC article. The article indicates that most employees expect their CEO to be on social media.
Those companies whose CEO is well-connected score higher on Glassdoor, a site that job seekers consult.
Search engines also highly rank social media content, so when people search for a CEO by name, these messages will appear on the first page. Positive messages on social media can help replace negative messages on the first few pages.
Finally, almost 226 million Americans are on social media. CEOs miss out on a valuable opportunity to engage with customers and potential customers if they remain inactive on social media.
They also miss an opportunity to influence investors, 98 percent of whom report using social media to research companies.
Increase Community and Industry Involvement
Contributing to the local community can help a CEO improve their reputation. A CEO might agree to sponsor a local sports team, volunteer for a local charity, or establish a foundation.
Holding leadership positions in organizations other than the company also boosts the CEO’s reputation. Becoming an industry advocate will gain the CEO positive reputation points as well.
CEOs also want to avoid saying certain things. For example, a CEO avoids taking a stand on a hot-button community or national issue that fails to align well with corporate goals or investors’ opinions.
CEOs can improve their reputation by positioning themselves as industry authorities. They do this by writing articles, making themselves available as experts to the media, and contributing to online discussions.
In these communications, the goal is not to sell anything but rather to be seen as a helpful, trusted expert.
Becoming a thought leader is typically part of an overall content management strategy that generates high-value, relevant content across various areas such as blogs, webinars, social media posts, eBooks, and podcasts.
The strategy also uses search engine optimization techniques to ensure that this content appears on the first page or pages of Internet searches.
Some factors that boost content to the first page of searches are:
- Domain Authority (DA)
- Link quality
- Content updates
- Source reliability/trustworthiness
- Site traffic & engagement
How Long Before I See Results With a Campaign?
CEO reputation management takes time, especially if you’ve never had an online presence or content management strategy before. Many CEOs, however, will begin to see results in just a few months.
Where Can I Find Help?
Your reputation is too important to ignore, and the benefits of reputation management are endless. As a CEO, however, you are busy running your business. You are an expert at your business. Choose an expert to manage your reputation.
Internet Reputation is an expert at managing your reputation. We offer comprehensive packages to remove your private information from more than 70 sites and to monitor to make sure the information doesn’t reappear.
Our team also provides a content management strategy to position you as a thought leader and as an active participant in the business community.
We are SEO experts and can ensure that your positive content buries any damaging content about you. Internet Reputation also optimizes your social media accounts so that they reflect you at your best.