Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Survey: Greater CEO Publicity Can Boost Company Reputation But Majority Of Execs Also See Potential For Harm

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 5, 2015

Travis

Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber has had lots of publicity, much of it bad (above with Mike Butcher at Crunchies Awards in February 2015).

Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) are coming under increasing pressure to "engage" with the media and the public as means of raising the reputation of their company. 

PR firm Weber Shandwick, today released the findings of a global survey of 1,700 executives excluding CEOs, titled: "The CEO Reputation Premium: Gaining Advantage in the Engagement Era." It found a correlation between the health of a company the public reputation of the CEO. 

 [Please note: I've worked with Weber's Mediaco service on client media projects.]

The release of the Weber report coincides with the publishing of a new book, "The Engaged Leader" by Charlene Li, principal analyst at the Altimeter Group.  She advocates that CEOs should strive for "intimate relationships" with consumers.

Weber says:

CEO reputation is a premium form of currency and wealth in an economy where companies trade on their reputations every day. This CEO premium exerts enormous influence over enterprises and within the industries they operate and should never be underestimated or neglected.

- The survey showed that four out of five (81%) global executives believe that a CEO's public visibility is important to a company's public reputation.

- 41% believe greater public exposure of a CEO helps improve company reputation.  

-  However, the majority, six out of ten executives think there is a potential for harm, or no benefit from CEO publicity. [Breakdown: 41% said it equally hurts and improves company reputation; 10% said it hurts the company, 4% are unsure and 4% say it does neither.] 

CEORep

There is an infographic (below) summarizing the survey findings.

Foremski's Take: CEO should stand for "Chief Excitement Officer." It is important for every organization to have a charismatic and motivated leader, engaged with staff, and also engaged publicly when needed.

Charlene Li's mission is to convince CEOs to build"intimate relationships" with the public, which translates into a better reputation for the company.  

Her book and the Weber survey, are part of a greater focus on the role of the CEO in marketing. The CEO is being drawn into the industry trend of social media  "engagement." and the importance of metrics such as Facebook "likes," and social sharing of corporate content. The survey points out that highly regarded CEOs are more than three times more likely to use social media (24% versus 7%).

For PR companies, the Weber survey potentially opens new business opportunities in providing  "engagement" support services for harried chief executives. PR teams can help with blog posts, Tweets, posting Instagrams, and engaging on the CEOs behalf across many social media platforms.

The problem with such proxy services, however is the lack of authenticity. 

Authenticity is the single most important quality in social media communications and it can't be faked. 

There is an assumption in this study that for CEOs to achieve greater publicity they need to participate in the "Engagement Era." Engaging with individuals on social media platforms is a painfully slow way to gain publicity. CEOs won't have the time or the patience.

Or will CEO engagement become a staged affair, shining a public light on examples of how the CEO engaged with normal people? 

More importantly, no CEOs took part in this study. No one asked CEOs if they want more publicity, more opportunities to engage, and how it would affect their job.

Plus, it's not just the CEO that shapes public perceptions of a company.  The Global Trust Barometer from Edelman, the world's largest PR firm, annually surveys 27,000 people in 27 countries. A key finding is that company reputation is closely linked to trust in its workers.  

By focusing on boosting public trust in all staff, not just the CEO, and avoiding the faddish pursuit of engagement for the sake of engagement, there will be many opportunities for PR firms to help clients gain more public attention, and build long lasting commercial relationships with customers.

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News - The CEO Reputation Premium: A New Era of Engagement - Weber Shandwick

Charlene Li: Engaged Leaders And Intimate Customer Relationships -SVW

Edelman: Global Loss Of Trust Is Bad For Silicon Valley Innovation -SVW

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Full size here.

Ceo reputation premium infographic

Full size here.

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