For better or worse, the head honcho creates the corporate atmosphere. CEO’s like Mark Zuckerberg are practically revered, while Uber founder Travis Kalanick recently resigned as CEO, primarily after ongoing press regarding various corporate culture problems. Their differences in reputation, even within their own companies, is astounding. So clearly, CEO reputation matters, to employees, boards, and investors.
But why does the CEO’s reputation matter so much customers (and therefore, the bottom line)? And what can you do about it?
At what exact point people started expecting 24-hour news and direct messaging to celebrities, who knows. In the age of social media, where the head of every company is expected to respond to tweets, times have changed. “Public relations” is no longer just about standing on a balcony and waving once in a while. It is no longer just the occasional press release or photos of your founder playing golf with the president.
Now, the public wants to know the founder’s back story. They want to see the CEO playing a sport for charity or running a 5k. They want to know why when a founder resigns, and want details on the replacement. They want transparency, they want stories and they want real. CEOs don’t just set the corporate brand anymore, they are their own brand.
That also means that any corporate misstep will likely be blamed on the CEO and that a “horrible boss” of a CEO will get plenty of bad press and public pressure to change or resign. Even a lack of information about a new CEO in a publicly visible company can quickly escalate in a terrible PR situation. You need a message, a brand, for a CEO. Right away.
Creating a CEO Brand
Protecting the CEO’s reputation, then, is not just retroactive, but proactive. The CEO needs to be a familiar image, a projection of the company and its corporate culture. Pieces of that brand might include:
- Publicly stating the direction of the company.
- Speaking out and being a thought leader in his/her own field.
- Perhaps giving talks or lectures, or posting YouTube videos.
- Demonstrating company loyalty. Whole lists are dedicated to rating the best CEOs, built largely on team loyalty.
- Being available for a direct letter, social media comment, or query from a customer or public person.
- Publicly responding to any perceived “controversy” within the company.
- Being a voice for social or environmental activism or change on issues the company might represent or be related to.
Managed correctly, the public can feel such rapport for the CEO that they want that company to succeed. That rapport directly feeds the bottom line. So, the CEO’s image is directly connected to corporate success.
Getting Professional Assistance
It’s possible to see a list like the one provided above and get to work, but it can easily become directionless, pointless, or overwhelming. The main thing is to first commit to making the CEO’s reputation management part of your overall branding and marketing strategy. When you have made that commitment, including directing funds to the campaign, it is easy to get started. You hire the professionals.
A public relations firm skilled in the management of brand reputation and CEO reputation will help you develop a consistent message, which fits the integrity of your overall brand, and outline a direct strategy for your CEO branding. They will know which platforms to use to address the public and assist in the mitigation of any known threats to an image.
CEO reputation management services, therefore, take out the guesswork, streamline the content, and provide the needed framework for CEO image success.