Just how much is your CEO really worth to your business?

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Earlier this year we published a blog post- Brand marketing: Good for me, or good for all. Based on figures relating to companies, and their impact on society, community, and the environment, the message was clear- firms with positive, caring images enjoy better customer loyalty and perception.
But what about the image projected by the individuals at the very top of those corporate ladders, rather than just the companies themselves?
For many years, most CEOs were neither seen nor heard by the public. With the exception of a few celebrity big bosses, for example Richard Branson, those in charge of the most powerful organisations were removed from the common conscious. Somewhere along the line things have changed.
According to statistics in a new report by KRC Research/Weber Shandwick, of more than 1,700 global executives surveyed, 81% ‘believe external CEO engagement is a mandate for building strong company reputations’. More so, this contributes an estimated 45% of the overall reputation, and 44% of market value.
A recent white paper by Giles Fraser, co-founder of Brands2Life, claims that around a quarter of all consumers involved in this study said a CEO’s personality has a bearing on whether they will buy from that brand. For those between the age of 18 and 34, that number rises to 37%, whilst respondents over 55 view this as less important (16%).
[Tweet “1/4 of consumers think a CEO’s personality impacts their buying decisions @SGPR on CEO value”]
Millennials- those in the first demographic- are increasingly applying to work with, and buying from, firms with a good corporate responsibility record. As such it makes sense this attitude continues all the way to the chief execs. Trust in business leaders is now a crucial factor when it comes to where the public is willing to spend money, but achieving that isn’t as simple as some may first assume.

So who’s done a good job recently?

As part of PR Week’s annual Powerbook 150 publication, each of these leading industry figures was asked to nominate which leaders and organisations  had managed their  reputation most adeptly and poorly over the last twelve months.
Most poorly managed reputations in 2016

  1. Sir Philip Green / BHS
  2. Southern Rail/Govia
  3. Labor party
  4. Hillary Clinton
  5. Donald Trump

Most adeptly managed reputations in 2016

1.Donald Trump

2. Theresa May

3. Michelle Obama

4. Nigel Farage

5. Sadiq Khan

[Tweet “The best and worst managed reputations of 2016 via @SmokingGunPR”]

So what can you do to help manage your CEO’s reputation?

CEOs can’t just jump into the limelight, court the media with story after story, and constantly have their face in the public eye. Perception is reality- you need to be seen to do the right things, rather than do the right things behind the scenes. Yet it is also possible to showcase too much- people tire of the same people making headlines, considering this self-absorbed at best, and cynical marketing at worst.
CEOs with the ‘human touch’ ranked the highest in Weber Shandwick’s results. Being seen to be a ‘real person’ is therefore of paramount importance. Similarly, having something interesting and relevant to say, and not being afraid to speak out on personal feelings, are fast-becoming priceless traits. Authenticity and accessibility- words we associate with honesty and integrity.
Ultimately, the answer is striking the right balance between public and private, outspoken and informative, ensuring there is enough exposure for people to feel they know the individual, without over-exposing. Understand that company and CEO message must be consistent to deliver a coherent image of what the firm represents, or risk being seen as illegitimate. Avoid appearing opportunistic at all costs, without neglecting to seize worthwhile opportunities.
A popular way of doing this is on social media. Weber Shandwick released another report, Socialising Your CEO, which explains that people now expect those at the top to be visible online, with many leading firms involved in the analysis responding to that request. The proportion slumps, however, when it comes to whether these execs are actively engaging online, a move that can boost their standing in the public eye. As this infographic explains…

Socializing Your CEO IV: The Engagement Factor from Weber Shandwick

So let me set this challenge, then. Try the following as a starter for ten and see how your CEO fares. I’d love to hear how you get on..
1.Examine the CEO’s web page and profile on the company site, and, where necessary, prepare to take steps to optimise this content, bringing it in line with outgoing corporate communications in general. Does this really align with your corporate and internal communications?
2. Open up Google and conduct an incognito search on your CEO. Read the results carefully, and consider how this looks to the general public.
3. Then think about how that can be bolstered to improve brand perception.
4. Stretch your CEO, one step at a time, to do more (with your help) to manage their reputation. What can you get them to commit to trying next?
[Tweet “Learn how to get the most added business value from your CEO @SmokingGunPR”]
As the figures referenced above all show, a modern business can ill-afford not to get a grip on their CEO’s reputation, for the sake of all involved.

Looking for more advice on PR, social media, and marketing? Why not get in contact or submit a brief to inject a little ingeniousness into your brand.

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