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7 Ways CEOs Need To Manage Their Reputation

Nick Bell

It’s harder than ever for people in power to stay under the radar. CEOs in particular need to be mindful of public reputation management more than most. Not only is your future on the line, but also that of the entire company.

That’s a lot of responsibility. Let’s put it into perspective.

The fact is, almost half of a company’s reputation is attributed to the reputation of its CEO according to findings from a global study by Weber Shandwick.

Executives told researchers from the American PR firm that a good CEO reputation helps with positive media attention (83%) and crisis protection (83%). It also enables firms to charge higher prices, attract a better talent pool, and incentivise private investors, according to another recent study.

With all that in mind, read our guide to how to build and protect your CEO reputation, and what to do when crisis strikes.

Be Visible In Public And The Press

Transparency, openness, and communication in the public sphere is essential for your reputation. Execs told Weber Shandwick that it is important for CEOs to have a visible public profile for a company to be highly regarded (81%). 

Get formal media training so you can comfortably and skilfully speak to the press. Share company news or knowledge effectively by talking to the news media regularly. It’s journalists who can put a human face to corporate stories.

Give public speeches and write regular blogs on your website. Attend events and post optimised content on your website. This will let you retain some control over your reputation and search engine results.

Stay Active On Social Media

Eight in 10 Australians are now on social media, including 99% of 18-29-year-olds. Many of these people will be your customers, so it’s not surprising that well-regarded CEOs are far more likely to participate in social media compared to those with lesser reputations.

CEOs who are on social media are seen to be better at building and maintaining relationships with staff, clients, and investors. An active presence adds another layer of transparency to your company’s image and helps to bring in business. A best practice is to post relevant ‘thought leadership’ content that adds value to your industry. 

LinkedIn and Twitter are great platforms for CEOs. Reply to people who tag you quickly, positively, and politely to improve your NPS and nip potential social media crises in the bud. Just don’t lash out at those who upset you. A social media manager can help you retain a professional image.

While it’s important to have a social media presence, you’ll be more exposed to the outside world. Bear in mind that what you say and what you do could come back to haunt you. Colleagues, employees and investors will monitor your every move. 

Humility Wins

Humility is a desirable quality in CEOs associated with skilled communication, positive media perception, and a good reputation. Well-regarded CEOs are 6 times more likely to be considered humble by executives compared to those who are poorly regarded.

Weber Shandwick found CEOs who are humble are more likely to win awards and are twice as likely to be on social media as the average CEO. Humility is a trait that easily de-escalates a potential crisis, but it doesn’t mean meekness. 

A study among Chinese CEOs found that humble CEOs are strong bosses because they empower and motivate those around them. Asia-Pacific executives said that the CEOs they admire most are familiar with the market, know the competition, value managers, and don’t claim to ‘know it all’.

An Exemplary Case

Shell’s Ben Van Beurden is regarded as having one of the best CEO reputations worldwide, and he’s regarded as an oil industry advocate.

Van Beurden positioned himself and his company as leaders in climate change awareness and alternative energy. He did this by spearheading a campaign to reduce the company’s carbon footprint by 50% by 2050. This showed his commitment to combatting the threats to the planet that his industry helped create.  

The visibility of Van Beurden’s leadership and his plan for sustainability is part of the reason he’s so well regarded. Generally, the more familiar the public is with a CEO, the more likely they are to have a strong reputation.

Public Apology Best Practices

If you need to issue a public apology, you need people to believe you. Forbes identified how to say sorry in a way that speaks to people on a psychological level. Implement these elements into your apology:

  • Focus on the victim rather than the company or yourself
  • Do not come off as defensive and take personal responsibility
  • Be specific, take the issue seriously, and convey genuine regret
  • Outline a plan of action to remedy the injured party
  • Show how you’ll prevent such incidents from happening again

Avoiding A Crisis

Follow these tips for safeguarding your reputation against potential crises, what to do when one arises, how to recover, and how to avoid similar situations in future. The best way to protect your image is to build a strong one to begin with.

  • Set up Google Alerts for your name and the name of your company
  • Keep track of new articles, good or bad (especially bad), and bookmark them
  • Craft a positive public profile across social media, blogs, and press coverage
  • Be patient while Google indexes your new sites and posts to higher ranks
  • Be consistent, as search engines regularly update their content

When Your Reputation Is In Danger

If you identify a post that is false or unfair, you can try to tackle it in several ways.

The content may include derogatory comments, fake news, or be published specifically to hurt your image. In this instance, you can report it to Google and the platform’s webmaster administrators. You can also ask the perpetrator to take it down or serve them with a legal notice.

However, if a post is ‘fairly’ there and hasn’t broken any rules, you need to try to bury it. Push the negative content down search engine ranks by churning out lots of optimised, positive content yourself. Publish blogs and articles regularly and wait for Google to favour them. Take control of your reputation today.

CEOs are generally far too busy to implement all the tools and tactics required for optimum reputation management. This is where outsourcing comes in useful. See how Removify’s specialist Reputation Management service can help. Our experts are well-versed in reputation safeguarding best practices, as well as content removal law.