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Why CEO Reputation Matters

81% of Global Executives Report that External CEO Engagement is Now a Mandate for Building Company Reputation

50% of Executives Expect that CEO Reputation Will Matter Even More to Company Reputation in Coming Years 

77% of Executives Say that a Positive CEO Reputation Attracts New Employees and 70% Say it Retains Employees 

Research released today from leading global public relations firm Weber Shandwick identifies that chief executive officer engagement and visibility is recognised as particularly critical to company reputation, according to 81 per cent of senior executives worldwide. This new model of building CEO reputation is driven by the high demand for content and by the numerous platforms on which leaders can engage with stakeholders in today’s digital era.

“Years ago, CEOs and those around them confused CEO visibility with CEO celebrity. Today, it is not about CEO celebrity, but CEO credibility that can be built through multiple channels that add value inside and outside the organisation,” according to Leslie Gaines-Ross, Weber Shandwick’s chief reputation strategist. “Today, CEO visibility means having a greater presence with greater purpose and in more ways than one.”

Conducted by Weber Shandwick with KRC Research, The CEO Reputation Premium: Gaining Advantage in the Engagement Era, is based on an online survey of more than 1,700 senior executives across 19 countries in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America. Asia Pacific markets included Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea.

Why CEO Reputation Matters

It’s undeniable that CEO reputation matters to an organisation’s success and is one of its most valuable and competitive assets. Global executives in our survey agree: on average, they attribute nearly half (45 per cent) of their company’s reputation to the reputation of their CEO. This inextricable link between CEO and corporate reputation is only expected to strengthen, as 50 per cent of executives expect that CEO reputation will matter even more to company reputation in the next few years.

CEO reputation matters to the bottom line, too. Executives estimate that 44 per cent of their company’s market value is attributable to the reputation of their CEO. Strong CEO reputation also attracts and retains employees (77 per cent and 70 per cent, respectively). 

“CEO engagement has become an important driver of company value,” said Tyler Kim, Weber Shandwick’s head of corporate and crisis, Asia Pacific.  “Our research shows that there is a new breed of CEOs who not only recognise this, but are embracing opportunities to tell their companies’ narratives and engage in new ways with audiences inside and outside their organisations.”

CEO Humility has its Rewards

Despite the growth in importance of CEO reputation, building it is not about enhancing egos or celebrity. In fact, a Weber Shandwick media search found that 2014 was a record year for coverage related to CEO humility. “Humility is now the new green among chief executives,” according to Gaines-Ross. Indeed, executives with highly-regarded CEOs in our study are nearly six times as likely as those with less highly-regarded CEOs to say that their CEO is humble (34 per cent vs. 6 per cent, respectively). 

CEO Public Engagement is the New Mandate

There is a close tie between reputation and external relations. Admired CEOs are four times more likely to be seen as being good at engaging the public than those with less admired status (50 per cent vs. 13 per cent, respectively). The question is: Which of the many available platforms are mission critical for CEOs when their time is so limited and they are understandably risk-averse? The majority of global executives (82 per cent) consider speaking engagements job number one for engaging with external stakeholders, but there are many other important external CEO responsibilities as well:

With the high demand for CEOs to narrate their companies’ purpose and what they stand for, it is good to know that the number and types of communications activities are plentiful, offering a variety of strategic options for CEOs to use.

Regional Differences

Our research revealed several differences around the globe, some of which are:

• Compared to European, Asia Pacific and Latin American executives, North American executives perceive their leaders to be better communicators, both internally and externally.

• North American executives are significantly more likely than those in other regions to say that their CEOs are comfortable talking to the news media. However, these regions may soon catch up: Four in 10 European executives (41 per cent) and approximately half of Asia Pacific executives (49 per cent) and Latin American executives (49 per cent) report that their CEOs are more willing to talk with the news media today than they were several years ago.

• Canadian executives are the most likely to say their company has a very strong reputation (63 per cent).

• Indonesian and Chinese executives are particularly optimistic that CEO reputation will rise in importance over the next few years (87 per cent and 79 per cent, respectively).

The CEO’s 12-Step Guide to Reputation and Engagement 

Weber Shandwick recommends that business leaders and their companies consider the following strategies to bolster CEO engagement. These recommendations are described in detail in our report.

1. Assess the CEO’s reputation premium

2. Develop the CEO’s “equity” statement

3. Identify and develop the CEO’s story on behalf of the company

4. Be an industry champion by having a visible and involved industry presence

5. Leverage the senior management team, in addition to the CEO

6. Bulk up on media training

7. Carefully evaluate the CEO’s stance on public policy

8. Decide which venue is right for the CEO

9. Develop a solid social media strategy 

10. Keep reputation drivers at the top of the to-do list

11. Bolster CEO reputation among employees

12. Don’t view CEO humility as a weakness

“Given the pervasive nature of the Internet and social media, there is no longer a clear line between internal and external CEO communications,” said Ian Rumsby, Chief Strategy Officer, Asia Pacific. “This is why CEOs and their teams must build integrated engagement plans that recognise that we are all now public figures.”

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