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

Friday 06 March, 2015

– 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 –

 NEW YORK – 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.

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).

“The ways in which people engage with companies, brands and the products they offer continues to evolve,” said Greg Prager, Weber Shandwick’s EMEA Corporate Practice Chair. “Our research shows that a CEO who can personalise and bring to life the company narrative can be a driver of company reputation in this new era of engagement.”

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:

External visibility activities that are important for CEOs to do Per cent of Global Executives
Speak at events (industry and non-industry) 82%
Be accessible to the news media 71
Be visible on the company website 68
Share new insights and trends with the public 67
Be active in the local community 64
Be visible on the corporate video channel 63
Hold positions of leadership outside the company 53
Publicly take positions on issues that affect society at large 52
Participate in social media 43
Publicly take positions on policy and political issues 36

 

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

Click here to view The CEO Reputation Premium: Gaining Advantage in the Engagement Era report and infographic. Over the next several months Weber Shandwick will be releasing supplemental reports based on this study, including one focusing on women CEOs.

About The Research

An online survey of more than 1,700 executives – managers through the C-suite, but excluding CEOs –

was conducted in 2014. Respondents worked in companies with revenues of $500 million or more (or regional equivalents) and represented 19 countries across North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America. The margin of error for the full global sample is ±2 percentage points with 90% confidence.