Weber Shandwick’s top 12 tips for how CEOs should manage reputation in the social media age

Source: Weber Shandwick

Global PR firm Weber Shandwick has put out a CEO survival guide to help bosses in the digital age.

The firm recommends that business leaders should consider the following 12 tips if they are looking to maximize the value of their business.

The list is part of a larger research report from Weber Shandwick called “The CEO Reputation Premium: Gaining Advantage in the Engagement Era.”

Recent events such as the financial crisis, protest movements such as “Occupy,” and backlash against executive compensation have made the past few years difficult for big business leaders.

Weber Shandwick research shows that CEO reputation is a fundamental driver of corporate reputation – global executives estimate that nearly one half of a company’s market value can be attributed to its CEO.

Along with KRC Research, Weber Shandwick conducted an online survey of 1,700 executives, excluding CEOs. Respondents worked in companies with revenues of $500m or more from 19 countries.

Below is a condensed version of the list:

1. “Assess the CEO’s reputational premium.” A company’s leader is too much of an asset to keep hidden or silent. Determining an executive’s strengths and weaknesses to find out what to capitalize on and what to improve on is important.

2. “Develop the CEO’s ‘equity’ statement.” Defining what the CEO authentically stands for and how it connects to the company’s goals helps fully leverage the CEO’s reputation. This could reflect his or her leadership beliefs or how he or she is a change agent in the industry.

3. “Identify and develop the CEO’s story on behalf of the company.” Once the equity statement has been determined, the CEO’s message can be embedded into a story that relates to the greater purpose of the company. While some CEOs might want to share company news, others may want to be seen as experts or thought leaders.

4. “Be an industry advocate.” A successful CEO will be an industry champion and will possibly challenge the norm. Speaking at industry events or having a presence in industry trade publications are just a few ways that CEOs can show that they are not only leaders of their own companies, but of the industry as a whole.

5. “Leverage the bench.” The senior management team influences corporate reputation, too. It’s important for companies to recognize how senior execs fit into the picture and can help move the corporate narrative.

6. “Bulk up on media training.” Reputable CEOs are ones who are comfortable and skilled when talking to members of the media. To make sure CEOs can clearly communicate the company story that helps drive market value, organizations should invest in media training.

7. “Carefully evaluate CEO’s stance on public policy.” CEOs should take caution when taking a position that isn’t directly aligned with business. They must keep in mind that any public position impacts their stakeholders, including employees.

8. “Decide which venue is right for the CEO.” Understand what channel is best for communicating a CEO’s message – whether that be a speaking event, a position of leadership outside of the company, or a post on Twitter. Live media is a fast growing reputation booster that offers many channels to choose from. For example, Atlantic Media stages more than 200 events a year and the New York Times had 16 events scheduled in 2014.

9. “Develop a solid social strategy.” Social media participation is higher among well-regarded CEOs. Having a strategic plan in place for social that identifies the goals of participation helps to choose the right platform and minimize risk. Social media training also goes a long way to make sure CEOs understand the importance and consequences of being online.

10. “Keep reputation drivers at the top of your to-do list.” Participation in CSR initiatives and applying for awards can have a large effect when it comes to improving corporate reputation. Highlighting a company’s strengths and weaknesses and tracking performance also helps when it comes to reputation management.

11. “Bolster CEO reputation among your own employees.” Internal reputation can be improved by acting ethically and encouraging ethical conduct. By communicating plans for the company and showing that the CEO understands what is best for the organization, CEOs can build trust internally.

12. “Don’t view humility as weakness.” Humility is a desirable quality that is associated with a positive reputation. It’s also a trait that media has tuned into, so it’s important for CEOs to remember.

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