In today’s social media-driven business landscape, “any press is good press” no longer holds true. A CEO’s reputation is increasingly paramount, as top business executives are looked at under a microscope and expected to present positive, engaged, and transparent online profiles.
A CEO’s reputation can shape their company’s reputation by earning—or destroying—the trust of investors, employees, and clients. Negative reviews or articles about the CEO can cause customers and investors to lose trust in the business itself. Consumer spending can plummet, and stock prices can take a nosedive as a result. And a CEO’s negative reputation can even impact the company’s ability to attract and retain top talent within the organization.
At Minc Law, we have proven experience helping both individuals and businesses monitor and bolster their online reputations. We offer digital risk protection services to holistically track and negate online threats, and we offer content removal services to eliminate negative and damaging content that could hurt your business.
In this article, we illustrate the significance of public perception to the success of a business. We then discuss how a CEO’s reputation can have damaging effects on their company, and how they can create and hone a positive business reputation online.
Importance of Public Perception to the Reputation of a Business
Reputational risk refers to the likelihood that an organization or individual might face negative public opinion and damaging outcomes as a result of direct, indirect, or tangentially related actions by the company itself, employees, or third parties. The higher profile an organization or individual has, the greater the reputational risk.
Today, CEOs and business leaders are increasingly scrutinized under a microscope. One misstep by a well-known CEO can cause a chain reaction leading to public blowback, damaged brand image, and loss of revenue.
Many high-profile companies, such as Facebook and Starbucks, have struggled with public outcries caused by reputational damage. Proactively managing reputational risk is much preferable to reacting after a crisis has already occurred.
Why is Reputation Important in Business?
Your online reputation, which includes online reviews, is extremely important. As the most prominent member of your organization, your CEO’s reputation is paramount.
A CEO’s reputation is directly related to the company’s image as a whole. It is no coincidence that Forbes’ top 4 most reputable companies—Disney, Google, BMW, and Rolex—have CEOs that are generally considered good-natured and trustworthy.
A positive reputation carries many benefits, including:
- Increased market value,
- Attracting investors,
- Positive publicity media attention,
- Crisis protection,
- Attracting and retaining employees,
- Ensuring quality talent, and
- Strengthening the company as a whole.
But just as a positive reputation can benefit the company, a negative one has the potential to do a great deal of damage. Businesses can lose up to 22% of their customers after a single negative article about the business is published online.
What is Corporate Reputation Management?
Managing a corporate reputation takes more than a witty social media manager and informational press releases. Every aspect of a corporation’s image needs to be cultivated and accounted for, including:
- Social media management,
- Public relations,
- Content creation,
- Search engine optimization,
- Brand and reputation marketing,
- Employer reputation management,
- Media relations, and
- Community management.
A company’s reputation is delicate. Bad publicity will often spread like wildfire since outrage and negativity drive more traffic than positive stories. Because the balance is already in favor of negative publicity, it is in every corporation’s best interest to proactively cultivate a positive reputation across all facets of the brand—including its executives.
Why is Corporate Reputation & Public Perception Important?
CEO reputation is responsible for a massive amount of shareholder value. According to a Weber Shandwick study, the company market value attributed to CEO reputation ranges from 25% to 68% across the globe.
Infographic credit to Weber Shandwick:
Other surveys have found that 95% of financial and industry analysts said they would purchase stock—and 94% said they would recommend that stock to others—based upon a CEO’s reputation.
A CEO’s reputation is inseparable from their company’s reputation in the public’s eyes. When top business executives are the subjects of negative publicity, investors, the media, and consumers connect that incident to the company itself.
How Can You Monitor Your Business’s Reputation?
The best way to monitor your business’s reputation is to implement proactive steps to search its online presence. You may want to sign up for free or paid services to help you track your organization’s reputation. A few of the most helpful strategies and tools are outlined below.
Strategy #1: Create a Google Alert
Google Alerts is a free and easy tool that sends users an alert when specified keywords appear in Google Search.
Simply enter a topic or term that you would like to follow into the bar, then click the gear symbol to set your alert preferences.
Strategy #2: Google Yourself in Incognito Mode
In the browser of your choice, open an incognito tab to prevent your search history from altering your search results. Then, conduct a basic Google Search using:
- The CEO’s name,
- Your business’s name, or
- The address and contact information of your business.
Googling yourself or your business can help you detect any defamatory or harmful content that is floating around on the web.
Strategy #3: Monitor Your Social Media Accounts
Even if your business is not extremely active on social media, it is still advisable to monitor your social media accounts for any negative mentions, replies, or comments.
If negative content is out there, it is better to respond as quickly as possible to head off any negative publicity.
Strategy #4: Sign Up for a Digital Risk Protection Service
If your business is serious about monitoring its reputation online, it is usually best to hire outside assistance. A digital risk protection service is a holistic reputation monitoring approach that combines multiple tools and strategies to track and pinpoint threats against your company’s digital assets.
For an overview of this service and answers to qualifying questions, see our article, “Frequently Asked Questions About Digital Risk Protection.“
Minc Law Reputation Management Tip: One way to suppress negative search results is to create social media accounts if you have not already. Your social media accounts will be among the first results of a Google search, meaning that other content will be pushed further down the results page. Other suppression tactics include writing articles, blog posts, or even self-publishing books that help you establish leadership within your industry.
How a CEO’s Negative Reputation Can Have a Financial Impact on a Company
A company’s reputation is paramount in maintaining growth and market share—and a CEO’s reputation is an integral part of that formula. Below, we examine what characteristics to avoid as a CEO, and how a company can be affected by a CEO with a reputation problem.
What Constitutes a Bad CEO?
The portrait of a good CEO is common knowledge. Top-rated CEOs are often described as having a stellar work ethic and global business outlook, yet being human and empathetic to those on their team. They are also likely:
- Honest, and, of course,
But what kind of person makes for a bad CEO? These individuals are likely to be:
A Bad CEO is Dishonest
They lack transparency and demonstrate an unwillingness to communicate honestly, be it about company matters or personal values. A CEO who cannot be trusted, cannot be trusted to lead well.
A Bad CEO is Unable to Accept Responsibility
A bad CEO prefers to pass the buck when negative consequences arise, rather than take responsibility themselves. They never admit that they are in the wrong, which leads to a company culture that is unwilling to take risks, not to mention a PR nightmare waiting to happen.
A Bad CEO is Myopic & Controlling
Bad CEOs are often unable to see anyone else’s perspective, especially when it comes to corporate processes or innovations. They are also likely unable to delegate or give power to others.
Being unwilling to incorporate others’ ideas or input leads to a stagnant company and a toxic work environment.
A Bad CEO is Inconsistent
A CEO that lacks focus will be too willing to change company strategy in the shifting winds of market conditions.
Without consistency, the CEO might spread company resources too thin or confuse employees and shareholders about the logic behind decisions that are being made.
What Can Happen to a Company When They Have a CEO With a Bad Public Image?
CEOs can face attacks on their reputation from several sources, namely negative reviews from customers, employees, and competitors. Or, they may be the subject of negative media reports and critical social media comments.
When a CEO’s reputation is attacked, the entire company can suffer. Consumer spending can drop and stock prices can take a hit. A company’s executives may even have difficulty attracting and retaining employees if the CEO is known for being a bad leader or problematic figure.
A CEO’s negative reputation can influence press coverage and public perceptions of the company overall, as well. Look no further than Mark Zuckerburg’s lackluster response to his company’s actions after the Cambridge Analytica scandal became common knowledge.
In the modern business environment, a CEO is almost inseparably enmeshed with the identity of the company. So when a CEO makes a blunder, the shock wave can impact the credibility of the organization as a whole.
How Can a CEO’s Negative Reputation Have a Financial Impact?
Below, we examine four instances in which a CEO’s misstep caused a domino effect of public outcry, reduction of company credibility, and financial loss.
The founder of Lululemon, Chip Wilson, implied that the seams were only ripping on his brand’s popular leggings and yoga pants due to certain customers’ weight.
Wilson’s public comments went viral and caused so much backlash that customers boycotted the brand, Lululemon’s stock price dropped, and Wilson was ousted as CEO.
Uber’s former CEO, Travis Kalanick, landed himself in hot water over a few incidents of poor judgment, including an argument with an UBER driver. He cost the company a hefty amount of damages, not to mention the $200 million in compensation and stock options that the company paid out to replace him as CEO.
Papa John’s (2018)
John Schnatter, the founder and CEO of Papa John’s, used a racial slur on a company conference call in May 2018. The public outrage against his racist statement caused the company’s brand reputation—not to mention its stock value—to suffer.*
*We were contacted by a PR agency on John Schnatter’s behalf who provided two links that contain further information about Schnatter’s public efforts to correct the record: (1) Link 1, (2) Link 2.
The founder and CEO of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, made inflammatory comments on Twitter about the death of George Floyd and the ensuing social justice protests.
CrossFit lost key partnerships over the resulting backlash, while over one thousand affiliated gyms expressed their intention to cut ties with the company. Glassman eventually resigned his position over the scandal.
How a CEO Can Create a Positive Reputation for the Business
Cultivating a good reputation is easier said than done. As Warren Buffett famously stated, “it takes 20 years to build a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it.”
Below, we explore how a CEO can begin building upon and improving their reputation.
How Can a CEO Improve Their Public Image?
When attempting to bolster their reputation, a CEO should remember and attempt to emulate the attributes that are generally considered the hallmarks of a good leader.
Some common traits are innate and not trainable, such as intelligence and charisma—but a majority of the characteristics that make a good leader can be learned, including:
- Good communication skills,
- Active involvement in the company,
- Flexibility, and
- Ethical behavior.
When it comes to public image, a CEO can go a step further by constructively engaging with the public. A CEO needs a visible public profile. Are they visible on the company website? Do they speak at industry or trade conferences? And increasingly importantly, do they have (well-managed) social media profiles?
While CEOs should be publicly visible, they should exercise caution when taking a public stance on policy or political issues. Before making any statement, be sure that it aligns with company values and is worded in a way that avoids giving offense to a reasonable reader.
Finally, even with the most careful CEO, mistakes happen. When they do, apologies from the CEO that are sincere and genuine go a long way. Apologies should be specific, strategic, and acknowledge what happened while laying out a plan for how the company plans to address the issue. And most importantly, the apology must be followed up with action.
How Can a CEO Work in Tandem With Public Relations to Bolster the Image of the Company?
A CEO should also be comfortable interacting with the media—which means coming up with a corporate or CEO reputation management plan.
To create such a plan, start by mapping your company’s online narrative and assessing your reputation. Monitor product reviews, customer feedback, and content that is posted online to identify risks and opportunities.
Then, coordinate messaging between the CEO and the public relations team to promote positive actions the CEO and the company are taking. This coordinated plan can boost the company’s reputation while demonstrating the CEO’s involvement and positive impact on the company, killing two birds with one stone.
Minc Law Media Relations Tip: When speaking to the media, we recommend the following tips: (1) Practice your responses to as many questions as you can think of, (2) ask the reporter to clarify their question if it catches you off-guard, (3) steer difficult conversations back to more comfortable territory, (4) avoid becoming defensive, and (5) always be honest.
What Else Can a CEO Do to Create a Positive Reputation?
If a CEO is looking for as many action steps as possible to create and maintain a positive reputation, they should engage in online reputation management (ORM). ORM involves a combination of marketing, search engine optimization, and public relations strategies to boost your online reputation.
Insulating a CEO’s and company’s reputation involves creating enough public awareness of the positive attributes to help outweigh any negative publicity that might arise. This concept is known as staying above the “awareness threshold.”
Common advanced strategies for CEO reputation management include:
- Removing negative content or burying unfavorable search results and articles,
- Strategically publishing and creating new online content,
- Updating and optimizing existing preferred content,
- Publishing press releases,
- Becoming a thought leader, and
- Getting involved in the community.
Strategies to Improve Your CEO’s Reputation & Improve the Company’s Credibility
Below, we list eight advanced tips for improving your CEO’s reputation, along with the benefits and costs of online reputation management.
How Do You Hone Your CEO Reputation Management?
Honing a public reputation as a CEO takes dedication, awareness, and an authentic attempt to make the world a better place. Employ the following strategies to create and maintain credibility and public repute:
1. Practice Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate social responsibility is the way a business handles its impact on its community. Examples include:
- Reducing environmental impact,
- Donating to meaningful causes, and
- Adopting a business code of ethics.
Making an effort to be socially responsible not only has positive effects on your community but benefits your reputation.
2. Engage in Community Outreach
Behavioral science researchers found that companies that engage in community outreach tend to see greater effects from their good deeds. Simply put, customers need to know about the company and its positive actions to approve of and reward the business.
Reaching out to your community through awareness campaigns, fundraising events for charitable causes, and cause-based rewards programs can set your business apart.
3. Become a Thought Leader
Positioning your CEO as a thought leader is an excellent way to bolster their credibility. CEOs who define a personal brand, share a consistent message, and stay engaged can become valued industry leaders.
4. Proactively Monitor Your Reputation & Respond to Negative Publicity
Cultivate a positive reputation by tracking any negative online content about your CEO, including:
- Use Google Alerts,
- Google the CEO and/or the company,
- Monitor the CEO’s social media accounts, and
- Utilize a digital risk protection service.
These tips will help you track the online conversation surrounding the CEO. If any negative content appears, respond to it as quickly as possible.
Minc Law Fake Review Tip: Fake Google reviews can be very damaging for a business. Thankfully, many have a few common characteristics that can help you spot and report them.
If your business does receive negative customer reviews or feedback, do not ignore it. It is imperative to respond to feedback in a sympathetic, non-defensive way.
6. Build a Strong Brand
Part of the formula for a positive reputation is building a recognizable, consistent, and powerful brand image.
Your brand identity should reflect your company’s mission and values. Every statement, ad, and publication should reflect the same brand voice and mission.
7. Plan for Crises
No matter how talented your PR team or admirable your CEO may be, crises happen. An effective CEO will prepare for the unknown by:
- Establishing a shared vision to provide organizational stability during a crisis,
- Developing a disaster recovery plan to deal with any potential threats, both from without and within,
- Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the company’s executives, and
- Being able to coordinate an agile, productive disaster response at a moment’s notice.
8. Manage Influencer Risk & Find Appropriate Influencers to Promote Your Brand or Be Brand Ambassadors
Working with social media influencers can be a double-edged sword. While your company may benefit substantially from an influencer’s reach and prominence, you may also risk being associated with anything that influencer does – positive, negative, lawful, unlawful.
Influencers have outsized effects on the public perception of your company. It is wise to approach influencer partnerships with caution and with contingency plans in place.
Your company may choose to create an “influencer advisory board” to design best practices and marketing policies.
Why is Your Personal Brand Important & How Can a Thoughtful Leadership Marketing Strategy Help You Create New Business Development Opportunities?
CEOs who do not have a strong personal brand might hurt their company’s investor relations or shareholder value.
According to a 2019 Brunswick Group study, there has been a 21% increase in investor use of digital channels to learn what a CEO is saying. Investors now expect to hear regularly from individual senior executives, especially CEOs.
Similarly, your CEO’s personal branding and thought leadership are notable components of your company’s future growth. There is a fine line between the company’s brand and the leadership team’s personal brands. And customers pay attention to individual profiles and personalities. Highly visible experts attract:
- Customers willing to pay a higher premium,
- More media attention, and
- Valuable partnerships with other brands.
Emphasizing both corporate and individual brands is key to standing out from the competition.
How Much Does Online Reputation Management Cost?
As you might expect from a highly specialized service, online reputation management’s costs can vary based on the specifics of the case.
Many experienced online reputation management (ORM) firms charge anywhere from $500 to $50,000 per month for an ORM campaign. But the cost of the service depends on the types of services included in your representation, such as:
- Wikipedia creation and management,
- Reputation monitoring,
- Online review management,
- Content suppression and content marketing,
- Public relations,
- Search engine optimization, and
- Website design and creation.
If you opt to “do it yourself” with online reputation management tools and software, this will typically cost between $8 and $250 per month, per subscription.
If you choose to work with Minc Law, you can expect our ORM services to cost between $1,500 and $8,000 per month—but every case is unique. We also offer custom packages for ongoing ORM and monitoring services.
For a more in-depth explanation of the various costs involved, see our article: “How Much Does Online Reputation Management Cost?”
How Can Minc Law Help Boost Your Company’s Credibility?
Whether you are facing negative publicity or are looking for ways to protect your business from reputational risk, Minc Law can help.
“Minc Law went above and beyond in helping me protect my integrity and professional reputation. Special thanks to Kaelynn and Dan who assisted me during the entire process. They were very thorough and kept me updated on every step taken from the very onset. Kaelynn and Dan’s quick actions were very efficient.”
PK, Jan 15, 2021
Minc Law is one of the top internet defamation law firms in the United States. We have years of experience protecting individuals’ and businesses’ reputations online. Our reputation management professionals can help stop online attacks, remove negative online content, and improve your business’s online reputation.
To schedule a free no-obligation initial consultation, call (216) 373-7706 or fill out our online contact form.