Reputation management is essential for everyone, but CEOs and other C-level executives in particular should be concerned with developing a positive online reputation. CEOs are scrutinized online all the time, and it’s tough to maintain privacy, much less control the conversation about yourself. The days of keeping a low profile are all but gone. Today, individuals in high profile positions can expect to live a high profile life. This may be tough to hear, but it’s time to embrace it and proactively work to manage and protect your online reputation.
CEO Reputation Matters More Than You Think
In the past, CEOs have been pretty laid back about their online reputation. In fact, we discovered that often, CEOs neglect to engage in social media and many do not have much of a curated online presence at all. After all, only 50% of CEOs have a personal biography on their website, and only 1 in 5 CEOs have a social media account.
We shouldn’t have to tell you that this is a big mistake. A secure CEO reputation is essential not just to the individual, but the company as well. Case in point: media about a company’s CEO tends to set the tone for company publicity. That means if a company’s CEO typically receives bad press, the company will usually more bad press about the general organization. Plus, almost 50% of a company’s reputation is attributed to a CEO’s reputation.
Further, a new survey indicates that CEO reputation is essential to attracting and retaining employees as well as investors.
Fortunately, we’re also seeing that many CEOs are now learning just how valuable a strong reputation is. A new survey indicates that 50% of exectuves expect CEO reputation to matter more to company reputation in the next few years, and executives attrible 45% of their company’s reputation to the CEO’s reputation. Those are high stakes to place on a single individual’s shoulders.
The Risk of a Blank Slate
CEOs may feel comfortable allowing the press and other outsiders to dictate the discussion about them online, and effectively becoming responsible for building their reputation. That’s a dangerous idea. Why? Because they can say anything they’d like, and it may not all be true, and it may not all be flattering.
Instead of allowing others to write your reputation for you, it’s smart to work on building your own brand that supports a great reputation. With an established, strong reputation, you’ll be in a better position to defend against false or negative information that may pop up at any time.
But building a strong reputation isn’t just about protecting yourself and your company from what might happen in the future. It can also save you from the misgivings of your past.
Take Evan Spiegel, the Snapchat CEO who landed in hot water for emails from his college days. His reputation was crushed as highly detailed (and often, offensive) emails from his fraternity days surfaced. As a young CEO, Spiegel was working to project an image of maturity — and those emails shot down those hopes swiftly.
Further risks to CEO reputation include:
- negative reviews, fake or real
- news media coverage
- backlash websites or blog posts
- negative comments on social media and blogs
- posting of personal information such as an address, phone number, or family details
How a Good Reputation Helps Even When Things Go Bad
Ultimately, proactively managing your online reputation ensures that you’ll have a more accurate online persona. If you’re in charge of most of what’s being said about you online, you can ensure that content is not just positive, but factual. Bottom line: building a good reputation is preventive medicine.
When faced with negative news stories and other reputation busting search results it’s not always easy to remove the offending links. Typically, they’ll continue to exist online, but by developing more positive search results, it is possible to push the negatives down far enough in search results to where they don’t really matter.
Unfortunately, many individuals, and even high profile CEOs, often wait until they’re faced with a problem to work on managing positive search results. Don’t wait to see what they’re saying about you. Instead, work diligently to dictate what they’re saying about you by developing positive content: a blog, active social media involvement, personal profiles, and more. (Note: read on to learn exactly what you need to do in order to build a strong reputation, either as a proactive or reactive measure.)
A positive online reputation builds credibility, goodwill, trust, and most of all, strong links that can stand up against (and potentially push down) any negative content that may pop up. And if things go wrong, you’ll be more likely to have the benefit of the doubt, and may even be able to call on a strong online network if you’re actively engaged online. Plus, you’ll have established channels in place to disseminate factual information.
Building a Strong CEO Reputation
What does it take to lay a strong reputation foundation as a CEO? New research indicates these are the most important CEO reputation factors:
- clear company vision
- inspirational and motivational
- honesty and ethics
- good internal communications
- cares that the company is a good place to work
- global business outlook
- good external communications
- customer focus
How does your reputation stack up?
Essential Reputation Management Tips for CEOs
If your reputation needs a little work, don’t worry too much. Even CEOs can benefit from reputation improvement. But while you shouldn’t panic, you do need to take decisive action to protect and build your reputation — today. Here’s how you can do it:
- Don’t stay hidden away: Consumers, investors, and the general public are no longer satisfied with executives who manage their companies with a great deal of privacy. Instead, they want to see them actively engaging with the press, employees, and the public. Research indicates that 81% of global executives say that it’s important for CEOs to have a visible public profile. Be a good external communicator and become comfortable talking with the news media if you aren’t already. Your external visibility should include public speaking, activity in the local community, visibility in company online channels, accessibility in the news media, sharing insights with the public, and holding leadership positions beyond the company.
- Own your domain: There’s just no excuse anymore. Personally purchase the .com for your name — and don’t stop there. Buy the .org, .net, .info, and every related domain you can think of, including yournamesucks.com. It’s tedious and may not seem important if you don’t feel that you need to develop a domain right now, but it’s the smart thing to do. Just ask presidential hopeful and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina how she feels about carlyfiorina.org. We’re guessing regret is among the strongest emotions.
- Hoard your brand name: Don’t stop with your domain name when you’re registering online. Just like domains, social media and other brand outlets are essential to claim as soon as you possibly can. Even if you have no plans to use Reddit, it’s still smart to reserve your name there. Why? Because if you don’t, someone else can. And while you can release statements or work with the website to claim your official account, it’s simply much easier and less dangerous to just claim a placeholder now, even if you never intend to use it. Consider using a service like KnowEm to identify opportunities for claiming your personal brand name online.
- Be recognized for excellence: As CEO, it’s your job to win awards, not just for your company but your self as well. In a recent survey 34% of global executives indicated that it’s essential for CEOs to win awards for their company or themselves.
- Find out what’s being said: Set up a Google Alert for your name and your company. You may not like everything you see, but it’s better to learn about bad news early and face it head on rather than letting things spin out of control.
- Avoid trouble like the plague: These days, if you do something bad, chances are good the Internet will find out about it. Got arrested for a DUI? If the news outlets don’t pick it up immediately, the mug shot websites certainly will. You’ll be fighting that photo down for years, possibly decades. It’s often easier said than done, but don’t discount the value of simply staying out of trouble — if only for the sake of reputation management.
- Watch yourself on social media: Speaking of trouble, remember that this does extend to social media. What you say online can and will be repeated, have screen shots saved, and be shared online with or without your consent. Don’t put your trust in privacy walls, either, as it’s all too easy for leaks to make their way out. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother — or your shareholders — to see, and make sure you’re comfortable seeing any photos or posts you put up on the evening news, because someday, you just might.
- Develop positive content: If you do nothing else, do this. It’s time to get friendly with your company’s media department. You should constantly put out positive information about yourself as well as the business. Consider contributing to the company blog, and ensure that you’re named in any relevant press releases put out by the company. Establish an identity online with a biography on the company website as well as active, engaging profiles on social media. Another great way to earn positive content is to lend your expertise as a thought leader or industry expert. Speak with the press, get quoted on blogs, and put your expert status to good use to get your name shared online.
- Engage with employees: CEO reputation starts with what employees think of you, and in fact, employees can become the biggest cheerleaders not just for your brand, but for you as an individual as well. Avoid being untouchable. Spend time connecting with employees and reach out personally to as many as you can. Communicate with your company and ensure that you’re building goodwill among the people who power the organization.
- Keep it positive: CEO reputation is now a high stakes game, but resist the urge to stack the deck by pulling any illegal moves. Fake reviews, black hat SEO, and shady reputation management tactics are to be avoided. After all, they’re not only wrong, but they can come back to bite you.