Socializing your CEO reputation

As a big believer in social CEOs (with moderation of course), I found a terrific article to share on how CEOs' usage of social media like Twitter can influence reputation. The article appeared in B2C and is based on research by Crimson Hexagon, a social media analytics company. They took a look at different CEO tweets and what made them distinctive and popular -- the X factors. I thought it is worth summarizing what caught my attention since reputations are built in many ways today and social CEOs will only increase over time. Of course, all these CEOs are in the technology/social media business so it is not surprising that they recognize the connection between using social media and reputation. The main finding appears to be that demonstrating emotional resonance, connecting with followers and fans as well as sharing what interests them adds to retweeting and connectedness. Maybe it does not actually lift reputational equity much but it seems to deepen authenticity and accessibility, two important reputation drivers today.

CEO of Twitter, Dick Costello (@dickc):  His tweets are personal and he often responds to comments, is easy to relate to and can be witty. I particularly enjoyed this tweet. 

CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella (@satyanadella): As new CEO, his debut garnered much attention -- 22,303,212 impressions.  His first tweet poked fun at former CEO Steve Ballmer. The flash of personality from Satya's inauguarl tweet drove the attention. 

CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner (@jeffweiner): Weiner is described as another engaging CEO who enhances his company's reputation by discussing hot topics and even asking open-ended questions. He posts about his views on movies and media and recently commented on True Detective on HBO.

CEO of Apple, Tim Cook (@tim_cook): An infrequent tweeter although picking up since the start of the new year, he recently shouted out to the late Steve Jobs on his birthday which surely resonated with fans. 

Reputation Call-Outs for the Week


Woefully, I did not get to write this week. It just flew by with meetings and work to be done. And here it is Saturday again and I'm catching up with my work and eager to get to work on my blog. I saved a few things from the week to write about because they all are reputation-related in some way. Here they are:

  1. I was very pleased to see the squarespace advertisement early on in the Superbowl last Sunday night. The feedback from what I understand has been positive. This blog is written using squarespace and I think their sites are beautiful and easy to create. They are a reputation-polisher.
  2. For all those new CEOs and executives out there, some timely advice from Fay Vincent, president and CEO of Columbia Pictures Industries in the WSJ. He has 10 suggestions for those in charge. Some are tried and true and worth repeating such as (#2) Be sure to manage down, (#4) Keep listening to and for advice and (#7) Never complain, never explain. Vincent says he wishes someone told him these when he started at the top.
  3. Talking of new CEOs, the new CEO of Microsoft was named. His introduction to the world was nicely done (check it out as a great First 100 Days strategy) and enhanced his down-to-earth reputation. I especially liked his email to employees on day one. You can tell that the new CEO, Satya Nadella, likes to read poetry from reading this email. It is simply stated but oh so well-written with a melodious cadence and authenticity. Right out of the box, he mentions how humble he feels being named to the honorable task ahead of him. He then describes himself and his mandate in four sections -- Who am I? Why am I here? Why are we here? What do we do next? The answers to all these questions are undoubtedly what employees want to know. Nadella had one paragraph that I found especially appealing and worth calling out. He wrote: "Next, every one of us needs to do our best work, lead and help drive cultural change. We sometimes underestimate what we each can do to make things happen and overestimate what others need to do to move us forward. We must change this." This is a great message because we are all accountable, not just leadership. No one can just sit back today and wait for permission to act.
  4. At the start of the week, the NYT columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin called for an apology cease-fire. He says that the avalanche of in lea apologies are calling into question their sincerity and turning into apology-theater. I too follow how apologies have become de rigueur for reputation repair. They are expected, whether they are mere performance art or the real thing. They have become habitual. Sorkin and management guru Dov Seidman have started an Apology Watch on DealBook and started #ApologyWatch on Twitter.  They will be looking at what companies do post-apology and keeping them honest. Poor reputations, beware!


Empathetic CEO Reputation Rising

I did not expect to hear that Angela Ahrendts, former CEO of Burberry and soon to be retail chief at Apple, talk in an interview how when she started at Burberry, she focused on empathy and trust as the keys to building Burberry's culture. In the interview, Ahrendts says about those days, "It's compassion. It's humility. It's saying thank you. It is always putting yourself in the other person's position. I know it might sound weird, but empathy is one of the greatest creators of energy. It's counterintuitive, because it's selfless." Her father instilled the notion of humility in her when he asked her as a little girl, "When you look at a photo, do you see yourself last?" I wonder how many people actually see themselves last but she seems to be one of those people.

At Burberry, Ahrendts communicated often. She regularly emailed to employees and visited offices and stores around the globe. I liked her idea of a weekly video update to employees. Sounds like an inclusive leader. She will be one of the few female leaders at Apple so will be one to watch. 

Empathy. Humility. Compassion. Generosity. All these terms are increasingly showing up in features on CEOs. Is something up? Is climate change impacting CEO brains? Something is taking root and I will be tracking it. However, curious if anyone of this "soft" talk is coming out of this week's World Economic Forum. Hmmmm. 

Papal Lessons on Reputation-Building for New CEOs

A CEO's first year sets the tone, defines the direction and shapes the character of an organization. Right before I presented to a CEO-elect this week about navigating the first 100 days, I spied this article about what Pope Francis has accomplished in his first year. I read with a big grin on my face because many of the Pope's actions follow exactly what there is to do in year one of a new executive's tenure. 

  1. Signal that change is on its way. The Pope's washing of the feet of inmates (including two women) and questioning who among us is to judge about homosexuality were acts of declaration that this was going to be a very different papacy. 
  2. Reconstitute your senior team. Pope Francis is moving around his senior bench by replacing traditionalists with moderates. Some have been demoted, some sidelined. His appointments are aligned around his mission to be more inclusive and sensitive to the needs of the poor. The message has been sent loud and clear.
  3. Declare what matters. The Pope has been very open about what his values and priorities are. He used the word "tenderness" in an interview and his actions are very telling. He has given out more prominent positions to those from emerging countries and less developed ones. The article points out that he has communicated that as these positions change, this is is not a time for celebratory parties. Work has just started and money should be spent wisely. Pope Francis has also reminded his leaders to not listen to all the gossip that is being spread about changes underway. Another waste of time in his book.
  4. Communicate Communicate. In one of his most important speeches of the year, he spent his time focused on communicating that it was time for the Curia to get its own house in order. The new Pope spoke "disparagingly of 'airport bishops' who are more interested in their careers than flocks, and warns that priests had become 'little monsters' if they are not trained properly as seminarians." He certainly paints a vivid picture, don't you think? 
  5. Be inclusive, you don't know all the answers. The Pope has set up several task forces to come up with solutions to ongoing problems or issues. Eight cardinals were asked to investigate the area of Curia reform.  Another group is revamping the workings of the Vatican Bank to provide greater transparency. 

New CEOs would be wise to follow some of these lessons which can build reputation for their companies and for their own legacies. It gets everyone on the same page and privy to what to expect. Although there is no doubt that there is a lot of head scratching going on among cardinals and bishops whose career ladders have been turned upside down, the Pope is taking charge forcefully, symbolically and masterfully. He is building his reputation and the reputations of Popes to come.  I can't wait to see what's next.

2014 Reputation Trends


Here are my reputation trends for 2014 which are featured on The Huffington Post. Enjoy.

Reputation repentance

I have heard of an apology tour but not a contrition tour to repair reputation. While reading about the travails of JPMorgan which seem to be finally ending after a long period of fines and flashpoints, the article spoke of how the CEO, Jamie Dimon, had "embarked on a tour of contrition that featured Mr. Dimon holding town-hall-style meetings with regulators." I can't imagine anything more uncomfortable but teachable. This penance brought to mind a post I had just read by Jeff Stibel on LinkedIn about his company's failure wall, a great successes he says.  One of his lessons about the failure wall that they instituted at his company where people write down how they have failed for all to see is that over time the failure fades. This lesson came to life because the Sharpie-written failure they post fades over time. Stibel wrote: "This physical property of the Failure Wall mimics how failure works in the mind: as long as you acknowledge failure, it slips away both in your own memory and in the memories of those around you. Unacknowledged, it tends to fester. Getting it out is the only way to go." Contrition tours and failure walls probably lead to the same endpoint -- showing vulnerability and learning to learn from it. Reputation repentance.

Getting to Likeable

I wanted to mention this terrific conference I went to last week. It was hosted by PRWeek and featured a stimulating array of speakers. Suzie Welch, author and journalist, spoke about how hard it is for companies to get themselves into the "conversation." She was thinking back to her days as editor of  Harvard Business Review and the many times CCOs would call with what they thought was an explosive idea:  “If you're coming in, trying to be a thought or idea leader, and you don't have the results to back it up, you're just beating against the wind. And it backfires later, because when you actually have something to talk about, you already have the stink on you from having tried to sell yourself too soon.” PRWeek has more on her talk. She mentioned that timing matters, having something uniquely new (Amazon's drone shipments), knowing how to exit the conversation if in crisis, authenticity and "likeability."  Suzie was incredibly likeable herself and appeared very approachable and "real." Seems odd that she is so accomplished but goes by what I presume is her grade-school name, Suzie.  When it comes to thought leadership, she also reminded the crowd of mostly senior pr professionals how critical it was to have the courage to tell your CEO when their breakthrough idea might just not be ready for prime time. After all, as Suzie said, there are very few new ideas in the business today. I think we'd all agree. Of course, she brought up the topic of CEO celebrity. She was right in saying that no CEO starts out saying they want to be a CEO celebrity. It just happens because everyone wants to know about them. Richard Branson was mentioned as a good example of an individual who became a celeb CEO in service of his brand, Virgin.

Dan Roth, executive editor of LinkedIn, gave some fascinating examples on how CEOs were posting on LinkedIn's influential Influencer Program  and how they eventually find their authentic, human voice after some false starts. He used Prime Minister David Cameron as an example of a leader who over time went from third person to first person in his posts. Roth also mentioned how some CEOs were big on asking for feedback when they submitted their posts. His comment reminded me of a CEO who continually asks anyone within earshot how his company was doing in the marketplace.  What was the word on the street? It was a terrific signal that he was interested in hearing as much as talking. Roth ended his talk with some fine advice about the Influencer program -- CEOs should realize that they "are not creating content, they are creating conversation."  We all sometimes focus too much on content and getting our corporate message across and not enough on establishing arelationship or demonstrating how human we might actually be.

Although everyone uses the word "authentic" today, I have to make a case for "likeability," to use Suzie Welch's word. For most companies and leaders, working on likeability would go a long way in making their companies great places to work. It's a good word for reputation-building.

Dammed if you do.....

Not a surprise. Today I read that maybe we need more CEOs like the new CEO of Citicorp who has a very low public profile. He is practically nameless according to the article. Barely noticed in the trendiest restaurant where banking moguls hang out for lunch. I probably could have predicted this. The headline reads, "Quiet Boss at Citigroup Setting Tone for Wall Street." And as predictable, those CEOs who are in the news for good and bad reasons are being shunned for having a public profile when I am sure they'd prefer to under everyone's radar screens too. The next time around we will be hearing that this low, quiet profile that Citigroup's CEO now has is what got him into trouble when times get stickier. It seems like it is either too much or too little visibility and nowhere in between when it comes to CEO visibility and presence. Let's see what the new year brings on this topic of neverending interest when it comes to CEOs. I think the common saying is, "Damned if you do, damned if you don't", which according to Wikipedia is described as having "two equally repulsive choices, neither of which results in a positive outcome." I think that is exactly it -- pros and cons and little in between to having any public profile for your company.