CEO reputation still going strong

May 03, 2012

CEO reputation still going strong

Years ago at my former job, the research we did caught fire due to one simple finding. In fact, I used to think of myself as the 50 percent woman. Our research on CEO reputation revealed that 50 percent of a company’s reputation was attributable to the CEO. For some reason, this one simple factoid traveled around the world like wild fire. People just found it incredibly memorable. Part of the reason that the “50%” was so radioactive was because CEOs had became better known (Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, John Chambers, Jack Welch, Bill Gates, Carly Fiorina) and no one had really asked the question. Reputation as a body of knowledge was still nascent (not like it is now) but it was just about to tip. And tip it did.
In our new survey on the corporate brand, we asked the question again.  It’s been about 10 years since that earlier study. And despite all the ups and downs in the stock market, CEO compensation issues, scandals, Occupy Wall Street, celebrity CEOs, the Internet, etc etc, the executives in our study reported that 49% of a company’s reputation is due to the CEO’s reputation.

As interesting, when we asked consumers — the general public — 66% say that their perceptions of top leadership also affect their opinions of company reputations a great deal to a moderate degree. Only 7% say that there is no link between the two.  So CEO reputations arenot going over their heads whatsoever.

Thus as much as it might be politically incorrect to admit that the reputation of the CEO plays a significant role in how companies are viewed, it does. Of course, product quality matters most but leadership from the top, how they behave and what they communicate is not to be ignored. A large 59% of consumers cite leadership communications as influencing company perceptions. It no longer pays to be silent.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross
lesliegainesross@gmail.com

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of reputations.

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