CEOs 2.0

March 24, 2007

CEOs 2.0

Just read an interesting article in Wired titled “The See-Through CEO” by Clive Thompson. For some reason, the April issue is not online yet [I will check back with the link]. One of the reasons I knew about this article was that I spoke to Thompson about how companies manage reputation online. It was a fun conversation and I was pleased to see my quote included.

The article is all about how corporate communications have been turned inside out. In our Web 2.0 world, all inside communication is out and outside communication is in. We always advise our clients that there is no such thing as a company secret. We also tell them that everything internal = external and vice versa.

Thompson underscores how corporate communications from the top has changed for better and sometimes for worse:

1. How the CEO of Redfin, an online brokerage firm, used his blog to grow his business by being outrageously transparent about how real estate agents and brokers were pushing their customers around.
2. How CEO David Neelman of JetBlue used YouTube to capture his apology for Valentine’s Day flight cancellations.
3. How CEO Gary Kelly of Southwest suggested on the company blog that perhaps the airline should assign seats to passengers and how he was talked out of it by employees.

Thompson refers to a new breed of naked CEOs or CEOs 2.0. Unfortunately there are not as many blogging and transparent CEOs as we might wish. Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems is the poster boy for CEOs 2.0.

Thompson continues in the article to make the point that “authenticity comes from online exposure” and that “corporations that publicize their failings grow stronger.” It does seem that the ever-increasing CEO apology helps to stabilize failing reputations and buy critical time for companies when they most need it.

Thompson got me excited when he talked about Google not as a search engine but as a “reputation-management system.” That is downright profound. I always talk about how reputation management has changed radically because corporate misdeeds are now evergreen. When a CEO or other top officer misbehaves, the crime or misdemeanor lives on forever in Google. And often on page one and two of Google.

The article has many interesting concepts for companies to consider as the age of transparency takes over. Thompson even refers to a Reputation Economy. I have to agree wholeheartedly.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

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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