CEOs at the Podium and Reputations at War

October 31, 2010

CEOs at the Podium and Reputations at War

First things first. I thought I should mention that an article I wrote on how companies are responding to online antagonists is appearing in the December issue of Harvard Business Review. The article, Reputation Warfare,  identifies six strategies for managing reputation in an informational age. I am very excited about it and look forward to telling you more when it appears.
Thought I would continue on our research on Socializing Your CEO: From (Un)Social to Social. In addition to analyzing where CEOS engaged online and offline, we examined whether CEOs were speaking at conferences. I have often stated here that the executive conference business seems to be flourishing and I like to follow these kinds of trends. We did find that CEOs were on the speaking circuit and taking advantage of this unique opportunity to engage audiences, network and tell their story. Four in 10 top 50 global CEOs (40%) in our audit gave a speech in 2009, with nearly one in four (23%) speaking at an esteemed Five-Star conference. [Five-Star conferences include forums such as Fortune, Wall Street Journal, Clinton Global Initiative, Forbes CEO conferences and the World Economic Forum.] Weber Shandwick continues to track and research executive conferences which is why we made sure to add this to our list of criteria for Social CEOs.

An interesting side note was that CEO participation in speaking engagements increased with tenure — half of all CEOs in office for five years or more (50%) addressed an external audience through speaking engagements compared to nearly one-third (32%) of those in office three years or less. Clearly, as longer-tenure CEOs begin contemplating their legacies and how to position their companies for the next generation, CEOs take their role as content providers even more seriously. This actually makes sense although I would add that it appears that CEOs are eager to speak at the right venues with the right audiences, regardless of tenure.

Business school forums were chosen by 10% of the leading CEOs audited. As the economy recovers, I expect this type of forum to increase as CEOs go on the campaign trail to attract the best talent. I anticipate a rise in CEO commencement speeches as well since these speeches are readily rebroadcast online as well as being reported in the traditional media. This is a surefire easy way to boost a CEO’s sociability index….repurpose those speeches on the company YouTube channel or web site. No reason not to.

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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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