Why a company’s reputation starts with the CEO

If you want to build a company’s reputation, it has to start at the top. Recent research from PR firm Weber Shandwick shows that CEO engagement and visibility is vital for a company‘s profile, according to over 80 per cent of senior executives worldwide.

Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at Weber Shandwick discusses the findings: “Our research has shown that CEO engagement and visibility plays a fundamental role in the reputation of companies. Indeed, some 81 per cent of our respondents cited that external CEO engagement is now a mandate for building company reputation. In the past, CEOs and those around them confused CEO visibility with CEO celebrity. Over the years, this has shifted and today it is CEO credibility which, when built through multiple channels of communication, can add value both inside and outside the business.”

However, although CEOs must be visible, this does not mean they need to act like film stars says Gaines-Ross: “CEO visibility means having a greater presence with greater purpose and in more ways than one, and it is important for leaders to leverage the full range of communication channels around them to convey their messages. It’s not about enhancing egos or playing up to a celebrity status – humility is most championed, with executives with highly regarded CEOs six times as likely as those with less highly-regarded CEOs to say that their CEO is humble.”

Looking at exactly how much a CEO’s reputation adds to a company’s profile, respondents attribute nearly half (45 per cent) of their company’s reputation to the reputation of their CEO, and they expect that CEO reputation will matter even more in the next few years.

In terms of how much a CEO’s reputation matters to profitability, respondents estimate that 44 per cent of their company’s market value is attributable to the reputation of their CEO. Another plus of having a good leader is that a strong CEO reputation attracts and retains employees (claim 77 per cent and 70 per cent of respondents respectively).

There are differences in how leaders are perceived around the world. The research shows that compared to European, Asia Pacific and Latin American executives, North American executives perceive their leaders to be better communicators. US executives are significantly more likely than those in other regions to say that their CEOs are comfortable talking to the news media. However, other parts of the world are likely to catch up: Four out of ten European executives and approximately half of Asia Pacific executives and Latin American executives report that their CEOs are more willing to talk with the news media today than they were several years ago.



Conducted by Weber Shandwick with KRC Research, The CEO Reputation Premium: Gaining Advantage in the Engagement Era, is based on an online survey of more than 1,700 senior executives across 19 countries in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America.

Respondents worked in companies with revenues of $500 million or more (or regional equivalents) and represented 19 countries across North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America. The margin of error for the full global sample is ±2 percentage points with 90 per cent confidence.

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