Guide to Executive Reputation Management
Reputation management for executives is more and more necessary in today’s online world. A viral Twitter quote-tweet or misspeak at a press conference can quickly spiral into devastating consequences for executives and their companies.
Executive reputation management is the process of proactively monitoring and bolstering executives’ reputations. This process can include assessing digital risk, tracking Google results, responding to reputational crises, and promoting positive content about the executive and the brand.
At Minc Law, we have proven experience helping CEOs and other executives track, improve, and safeguard their reputations. Our team has removed more than 50,000 negative and defamatory pieces of online content. Our digital risk protection and online reputation management services help top-level management and their companies guard against online threats.
In this article, we provide an in-depth guide to reputation management for executives. We cover the importance of an executive’s reputation to the success of their company, then list several actionable strategies for building and maintaining a positive public persona.
What is Reputation Management?
Reputation management is an active, ongoing process of monitoring and improving an individual or company’s reputation. This process often combines elements of public relations, marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO). Because the internet plays such a large role in modern life and reputations, most contemporary reputation management practices focus on maintaining a positive online presence.
Who is Considered an Executive in a Business?
An executive can play many roles in an organization. A few common executive positions include:
• Chief executive officer (CEO),
• Chief financial officer (CFO),
• Chief operations officer (COO),
• Executive director,
• President or vice president,
• Managing partner,
• Manager of a department or branch.
What typically qualifies a role as “executive” is that the individual holds significant organizational power. They might manage staff, create and implement goals for the company, and oversee major initiatives—or all of the above.
In short, an executive may not be the owner or founder of the company, but they are in upper-level management.
What is Executive Reputation Management?
Executive reputation management involves monitoring and protecting the reputation of a high-level employee or owner. Because a CEO’s reputation can have a powerful impact (for good or bad) on their company’s overall reputation, upper-level management should protect their individual public standing.
A company’s reputation is delicate, and bad publicity spreads like wildfire. Outrage and negativity drive more social media traffic than positive stories. 1 Therefore, it is in your brand’s best interest to foster a positive reputation in all aspects of your company—including your top executives.
How Are the Online Actions of Executives Tied to the Company?
Everyone—from a low-level employee to the CEO—has access to personal social media accounts with the potential to reach millions. Any employee has the potential to harm their company’s reputation with a misjudged post or retweet that goes viral, and executives even more so.
With the prevalence of social media and the near-universal potential to go viral, every executive should use caution when posting online. In the public’s minds, top-level executives are almost inseparably linked to their companies—so when a CEO makes a misstep, the entire company suffers.
Why Does a Positive Executive Reputation Matter in Business?
An executive’s reputation shapes public perception of their company by generating (or losing) trust from customers, staff, and shareholders.
An executive’s negative reputation can affect customer spending, leading to lower stock prices. Even employee morale and turnover can be affected if the executive has a reputation for being problematic or a bad leader.
But when the executive has a reputation for being a good leader and role model, they reflect well on your company. Brand recognition increases, consumers are more willing to do business with you, and it is easier to attract top talent.
Importance of a Brand’s Reputation in Business
In business, reputation is everything. Brand reputation affects every facet of your business, from customer loyalty to employee retention to sales and market share.
Public Trust & Customer Loyalty
If your brand has a positive reputation, consumers may be more likely to trust and see you as credible. This trust can lead to more sales and higher customer loyalty.
And since increasing customer retention by just five percent can lead to a 75% increase in profitability, public trust is crucial for your brand’s long-term success. 2 A satisfied customer is an excellent source of word-of-mouth marketing for your company, generating more sales revenue and leading to a domino effect of customer growth.
Employee Retention & Quality Talent
Companies with a positive reputation also find it easier to attract and retain top talent. When your employees are proud to work for your company, turnover rates will be lower and your staff will have higher job satisfaction overall.
Higher Market Value & Long-Term Resilience
A good brand reputation gives you an edge over the competition since customers, potential employees, and investors see you as more desirable.
This higher goodwill not only gives you a high market value—it also makes your company more resilient. Customers who trust your brand are more likely to support you in economic downturns and give you the benefit of the doubt for minor mistakes.
Please see our resource explaining why a good reputation is important in business.
How Does a C-Suite Executive’s Behavior Contribute to a Company’s Reputation & Success?
Upper management has a direct impact on a company’s overall public perception and its success. Customers, investors, and employees all look to the executives to set standards and signal the values and behavior of the company as a whole.
A CEO’s Standing Makes Up a Large Part of Brand Reputation
According to a 2018 Weber Shandwick study, global executives attribute an average of 45% of their organization’s reputation to the reputation of their CEO. 3 Upper-level employees clearly have an outsized influence on the potential public standing of their company.
One 2020 commissioned study by Forrester Consulting found that 74% of business leaders believe their customers’ perception of the brand is directly tied to their perception of its executives. 4
Executives Impact Stock Purchases
A 2019 Harvard Business Review study, examining the effects of a CEO’s personality on a company’s stock price, found that more conscientious CEOs and their companies experienced nearly 3% lower stock volatility and risk while more neurotic (and even extroverted) CEOs saw more than a 2% increase in stock risk. 5
In the context of a million or even billion-dollar company, a drop in a single percentage point could result in significant value or destruction for its investors and future.
Executives’ Reputations Affect Market Value
Global executives and investors emphasize a strong correlation between a CEO’s reputation and a company’s market value. A Weber Shandwick study noted that roughly half of a company’s market value may be attributed to its CEO, emphasizing that companies should prioritize positioning CEOs to effectively communicate their company story to further drive value. 3
Reputation is a Strategic Risk
Businesses face many risks, including financial, operational, and strategic—but reputation is a key element of strategic risk. One Deloitte study found that 87% of executives place reputational challenges above other strategic risks in order of importance. 6
Empathy & Culture Leads to Increased Loyalty
A 2021 Ernst & Young business survey sampled over 1,000 full-time or part-time employees and found that mutual empathy between leaders and employees not only leads to a near-90% increase in efficiency but an 86% increase in innovation and an 81% increase in company revenue. 7
The study concluded by emphasizing that cultivating a supportive work environment was not just an bonus in today’s business landscape but a requirement.
Executives Are Expected to Be on Social Media
One Brunswick study found that stakeholders expect executives to demonstrate their leadership and values through social media. 75% of employees prefer to work for a CEO who uses social media—and 86% of consumers say it is important for business leaders to use digital communication tools. 8
What Are the Top Threats to an Executive’s Reputation?
Several attributes and actions leave an executive vulnerable to reputational damage. The least-respected CEOs and top-level executives tend to have the following traits in common:
• A tendency towards unethical behavior and misconduct,
• Inability to accept responsibility,
• A controlling nature, and
• Inconsistency regarding business decisions.
All of the traits listed above can be exemplified in countless different ways. For example, a bad CEO might publish a Tweet that reflects poorly on the company. They may engage in unethical or scandalous behavior in public or fail to prepare adequately before important presentations and public speaking engagements.
Conversely, the actions of the company itself and its employees can damage an executive’s reputation. For instance, if your employees have a reputation for treating customers poorly, this behavior can ultimately reflect on upper-level management.
Strategies to Monitor & Improve the Reputation of an Executive
Building and maintaining a strong reputation for executives requires several components. Every reputation management strategy should start with identifying and monitoring the internet for harmful content. Then, develop a proactive plan to establish and improve your reputation.
Perform an Online Audit to Identify Negative Content
The best method for monitoring and bolstering your brand’s reputation is to stay abreast of its online presence. There are several free and paid strategies for tracking your reputation—the best of which are listed below.
Google Yourself in Incognito Mode
First, see what is being said about you and your brand online. Google your (or the executive’s) name, your business’s name, or your brand’s contact information—but be sure to use incognito mode. This mode prevents your search history from impacting your search results.
This step should give you an idea of if there is any harmful or defamatory content floating around the web about you.
For further reading, please see our comprehensive guide explaining how to effectively Google yourself.
Create a Google Alert
Google Alerts is an easy way to monitor what is said about you and your business online. After signing up for a Google Alert and entering a specific search term, you will be notified anytime that keyword appears in search results.
Monitor Your Online Profiles
No matter how active your brand is on social media, it is still a good idea to keep an eye on your social accounts for any comments, replies, and mentions. It is best to respond to any negative publicity as quickly as possible.
Work With a Digital Risk Protection Service
If your brand is taking online reputation monitoring seriously, it is usually best to have outside help. A professional digital risk protection service can track and eliminate reputational threats using a proven combination of strategies and tools.
What Strategies Can Help Establish & Bolster an Executive’s Reputation?
There are countless strategies available to improve your reputation as an executive. In this section, we provide eight actionable tips for forming and bolstering an executive’s public persona.
Remove Damaging Content From the Internet
If you or your business are the targets of the following types of content, it is in your best interests to have them removed:
• Defamatory consumer reviews,
• Insensitive or offensive social media posts,
• Negative news articles and other press,
• Fake and impersonation profiles.
Working with an experienced content removal attorney is the most effective way to remove these types of content quickly and effectively.
Make Time For Community Outreach
The public tends to have greater respect for companies—and executives— that engage in community outreach. 9 Awareness campaigns, cause-based rewards programs, and fundraising events for good causes are great ways to show your customers you care.
Become a Respected Thought Leader in Your Industry
One excellent way to improve your credibility as an executive is to build a reputation as a thought leader.
Build your personal brand by crafting thoughtful, consistent content on your preferred platform—such as Twitter, LinkedIn, or a blog. Provide professional insight and expertise, and engage authentically with your audience. This practice not only improves your credibility but humanizes you as well.
Practice Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate social responsibility is another way to demonstrate to your community that your brand has respectable values. Examples of socially responsible behavior include:
• Embracing a business code of ethics,
• Donating to worthwhile causes, and
• Reducing your environmental impact.
Learn How to Speak to the Media
Proper media training is essential for any prominent business leader. Speaking to the media is a great way to make announcements and communicate with the public—but if it backfires, it can devastate your and your brand’s reputation.
A CEO’s reputation is inseparably linked to their company’s reputation. It is often quite difficult to convince the news media to remove an online news article once it has been published, which is why it is best to avoid making PR blunders in the first place.
We recommend these tips to improve your chances of a positive media interaction:
• Ask for the interview questions ahead of time, so you can plan your answers;
• Familiarize yourself with what both “on the record” and “off the record” mean;
• Practice speaking in simple, clear sentences;
• Avoid filler language (such as “um” and “like”) and nervous body language;
• Avoid industry jargon and acronyms;
• Avoid saying “no comment”; and
• Always be truthful.
Create & Curate a Positive Digital Footprint
Your online reputation is shaped by the aggregate of your online presence, which is why it is helpful to curate your own digital content. Personal blogs, social media posts, and branded content on your business’s website all help shape how the public sees you.
Use search engine optimization (SEO) best practices to boost that content’s reach. Techniques like keyword optimization, internal and external linking, and creating thorough, readable content help your posts rank higher on Google. In turn, when your own content ranks better on Google, it will push any negative content about you further down in the search results.
Some executives and brands work with social media influencers to amplify their brand’s digital reach. However, this approach may be a double-edged sword.
While the influencer’s reach and prominence can improve your visibility, you are also entrusting your reputation to that individual. If you choose to partner with an influencer, we recommend approaching that partnership cautiously and with a contingency plan in place.
Implement a Rigorous Reputation Crisis Plan
Reputation crisis management is the task of preparing for and responding to a reputational setback. Some crises that affect your reputation are outside your control, while others can be prevented with a strong risk prevention plan.
Regardless of the potential cause, it is crucial to have a response plan in place before a catastrophe occurs. The process of preparing a response plan includes:
• Conducting a risk assessment for your business,
• Creating a crisis management team,
• Implementing an information-sharing hierarchy,
• Creating a detailed action plan and familiarizing employees with the strategy (if applicable),
• Reviewing the response plan regularly, and
• Executing a diligent monitoring plan.
Work With an Experienced Executive Reputation Management Attorney or Expert
While it is possible to manage some reputations on your own, most larger brands and prominent executives need expert assistance. A reputation management team can help executives build a proactive, thorough strategy for bolstering and protecting their reputation.
These professionals often employ a mix of services and techniques, including:
• Digital risk protection and monitoring,
• Content removal and suppression, and
• Online reputation management.
How to Choose an Effective Executive Reputation Management Service
There are many sizes and styles of reputation management companies available that provide a wide variety of services.
The first step in choosing a reputation management service is to consider which solutions you need.
What Do Executive Reputation Management Services Include?
The two main types of reputation management are proactive and reactive. Proactive reputation management involves maintaining and bolstering your reputation preemptively. This strategy often involves:
• Creating positive online content and optimizing it for search results,
• Monitoring and responding to online reviews,
• Tracking your online mentions,
• Executing PR campaigns,
• Engaging in community outreach, and
• Maintaining an active online presence.
Reactive reputation management, on the other hand, involves responding to reputational crises that have already occurred. This damage control process includes:
• Content removal or suppression,
• Public statements and apologies, and
• Ongoing digital risk protection services.
How Do You Choose an Ethical & Effective Executive Reputation Service?
As an executive, it can be difficult to make the time to manage your reputation by yourself. Monitoring the web for mentions, creating and managing an online presence, and responding to any threats can be full-time jobs on their own.
A reputation management company can be an invaluable asset—but it can be hard to know how to choose one. When choosing an effective and ethical online reputation management company, look for one that:
• Has proven experience working with CEOs and other executives,
• Has an active and respected online presence,
• Speaks realistically about the scope of work involved in bolstering your reputation,
• Is available to meet via Zoom or face-to-face,
• Uses “white hat” methods,
• Does not ask you to use obscure communication or payment methods,
• Has a customer satisfaction guarantee, and
• Holds a professional license or is subject to regulatory oversight.
If an online reputation management service does not meet these criteria or has primarily negative reviews, this may be a red flag. Please see our guide explaining why you should consider hiring an attorney as your online reputation expert.
How Much Does Executive Reputation Management Cost?
Many professional reputation management companies charge anywhere from $500 to $50,000 per month for their services. The cost for reputation management can vary depending on the specifics of the case and the services included, such as:
• Reputation monitoring,
• Public relations,
• Content suppression and content marketing,
• Online review management,
• Website creation and management, and
• Search engine optimization.
Executive reputation management is a highly specialized service, which means that due to the nature of the protection, it may run on the higher end of the cost spectrum.
If you choose to retain Minc Law, you can expect our reputation management services to cost between $1,500 and $8,000 monthly. We also offer custom packages for ongoing reputation management and monitoring services, designed to fit you or your business’s reputation needs.