Your reputation precedes you. It’s a well-known maxim, and it’s especially true in the business world.
With the widespread use of social networks, the 24-hour news cycle, and pervasive smartphone technology, it’s increasingly difficult to manage what people know, and more importantly, what they think about you. If you’re a CEO, this means taking strategic steps to ensure you always put your best foot forward–particularly online.
However, there are no shortage of high-profile stumbles.
According to a recent survey conducted by Eric Schiffer, chairman of Reputation Management Consultants (RMC), the CEOs with the best reputations include Tony Hsieh (Zappos), Richard Branson (Virgin), and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook). While Donald Trump (The Trump Organization), Jamie Diamond (JP Morgan Chase), and Martha Stewart top the list of the CEOs with the worst reputations.
“Tools like Twitter, Google, Facebook, with such rapid digital distribution of content, mean one bad new fact arises and a CEO’s reputation is negatively blanketed instantly around the world for good,” says Schiffer.
On the digital front, you need to be proactive instead of reactive. For example, develop positive stories that put your CEO in the best light. From blogging to tweeting, there are plenty of platforms that make this easy–assuming you have the right content strategy. Schiffer also suggests having a firewall in place, so that any digital crisis can be properly managed.
Back in 2009, Domino’s Pizza CEO Patrick Doyle was a shining example of how a top executive turned successfully to social media during a national crisis. After a couple of employees uploaded videos of themselves doing some disgusting acts to the restaurant’s food, including blowing their noses on a sandwich and snorting cheese, Doyle quickly went to YouTube to tell Domino’s fans about the changes the company would make to ensure this wouldn’t happen again.
In a simple clip he explained, “The two team members have been dismissed and there are felony warrants out for their arrest…there is nothing more important or sacred to us than our customers’ trust. We’re re-examining all of our hiring practices to make sure people like this don’t make it into our stores.” This two-minute YouTube apology quickly drew more than a million viewers, the vast majority of them applauding Doyle for his swift action and unbridled sincerity.
Look no further than Tony Hsieh, who tops the best reputation list, to find another beloved CEO. As Schiffer explains, one of the reasons that the Zappo’s executive has such an excellent reputation is because he constantly declares his passion for great customer service, he has a down-to-Earth persona, and he acts in an honest and genuine manner. People all around the world respect Hseih and his commitment to delivering happiness (incidentally, the name of his bestselling book).
Hseih’s transparency track record also gives him a big boost. Early on in his position, he used Twitter to personally respond to customer compliments and complaints, encouraging everyone on his team to do the same. Zappos Family Core Values emphasize this openness and kindness, including core values to live by such as Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication and Be Humble. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to see anyone on the list of CEOs with the worst reputations following in his kind footsteps.
Trump, Diamond, and Stewart hit rock bottom on the CEO reputation survey. Schiffer explains that landing in this group could cost CEOs millions of dollars, despite their past successes. “Think about it, do you want to invest, do a deal, or be a partner with someone that is perceived to be questionable,” states Schiffer. “In today’s recovering economy, which is still not perfect, many people will just choose another company because it is less risky.”
The five-second reputation lesson for CEOs? More delivering happiness in person and online, less screaming “You’re Fired” on national television.
- Tony Hsieh (Zappos)
- Richard Branson (Virgin)
- Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)
- Marc Benioff (Salesforce)
- Mary Barra (GM)
- Larry Page (Google)
- Russell Simmons (Def Jam)
- Tim Cook (Apple)
- Arianna Huffington (The Huffington Post)
- Elon Musk (Tesla)
- Donald Trump (The Trump Organization)
- Jamie Dimon (JP Morgan Chase)
- Martha Stewart
- Marissa Mayer (Yahoo!)
- Ron Johnson (JC Penney)
- Steve Ballmer (Microsoft)
- Mike Duke (Walmart)
- Dan Cathy (Chick Fil-A)
- Lloyd Blankfein (Goldman Sachs)
- Brian Harrison (Solyndra)