Re-Examining the CEO Reputation Factor
We once had a Fortune 500 client with a CEO who said, “ I don’t care what the media says about me or how I get quoted, as long as my name gets into the newspapers and magazines.” The company he chaired was a Makovsky client for 18 years, and his quote always resonated in my head. We knew he liked publicity, but was this going too far?
Now comes a study with an answer. It notes that there is a strong relationship between CEO media tone and overall company media tone. Thus, if the CEO is getting mostly negative publicity, it is very hard to get positive coverage on the organization as a whole.
“The opposite is also true,” notes Nicole Lee, a master’s student at San Diego State University, who conducted the study. “If an organization is regularly bashed in the media, its CEO would likely struggle to maintain a positive reputation.”
Nicole’s research was sponsored by the Institute for PR, an independent non-profit group that focuses on research that matters to the practice.
Her study also notes that the topics one links with the CEO can positively or negatively affect his or her reputation. For example, the study says stories about corporate social responsibility or organizational strategy are closely related to a CEO’s reputation, whereas the tone of stories about an organization’s financial performance or products, with coverage not connected to the CEO, “has no significant relationship to a CEO’s media reputation.” While I have not seen the data supporting this study, I question the accuracy of the latter statement. Case in point: Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase.
Nevertheless, as you plan strategy for a positive media visibility campaign covering both the CEO and the organization, think carefully about topical associations.