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The impact of a CEO on reputation

Brands and organisations who have respected leaders have a head start when it comes to their reputations. We discuss why it is so important to have the best captains at the helm and how PRs can support and encourage strong and ethical leaders.

Challenge leaders to stay true to the brand

Kelly Pepworth, managing director at agency Speed Communications: “You should never underestimate the invaluable role leaders have in ensuring the culture and values of an organisation are communicated in an authentic and powerful way, and the direct impact this can have on brand equity. We live in a digital age where employees and customers expect companies and leaders to make good on their brand promises and, rightly so, will not hesitate to call them out if they witness insincerity.

“Leaders are a company’s most powerful influencer, leading the brand from the front. They are not just CEOs, COOs or MDs, but chief brand ambassadors. PR’s role is to challenge leaders to stay true to the brand and the values of their organisation, ensuring relevancy in the PR opportunities they secure to provide a platform to demonstrate empathy and customer-centricity. Ultimately, PR can be instrumental in helping them build relationships of trust and long-term brand loyalty.”

Make sure coverage matches reality

Jon Card, media strategist and author of How to Make Your Company Famous: “The leader sets the tone for the whole organisation and communication is core to this. Their story and vision for the company affects its culture, marketing, sales message and, of course, its PR. All of these should be aligned and drawn from the same story.

"Good business leaders should be saying the same messages, both internally and externally. If they aren't then something has gone wrong. Indeed, there are many stories of companies with rotten internal cultures presenting an entirely different face to the public.

"But for good companies with a strong story at their core, PR and comms is a lot easier than for those who think PR is all about spin. It's also worth remembering that most people do online research on a CEO before they join a company. They'll quickly find out whether or not the reality matches the coverage.”

You need to build respect

Tyra Bateman, marketing manager at PR agency 72point: “A leader is not a true leader without respect or followers. It is imperative for leaders to be admired and have people invested in their qualities, mission and vision. Losing or never having respect purely means their title has leading connotations yet is not a worthy leader to you.

“Comms can play a significant role in gaining and maintaining respect. Providing a platform, maybe through a personal channel or an association with a company name, the individual becomes a thought leader. A good leader is approachable and knowledgeable, this can be presented through comms, often, planned. For me, it is important to emphasise respect should always be a two-way street. “

Be a trusted advisor

Tomek Mlodzki, CEO of passport picture site PhotoAiD: “Respected leaders are valuable assets for every organisation. They help set the tone for the company culture and inspire employees to do their best work. Good leaders also know how to effectively communicate with their team and build relationships of trust.

“Comms professionals can play a vital role in helping leaders gain respect by acting as their counsellors and advisors. They can help leaders in crafting their messages, preparing for interviews, and handling crisis situations. They also have the ability to provide honest feedback that can help leaders improve their performance. By working closely with leaders, comms professionals can help them gain the respect they deserve.”

Check your own moral compass

Tim Gibbon, founder of communications consultancy Elemental: “Leaders are essential to advise, control, focus, guide and inspire. The make up of a business, especially a global business which touches many cultures, needs leaders who can steer a ship to direct individuals and teams on what they need to do and how to deliver on it.

“There’s a saying that you can’t polish a turd, but it’s possible to give leader profiles the proper framing. An image can be polished with suitable media, photographs, and supporting corporate social responsibility (CSR). However, marketers and PRs need to check their moral compasses to ensure that their presentation is realistic and accurate. Otherwise, they may find that they are switching from profile building to crisis management, where the fallout could be long-lasting and irreversible.

“It’s also the role of marketers and PR to keep leaders honest. It’s no longer possible for leaders to behave or have views at odds with what may be perceived as healthy for the organisations they are connected to. If the leader's thoughts, behaviour and actions (past or present) don’t align with popular opinion, it could amount to personal and professional disaster for a leader and, therefore, the organisation.

“Great PRs are prepared to challenge leaders if what they present is not aligned with decency.”

Sadly, there are too many leaders in the world who are not honest and decent, so you are doing society a service by supporting the kind of leaders who can make this planet a better place to live.

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