Finance

Recently, Management Today reported on a survey of employees to determine the 25 most popular CEO’s in the UK. These 25 CEO’s obviously have a great offline reputation, but how does their online reputation compare? Is a glowing offline reputation mirrored online? We took a look…

The importance of a CEO’s reputation

A CEO is the face of their company. Figures quoted by Brandon Gaille, a business internet marketing expert, show that a CEO’s reputation will have a direct effect on profit margins. Most importantly, 60% of customers said that a CEO’s reputation influences whether to utilise their business’ services. The statistics also proved a staggering 95% of people said that a CEO’s reputation would influence whether they would invest in their company.

25 most popular CEO’s

Meanwhile, 88% of people said that a CEO’s reputation would influence their perception of whether a company is a good place to work. A new poll of UK workers reported on by Management Today shows which CEO’s have the best reputation with their staff.

Google CEO Larry Page won with an impressive rating of 99%.  He was closely followed by American Express CEO Ken Chenault at 98%, Three CEO David Dyson at 97%, HomeServe CEO Martin Bennett who also scored 97%, and rounding out the top five, EasyJet CEO Carolyn McCall at 96%.

CEO’s need a positive reputation online

These are the CEO’s who have a positive reputation with almost all of their employees. But is this reflected in their online reputations? With customers increasingly using the internet as a resource to research a company before making a purchase decision; a CEO’s online reputation is just as important as their offline reputation. A survey carried out by BrightLocal in 2014, for example, shows that 88% of customers now trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Google is a vital component of a CEO’s reputation online. The first page of a Google search garners 92% of all search traffic, according to a study carried out by Chitika. In other words, if unwanted content appears on the first page of a Google search for a CEO’s name, it’ll be seen by their firm’s customer base and damage their reputation. This demonstrates that CEO’s need to manage their reputations online if they want to ensure that unwanted content doesn’t impact their company’s bottom line.

How effective are the top five CEO’s on this list at handling their online reputations? We can use the first page of a Google search for these CEO’s names as a benchmark. First up is Google CEO Larry Page.

Larry Page

A Google employee in London said of the firm’s Senior Managers: “Overall, I admire Google’s senior management, I think they’re smart, they try to do the right thing and more than at any other company I’ve worked for, they put the company’s interests first.”

How does this compare with the first page of a search for Page’s name on his own company’s search engine? Larry Page is an example of how professionals should do online reputation management. There isn’t a single piece of unwanted content; the first slot, which according to the Chitika study garners 33% of all search traffic, is his Wikipedia page.

This is followed by articles on high-authority sites such as Forbes, Vanity Fair and Business Insider that position Page as a thought-leader in his industry. Positive PR articles like these on trustworthy and high-traffic sites are great for online reputation, along with pages that he owns such as his Google+ and LinkedIn accounts.

Ken Chenault

Now we move on to American Express CEO Ken Chenault. A Sales Manager in London said of the company’s senior management team: “Senior management have done a great job of attracting and retaining good people, which drives the company’s success. Maintaining this should be their priority.”

Google “Ken Chenault” and you’ll soon see that his first page resembles Larry’s. His Wikipedia profile claims the top spot, whilst the rest of the spots are filled by profiles and editorials that position him as a business innovator.

With articles about Chenault showing on Fortune, Bloomberg and NBC News on the first page of Google’s results, you immediately get the impression that he’s a highly influential and successful man.

David Dyson

Next we have Three CEO David Dyson. Three customer service in Maidenhead said of the CEO: “Dave Dyson is the best CEO I have experienced, I trust him completely.”

However, a search for “David Dyson” on Google provides mixed results. There are good things; his LinkedIn profile and an editorial on ‘quad play’ that positions him as a thought-leader. Yet he doesn’t own the page; another “David Dyson” appears. Unwanted content in the form of an “open letter to David Dyson” has also crept onto the bottom of the page.

A Wikipedia page for another David Dyson – an American bassist – and a website for David Dyson the photographer both also show on the first page. Dyson could improve his online reputation by improving his own social media profiles and making a conscious effort to update them regularly, and by producing thought-leadership content for high-authority publications.

Martin Bennett

Let’s turn our attention to Martin Bennett, the CEO of HomeServe. His leadership was described as “passionate” and “honest” by the company’s UK Head of Learning Operations in Walsall. It may be because he has a fairly common name, but he doesn’t own the first page of a search for his name. This means he has no control of how unwanted content effects his reputation online.

A search for “Martin Bennett HomeServe” however returns the right Martin, but again, the content shown on the first page of results doesn’t position him as a thought-leader or influential CEO. There are some good press articles about him on high-authority sites such as Bloomberg, The FT and The Telegraph, but they’re just reporting on him being announced as CEO.

With these publications clearly interested in reporting on Martin, he should be taking advantage of this to push some expert content out and position himself as a thought-leader. He’d also improve his results by creating some more profiles of himself on high-traffic business, finance and economy focused sites.

Carolyn McCall

Last but not least is EasyJet CEO Carolyn McCall. A Team Manager in Luton said of the CEO: “Carolyn is hugely respected and has delivered a very high performing organisation. Yet a Google search for her name shows that she’s not all that respected by the online press.

There are some good things; her Wikipedia page claims the top spot and the page features several profiles. However, the page also features a range of articles that cast her in a questionable light; The Guardian, The FT and The Telegraph all claim first page results with an article about Carolyn taking home a £7.7m pay package. These are high-authority and trustworthy sites, meaning they’re likely to have a damaging impact on her reputation.

Carolyn should be fighting this bad press with good press, using her business expertise to provide comment and thought-pieces to influential sites.

Professional reputation management

This brief analysis shows us that offline perception isn’t always reflected online. David Dyson, Martin Bennett and Carolyn McCall are all highly-respected; but unwanted content still appears on the first page of a Google search of their names.

In contrast, Larry Page and Ken Chenault have both utilised social media profiles, Wikipedia pages, profile pieces and influential editorial to develop reputations as experts and thought-leaders in their respective industries, providing them with a positive image online.

A professional can cultivate a positive reputation online – but it requires a bit of work and management to mirror the offline perception with the online. With the CEO’s role being fundamental to a business’ success; it’s important that CEO’s take care of their professional online reputation, because as well as improving the business’ reputation, it can also help to future-proof against a PR crisis.