Public Relations in a Wired World: Why the CEO’s Reputation Can Make or Break a Company’s Reputation
Many factors work to shape a company’s reputation both online and offline. Because today’s consumers are so open to sharing their experiences with the whole Internet, they play a huge role in shaping the reputation of companies. Whether it’s posting a review about a business on Facebook or a review site, or uploading a review video on YouTube, consumers have the power to influence the public’s perception of a company.
Personal recommendations from satisfied customers can also make or break a company. In short, fostering a good reputation can help companies thrive, while allowing a bad reputation to fester can lead to a company’s downfall.
The need to maintain a good reputation weighs heavily on the minds of CEOs who understand the need to actively market a positive corporate image. In fact, the most successful companies are not only focused on keeping their customers happy, but also go out of their way to promote a corporate image that elicits admiration, trust, and respect from the public.
The CEO’s Reputation Can Boost or Burst a Company’s Reputation
“Be everywhere, do everything, and never fail to astonish the customer.” – Macy’s Motto
Macy’s (@Macys) executives clearly understand the profound influence their customers have on the company’s reputation. They are constantly dazzling their customers with sparkles, parades, and great sales on quality merchandise. Most customers have only great things to say about the company, and Macy’s makes sure of it. That’s the way to do business.
“If the shopper feels like it was poor service, then it was poor service. We are in the customer perception business.” – Mark Perreault, Rally Stores
Mark Perreault, owner of Rally Stores (@RallyStores), understands his customers well. In this statement, he indirectly admits to listening to his customers and taking personal responsibility when his company is in the wrong (and probably even when they’re not). It’s apparent that he and his business partner, Bud Risser, truly value their customer’s perceptions and view it from an enlightened vantage point.
There are countless CEOs and business owners who live by similar mottos and beliefs. They run their businesses and marketing campaigns based on those beliefs. On the other hand, there are also CEOs and business owners that have made all kinds of fatal missteps and got burned when the public began to view them in an unfavorable light.
In 2013, an interview originally published in the magazine Salon in 2006 suddenly went viral. The then CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch (@Abercrombie), Mike Jeffries, made this statement in the interview:
“We go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.” – Mike Jeffries, former CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch
Customers went crazy on social media and there was an intense backlash against Abercrombie & Fitch. People went as far as to donate their A&F apparel to the homeless and less fortunate, just to make a point that the brand could be for anyone.
The results of that controversial (and to many) offensive statement ended in a faltering brand image, rapidly decreasing sales, and failing strategies to regain their customer’s support. The financial effects hit Abercrombie & Fitch when the company’s shares were lowered by 35% over a six month period. And all of that reflected back on the CEO, who, in December 2014, stepped down after seeing his compensation slashed by 72% that year.
Customers look to the CEO as the face of the company; hence, these CEOs need to mind what they say and how they say it. As the inspirational Simon Sinek once said:
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek, Motivational Speaker
When consumers can relate to the company’s beliefs, which are created by the CEO consciously or not, they end up regarding the company more highly. When they cannot relate, consumer’s support for the company dwindles, with all the accompanying negative consequences.
A CEO’s beliefs and reputation have the power to influence not only the customers, but the employees, business partners, and every other aspect of the business. If a CEO encounters problems with his or her reputation, it would be advisable for him or her to look within for the solutions and evaluate his or her beliefs, above all else.
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