Updated July 30th, 2021
In 2021, your online presence has a greater impact on your reputation than ever. When people search for you or your company online, what they see on page 1 of Google search results makes up your first impression. As of January 2021, over 4.6 billion people were online – and this number is only growing.
What’s more, people are going online to learn more about businesses – and their CEOs. Over 80% of consumers report going online to learn more about a company, with 90% of consumers reporting that they would not frequent a business with a bad reputation.
What constitutes a bad reputation? While everyone can expect a bad review here and there, that hardly defines a bad reputation. Online, it comes down to what people see on page 1, particularly in the first few results. The top 3 search results in Google get over 75% of clicks, so these sites can have a significant impact on prospective customers and employees’ perspectives of you and your business.
But any visible negative result can have a significant impact. Negative results weigh heavier than positive results, and one negative result can lead a business losing up to 22% of prospective customers.
And people aren’t just looking for information, either. More and more, people are sharing their opinions online, on forums, social media platforms, and in the form of reviews. As of January 2021, global social media users reached 4.2 billion – over 50% of the population. What people are saying about you can have a significant impact on your business – nearly 80% of online users report trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends or family.
As more people go online, and go online to research and talk about businesses, the importance of a strong online presence for a CEO is vital, not only for your own career, but for the success of your company as well.
The modern age is a world of social media, which means that today’s CEOs are extremely visible, highly-scrutinized and under constant pressure. As the CEO of a company, you likely know that people can and will scrutinize everything about you online, from your facial expression in your company photograph to your Facebook posts from eight years ago.
In 2008, just 24% of the United States population had social media profiles. As of 2020, 223 million Americans were using social media – that is over two-thirds of the population.
These numbers might sound big, but the reality is even more staggering. Ask yourself, when was the last time you met a shareholder, a fellow professional, or a friend who didn’t have a Facebook page?
Actively managing your reputation and social media presence online doesn’t just impact how people see you, either. It can make you better at your role of CEO. According to a survey conducted by Development Dimensions International CEOs with an active online presence are 46% more influential, 52% stronger at compelling communication and 89% better at empowering others.
Many CEOs still fail to use their online reputation to their advantage. In fact, only 20% of CEOs are actively social online according to a 2017 analysis by CNBC. Social media isn’t all that matters for a CEO, either. Every result that appears on the first couple pages of Google is readily accessible to anyone who wants to use your reputation against you and your business.
Make no mistake, everything about you online impacts your career and your business. The tips below will help you take charge of your online reputation as a CEO for the betterment of your business:
1. Learn About Your Reputation
To know how to improve your reputation, first you have to understand what others are saying about you online. Devote some time to exploring what’s being said about you and your company online. Scour the first several pages of Google and learn about yourself and your company through the eyes of a shareholder or a consumer – although the majority of people do not go past the first page of results, it’s important for you to have a comprehensive view of your overall online presence. Build a bookmark folder of everything you can find about yourself online and update it regularly.
Even if there’s nothing negative, it’s valuable to take stock of how much positive content about you as a CEO exists online. This initial snapshot will give you an idea of what needs to be done, and how to develop your online reputation management strategy.
2. Give Up the Low-Profile Mindset
It is no longer possible for a CEO to maintain a low personal profile and complete personal privacy. The sooner you give up this mindset and embrace the spotlight, the better. If you’re not creating your reputation online, other people will do it for you, and they could hurt your business.
The best way to impact and improve your online reputation is to build and maintain an online presence yourself. If you lay low or don’t want to be findable online, it doesn’t mean people won’t want to find out about you, and if you don’t weigh in, people will only find what others are saying about you.
In short, when you step forward and accept the visible role of the modern CEO, you control your reputation. You also increase your worth, boost your business and help avoid potential legal problems. To maintain a positive image in the spotlight, remember to embrace transparency, which has become today’s standard for businesses and CEOs alike.
3. Match Your Personal Brand to Your Company Brand
A CEO is not an employee – a CEO is a brand. Most high-level businesspeople today are learning to see their professional images as a brand. Your brand isn’t just about you though, it must run parallel with your company branding if it’s to be of benefit to you.
How you appear as a professional should complement your business, simultaneously improving both your reputation and that of your organization. Consider your company’s brand and your brand separately and then find ways to blend them into a parallel brand for the most effective reputation management.
If you do have personal profiles online, keep them private. Social media platforms have privacy settings to help you keep your personal life private, which can help you maintain your public-facing brand without conflating it with your personal life.
4. Monitor Your Reputation
Assessing your reputation once isn’t enough. A CEO needs to know what’s being said the moment it hits the internet. Failure to notice negative content online in a timely manner could destroy you and your company with the fast-acting modern media.
Google Alerts, for example, can notify you anytime something new is published about you or your company. Any keywords relevant to you, your business, or your industry can be valuable to set up Google Alerts for.
If receiving regular updates about yourself or your business sounds distracting, don’t do it yourself. Many reputation-conscious CEOs delegate this task to a reputation expert to be certain nothing is overlooked.
5. Own Your Name
If your name is your brand, shouldn’t you own all aspects of it? Purchase the domains for your name in all forms that you use it. For example, if you go by Jane Smith and Jane Smith-Doe, you should own both www.janesmith.com and www.janesmithdoe.com.
This isn’t just for domain names, either. Secure your name in all possible web platforms and social media outlets. With nearly TWO BILLION active websites as of June 2021, it’s possible that you might not be able to own your name as a domain name.
In these cases, try adding your middle initial, using your first initial and your last name or adding a hyphen between your names. You can also contact the owner of your name’s domain and attempt to purchase it.
6. Hire a Crisis Manager
Whether you’re currently facing a crisis or preparing for the eventuality of one, you need to be prepared. Crisis management requires a crisis manager.
This means bringing on an expert to contain a crisis, to help you and your business recover from the crisis and to lessen the possibility of related incidents in the future, as well as the impact on your business itself.
If you are not experiencing or anticipating a reputation crisis, a crisis manager or online reputation expert still may be able to help you. A strong online reputation offers preventative crisis protection, so hiring a specialist to build your online presence can help mitigate the damage if or when a crisis occurs.
7. Push Dated and Negative Posts Down
If your Google search yielded several links to dated information and old images that no longer represent you and your business, push that content down. Since Google’s Freshness update in 2011, Google tends to prioritize newer content when it comes to what ranks prominently in results. If you don’t like what you see in results – or if outdated results are providing people with incorrect information – create your own, newer content to suppress those unfavorable results.
8. Create a Social Media Presence
Social CEOs who participate in social media build better connections with consumers, employees, and investors. They also create more transparency for the brand, rise faster as leaders, authentically engage stakeholders and inspire their teams to be more proactive when faced with challenges, according to the 2014 Global Social CEO Survey by BRANDfog .
The aforementioned survey also found that customers are more likely to purchase from a company whose values and leadership is represented through executive social media participation.
If you don’t have an active social media presence, or your social media is personal, start by making your personal accounts private – we’ve said it once, we’ll say it again – and create a professional account on all relevant platforms. Then create a posting schedule, connect with your followers through positive, authentic content and network through your field. A barren or inactive profile is about as useful as no profile at all, so only make the profiles you feel confident you can maintain.
9. Leverage LinkedIn and Other Professional Profiles
LinkedIn and other professional profiles can be valuable tools for a social CEO. Likewise, though, if you neglect these profiles they can mar your reputation. Customers, colleagues, employees, investors, future employers, and future business partners are all likely to look at your profiles on websites like LinkedIn, and this does impact your reputation.
A well-built LinkedIn profile, or any professional profile, should display a current headshot, your current position as CEO, y
our two most recent positions before CEO, your education history, your brand history, a profile summary, additional professional skills, as many recommendations as possible and organizations you support or volunteer work you participate in.
Linkedin is also a valuable tool for weighing in on industry conversation and sharing updates about your business.
10. Consider How Customers View Your Reputation
Before engaging with a business, many custom
ers consider and explore the online reputation of the CEO. As time goes on, the leadership of a company has more and more of an impact on a prospective customer’s perspective of the business. Before you post or say anything, consider how customers view your reputation and how your target audience will react. Make yourself approachable and accessible.
Take control of your reputation by pushing down negati
ve information, consider everything about yourself, your business or your brand from your target audience’s eyes.
11. Connect with Consumer Sentiment
Social CEOs commonly connect with employees, stakeholders, and colleagues online while neglecting to connect with consumer sentiment. Consumer sentiment is an economical statistic used as a barometer for economic policy, public policy, and stock markets.
Connect with the current consumer sentiment, understand it and take it into consideration for your posts, your professional image, your company culture, and your branding.
Connecting directly with your consumers is also critical – know who’s keeping your business alive, what your average customer likes, what customers dislike and what’s expected of modern workplaces.
A great opportunity to do this is looking at social media comments and reviews. Customers will often be candid in these channels, and prospective customers often will take these comments to heart when considering your business. Not only auditing, but responding to these reviews, can have a tangible, positive impact on your business.
12. Connect with Employees
Encourage growth from within your company by connecting with employees. A CEO’s reputation and brand start with the people they work with. Consider how you want employees and colleagues to view you and personify that online.
By focusing on your connection with employees and making yourself accessible, available and humble, you can quickly build a powerful team. Employees who are dedicated to their CEO perform better, bring new ideas to the workplace and offer a line of defense if or when a crisis strikes your company.
13. Revamp Company Culture
Your company culture will receive almost as much attention as you do. As the CEO, you can boost your reputation and improve your company’s standing in the eyes of the public by revamping company culture.
Research modern company culture in your industry, establish a positive presence on diversity in the workplace, and involve your employees in creating a new office environment. Check in regularly with your employees to see what changes need to be made.
When you revamp company culture, you have the perfect opportunity to hire a reputation manager who can create positive content about the change. This draws attention to new, exciting changes made by your company while pushing down negative or dated content.
14. Consider Your Investors
An investor will almost always research your online reputation before putting money anywhere. As the CEO of the company, it is your responsibility to consider your investors when designing every element of your branding.
For example, a single negative post from a positive company’s CEO can imply, in the eyes of an investor, structural instability, decreasing the perceived value of your business. A successfully-social CEO, on the other hand, attracts new investors while wowing existing shareholders.
You can also reach out to investors through sites like LinkedIn to establish new connections yourself, using your online reputation to your advantage.
15. Always Communicate Professionally
Consider your image as a professional. Does a successful, reputable CEO engage in online bickering? Does a respected CEO make flippant posts on social media or respond defensively to negative comments?
Regardless of the situation or platform, always communicate professionally. Employees, consumers, investors, and colleagues can see any online communication you post and will judge you accordingly. What’s more, 96% of consumers report reading business’ responses to other reviews, so your responses can have a significant impact on people researching you or your business online.
Delegating your posts and communications to an expert remove room for error on your part, ensuring that your emotions never get the best of a situation.
16. Establish Yourself as a Pioneer
Great CEOs are pioneers of their field. They break new ground, bravely venture into new territory and embrace modern changes before or in step with their competitors. If you’re a pioneer in your field, you’ll receive media attention for the positive waves you’ll make, and this can quickly push down negative content.
The more posts online that show you in a positive light, portraying you as a pioneer and a leader, the bigger wall you build around yourself to defend against negative content. As a pioneer in your field, you’ll also appear on the radar for a variety of potential new customers, investors, employees, partners, and employers.
17. Generate Positive Media Attention and Exposure
Establishing yourself as a pioneer in your field is just one of many ways to generate positive media exposure. Research new ways to get your name and your business in the news. For example, CEOs attending volunteer events and fundraisers often make headlines, stirring up public interest and discussion.
Hiring a PR specialist to locate opportunities for media attention and exposure that portrays your brand as you’ve designed it is the easiest way to do this. Delivering seminars, making donations, giving speeches about world events and offering useful resources to the public are just a few examples of other ways you can get more media attention.
18. Prepare for the Worst
For most businesses, it is not a matter of if you’ll find yourself in court, or in the middle of a PR crisis, but when. The same can be said for today’s CEOs. Even if you feel certain you’ll never be involved with a lawsuit or an onslaught of negative news, make everything to do with your reputation and your businesses practices court-proof.
Hire legal assistance and design a plan to prepare your business for legal involvement. Not only can legal representation protect you and your business, but a legal professional can work to eliminate libelous claims online through methods such as cease and desist orders.
19. Follow a Long-Term Reputation Strategy
As a CEO, you’ll need a multifaceted approach to fixing and improving your online reputation. You won’t be able to fix it all at once and you won’t be able to cut corners, but a long-term, multifaceted approach will turn your online reputation into an asset instead of a liability.
Make room in your company’s budget for reputation management and work with an expert to develop a plan. Understand the realistic timeframe for pushing down bad results and fixing your company’s reputation, and then commit to your strategy. Though you won’t see results overnight, a comprehensive, ongoing reputation strategy that receives regular modification will change how people view you online.
20. Put Your Revamped Reputation to Use
A positive reputation means more than an impressive CV and a thriving company. Social CEOs can put their reputations to use, attracting new customers and fostering growth in their businesses.
Once you’ve hired experts, eliminated negative search results and established yourself as a pioneer, the front page of Google becomes one of your biggest selling points.
Furthermore, your website and professional profiles represent your new résumé. LinkedIn is designed to display résumé information in a modern, online-accessible format. You might not want to delete your CV and letters of recommendation, but you can present them on the solid foundation of an excellent reputation to great success.
As the CEO of your company, you have the potential to become your brand’s greatest ambassador. Tips like those above can completely change how the public views you and your company.
Today, 87% of people believe a CEO’s reputation to be integral to the company’s reputation. Furthermore, 83% of people surveyed in the US and 73% of people surveyed in the UK feel that social CEOs can build stronger connections with investors, employees, and customers. Those numbers will continue rising as the world moves closer to total connection.
There’s no better time than now to fix your reputation. The greater your visibility and presence is as a CEO, the higher you and your company will be valued. You can improve your company’s success and income, and thus your own success and income, by renovating your online reputation.