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James Holmes

Published on

November 29, 2018


CEO, company reputation, PR

Following an interview with Elon Musk, The New York Times ran its headline; “The Personal Toll of Tesla”. The consequence? Shares in Tesla sank 9% on the same day.

The article documented a year of impulsive comments and tracked the Spanish inquisition into Musk’s mental health as a consequence. In conclusion, Musk was beginning to erode Tesla’s reputation which was starting to affect its share price.

The impact of the ‘celebrity’ CEO

Musk is not alone. In the last two years the success or failure of ‘celebrity’ CEOs has become synonymous with the success or failure of the company they lead. Obvious examples include CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, and co-Founder of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein.

But other more low-key leaders are also impacting the reputation of their business, proving that it’s not just executives who pen an autobiography that influence a company’s reputation.

The result is company boards sacking their executive leadership faster than clubs of the Premier League, with the average tenure now below five years, down from a UK high of 8.3 years in 2010 according to PwC.

And the press statements are quite candid. No longer will you hear of CEOs leaving for ‘personal reasons’ or to ‘spend time with their family’. The media spotlight on leadership and best practice necessitates that companies are brutally honest.

This is because public trust in large corporations and CEOs has been in decline, and the rise of public criticism of executives has led to increased regulatory influence.

Coupled with the use of digital and the flow of news and data, a CEO has no choice but to be open and accountable. On the one hand, this constant flow of online news and commentary provides an opportunity to build a profile for the CEO. But as quickly as it can make a CEO, it can take it all away.

Creating a balance

So what’s the answer? Any respected CEO is regarded for their leadership of people, the inspiration they instil and their sense of purpose that drives them – purpose that is beyond profit.

These are the fundamentals of our LEWIS EXPRO programme, designed to build and manage the reputations of leaders, regardless of the company they lead.

We look to define personal goals beyond commercial objectives, and identify causes that CEOs can champion. We also chart their success and look to inspire others with their experience, and we manage their position of thought leadership, not just through PR but also through affiliations with educational institutions, charities, incubators, business groups and government-backed initiatives.

This way, a CEO is able to build little bit of separation between their own reputation from that of the company, which by today’s standards, makes commercial sense that shareholders won’t mind!

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