Why CEOs Should Plan To Go Social In 2013

Last year, the Edelman Trust Survey showed that only 38% of people/consumers around the globe trust CEOs. But yet when it comes to dealing with and responding to a global crisis of any sort, CEOs are expected to be up-front and centre, showing their concern and connecting with the public in a positive way. But with only 38% of us actually trusting CEOs, this makes a company or organization’s job much harder when it comes to building trust in a crisis.

In fact, trust should not be built in a crisis, but rather strengthened. Trust is something that should be built way before a crisis, and in truth, should be part of every business and organization’s pre-crisis planning and strategy.

Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross, Chief Reputation Strategist for Weber Shandwick, recently wrote in an article titled “Reputation Trends for 2013 — Now and Ahead“:

“2013 will bring a greater focus on social reputations, be it for companies or CEOs. Companies that are truly social and engage their employees and customers in genuine conversation will be recognized as the new corporate leaders. CEOs who are social will be the next new thing. In a 2012 IBM study among CEOs from 64 countries and across 18 industries, only 16 percent participated in social media. Yet, that figure is expected to rise to 57 percent within the next five years. New research from Weber Shandwick to be released at the start of the New Year confirms that CEOs are increasingly mustering up the courage to go social and show their human side. As tasti-D-lite’s chairman and CEO James Amos said in his new book on how his company went social, “the future is human.””

Although many will argue that it depends on the company or organization at hand, the truth is that crises don’t discriminate against industry type or company size. And when a crisis strikes, you’d better believe that it will find itself being circulated and talked about online. For this reason, being active on social media and building a trusting relationship with your market online is a strategy that every single brand should be focusing on in 2013. As for the CEO’s and whether or not they should be connecting with their market and audience on social media, well, considering that the trust of their audience comes in great hand in a crisis, it most certainly wouldn’t hurt!

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A 2012 CEO, Social Media and Leadership Survey, by BrandFog.com, showed us that:

“When asked about the connection between executives on social media and trust in a brand: 82% of respondents were more likely or much more likely to trust a company whose CEO and leadership team engage with social media.”


“93% of respondents believe that CEO engagement in social media helps communicate company values, shape a company’s reputation, and grow and evolve corporate leadership in times of crisis.”

We’re living and working in a social age, where what we do and say, and with whom we interact online has a major impact on our business’s reputation and bottom-line. The front-line employees who connect with and build relationships with their audience on social media are both liked and trusted by their customers and market. Why should CEOs and executives not be taking the same approach? Especially when you consider the benefits of such a strategy:

  • Building and strengthening the trust you share with your customers and market
  • Developing relationships with industry bloggers, the media and others – which have substantial value in a crisis
  • Trust isn’t just good for crisis communications – it’s great for sales and reputation management as well!

So should your CEO be actively building a positive and trusting personal brand online? As Dr. Gaines-Ross said “CEOs who are social will be the next new thing” – and I completely and whole-heartedly agree.

photo by: Michigan Municipal League (MML)

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