Only 14% of Execs Say CEOs Have Good Reputation

June 22, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories: Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Brand Metrics | PR | Social Media

Two-thirds of US corporate executives believe that the reputation of CEOs in general is largely negative, and most agree that this reputation can only be fixed if CEOs become more accountable and communicate more openly, according to a survey conducted by Weber Shandwick with KRC Research.

Only 14% of executives rated CEOs reputation as positive, while another 20% were non-committal, the survey found.

When asked how CEOs can rebuild the public’s trust in them, executive respondents overwhelmingly say that the road to redemption requires publicly taking responsibility when their firms are in crisis (90%), as well as tying CEO compensation to performance (83%).
Other important tactics for rebuilding reputation, according to the survey:


  • Holding more face-to-face meetings with employees (68%)
  • Publicly speaking up for themselves and their companies (54%).
  • Being more transparent (52%)
  • Issuing regular CEO updates about their business outlook (52%).

Social Media Not Key to Rebuilding

Interestingly, respondents in the survey believe that the least effective way for CEOs to rebuild trust is by using social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to communicate with stakeholders (12%). Previous Weber Shandwick research found that executives are just beginning to use and feel comfortable with social media. This may provide a reason for their lack of trust in it now, the firm said.

CEO Aspirations Still Exist

Despite CEOs’ current low approval rating, approximately one out of two executives (49%) report being interested in becoming CEO one day, virtually unchanged from earlier findings. Even those executives who rate CEOs’ reputation poorly are surprisingly upbeat about one day accepting a CEO position (48%), the survey found.


The top reason given for wanting to be CEO is the desire to lead and impact a company’s or industry’s future. Other reasons include dealing with business challenges, driving company growth, and achieving career advancement and personal reward.

The major reasons given for not wanting to be CEO are excessive pressure and public scrutiny, while some respondents say they are satisfied with their current position or do not want to sacrifice their current work-life balance.

“I just think that the pressure and public opinion that’s put on a CEO is tremendous right now,” said one executive in the survey. “I’m not sure it’s worth the compensation for the pressure, at this point.”

Reputation Recovery in 2013

Executives estimate that it will take an average of 3? years for the collective reputation of CEOs to fully recover. This estimate means that reputation recovery would take place sometime in 2013 assuming no other business catastrophes intervene.

About the survey: A total of 151 US executives at Fortune 1,000 firms -? nearly two-thirds of which have global operations – were surveyed by telephone from late April through late May 2009.

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