NEW YORK, May 18, 2015 – Research released today from leading global public relations firm Weber Shandwick finds that 80% of the chief executive officers from the world’s top companies are now engaged online and via social media. CEO sociability has more than doubled since Weber Shandwick began tracking the social activities of chief executives in the firm’s first Socializing Your CEO study in 2010, when only 36% of CEOs were social.
“CEOs can enhance and strengthen the reputation of their companies by taking an active and visible role in creating and sharing branded content through their company sites and social media,” said Chris Perry, global president of Digital, Weber Shandwick. “The proliferation of sources, the unpredictability of news cycles and the explosion of new, highly visual media formats can be a challenge to any company, but it’s also a massive opportunity to engage and connect.”
Given the increasingly strong link between reputation and online CEO engagement, Weber Shandwick is committed to understanding how CEOs adopt and leverage social media and other web-based platforms. In its latest report, Socializing Your CEO III: From Marginal to Mainstream, Weber Shandwick researched the online activities of CEOs from the top 50 companies in the 2014 Fortune Global 500 ranking, including 17 CEOs from the U.S., 19 from Europe, 11 from Asia Pacific (APAC) and three from Latin America (LatAm). The firm audited a range of sites and platforms to see how those CEOs are engaging socially and compared these results to its 2010 and 2012 findings.
Rise in Usage of Multiple Channels Drives CEO Sociability to a Record High
Weber Shandwick’s 2014 audit found that CEOs from the world’s top companies are visible on their company website (68%), company YouTube channel (38%) and social networks (28%). Increased use of these three platforms contributed significantly to the increase in CEO sociability overall.
|% Social CEOs
“CEOs have made a remarkable transition from a point in time when being social was considered risky. It’s now crystal clear that having an online engagement strategy that extends through multiple channels is a reputational imperative for business leaders today,” said Leslie Gaines-Ross, Weber Shandwick’s chief reputation strategist. “CEOs who embrace online communications have an opportunity to tell their company story and connect with broader networks of stakeholders than ever before.”
The growth in sociability suggests that companies and their executives recognize the importance of online engagement in today’s digital world. Communicating online is the norm for today’s CEOs rather than the practice of a select few. Additionally, CEOs realize that they need to use various channels of engagement to communicate with a diverse stakeholder set. One form of communication no longer suffices under today’s demand for transparency and engagement.
Other findings from Socializing Your CEO III include:
The Company Website Continues its Surge. The company website is the top destination for CEO communications with nearly seven in 10 CEOs (68%) having a presence that includes more than just their name or standard biography page. The rapid rise in the use of company websites from 32% in 2010 and 50% in 2012 reflects the trend of companies becoming self-publishers of news and information. “CEOs must recognize and accept their role as central figures in corporate content and social media programs,” Perry said.
Corporate Video is Fast Becoming a CEO Standard. CEO corporate video usage, either on the company website or company YouTube channel, is three times as high as it was in 2010. Over half of the CEOs in the audit (54%) now appear in company video, whether that is found on the company website (44%) or YouTube (38%). CEOs shouldn’t overlook the powers of visual influence in today’s multi-media world.
2014: A Record Year for Social Networks. After two years of little growth, the proportion of CEOs in the audit with a social network account jumped to 28% from below 20% in past years. The rate of CEOs using LinkedIn nearly quadrupled since 2012, making LinkedIn the most popular social network for top executives in 2014. Twitter also contributed to the growth in social network use. It now appears that CEOs are more confident about how to use Twitter without causing alarm and reputational harm.
U.S. CEOs are on the Leading Edge of Social; Europe is Not Far Behind. U.S. CEOs surpass their peers in Europe and APAC in terms of sociability. Nearly all of the U.S. CEOs in the 2014 audit were social (94%). However, European CEOs have made great leaps in sociability over the past few years and are catching up to U.S. CEOs. APAC CEOs are less social than those in the U.S. and Europe and did not experience any growth since 2012.
|% Social CEOs by Region*
*LatAm not shown due to small sample size
A Look at the Most Powerful Women in Business. Weber Shandwick also analyzed the sociability of the female executives on Fortune’s Global Most Powerful Women (MPW) list. The analysis found that 76% of the women in the MPW audit are social. MPWs are more likely to be on their company website (60%) than on the company YouTube channel (40%) or social networks (30%). On social networks specifically, MPWs are most likely to be on LinkedIn (26%) and Twitter (14%).
Tips for CEO Social Engagement
Weber Shandwick recommends that companies and their executives adopt the following strategies to optimize their online storytelling to help bolster their reputations and the reputations of their respective organizations. Our report details nine recommendations with five of them highlighted below.
- Socialize the executive bench. Sociability starts below CEO level. As we see from assessing the sociability of the most powerful women in business, sociability begins before taking the top job. Those executives who have the social know-how when they step up to CEO will have an advantage over the competition and may even have brighter career prospects.
- Choose platforms wisely. Find the right social vehicle for CEOs, especially those who are hesitant to be social. CEO sociability is inevitable, so they need to embrace it in some form.
- Listen closely. For those CEOs still hesitant to embrace social media, listening and watching should be the first step. Monitoring the online conversation is a way to gather data on stakeholders and gauge what is being said about their companies.
- Embrace a “media company mindset.” Take hold of the trend in narrating the company story and use the company website as a media platform to publish content. Feature the CEO regularly, even if it is footage from a speaking engagement or a snippet from a town hall meeting.
- Socialize the CEO’s biography. The CEO’s biography or profile on the company website is a central place to show off a CEO’s assets. If the CEO has social networks, link to these profiles from the CEO’s bio.
About The Research
Weber Shandwick researched the online activities of CEOs from the top 50 companies in the 2014 Fortune Global 500 ranking. The list included 17 CEOs from the U.S., 19 from Europe, 11 from Asia Pacific (APAC), and three from Latin America (LatAm). Weber Shandwick audited a range of sites and platforms to see how CEOs are engaging socially and compared these results to its 2010 and 2012 findings. CEOs are considered “social” if he or she does at least one of the following:
- Has a public and verifiable social network account
- Engages on the company website through messages (e.g., letters, quotes), pictures or video
- Appears in a video on the company YouTube channel
- Authors an external blog (i.e., one that is not only accessible to company employees)
Weber Shandwick’s definition of a social CEO extends beyond social networks because the firm recognizes that social media usage and confidence vary across the world. For some companies, just having a corporate website is a tremendous feat and their CEOs should be acknowledged for engaging through that venue.
About Weber Shandwick
Weber Shandwick is a leading global public relations firm with offices in 81 countries. The firm’s diverse team of strategists, analysts, producers, designers, developers and campaign activators has won the most prestigious awards in the world for innovative, creative approaches and impactful work, including being honored as an Ad Age A-List Agency in 2014 and 2015, PRWeek’s 2015 Global Agency of the Year and The Holmes Report’s 2014 Global Agency of the Year. Weber Shandwick and its Prime unit have won a combined 23 Cannes Lions since 2009. Weber Shandwick was also named a Best Place to Work by Ad Age in 2014 and PRWeek in 2013 and 2014. The firm deploys deep expertise across sectors and specialty areas, including consumer marketing, corporate reputation, healthcare, technology, public affairs, financial services, corporate social responsibility, financial communications and crisis management, using proprietary social, digital and analytics methodologies. Weber Shandwick is part of the Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG). For more information, visit https://www.webershandwick.com/.