Category Archives: Executive Visibility


January 10, 2014 | ccoakley | Tagged , , ,

5 Reputation Resolutions for CEOs

We are two weeks deep into 2014 and CEOs are facing another year of great uncertainty marked with political and market instability that can dampen executive leadership and governance. Merciless economic movements, the waxing and waning consumer confidence, and Congress’ inaction—these are the great “unmanageable” variables that CEOs have tried their hardest to manage. In the process, CEOs regularly miss another vital factor, one that is arguably more important and manageable. Reputation.

A strong corporate or executive reputation has just as much weight as a deft financial/business investment in driving company profitability and growth. So for the New Year, we’re laying out 5 reputation resolutions for CEOs to amplify their professional and organization’s positions.

1. Internal is the next reputation frontier

In the past few years, challenging economic and employment conditions have made it difficult for employees to change jobs and advance their careers, giving the upper hand to employers. However, 2014 is likely to be the year tables turn in the favor of employees and the war for skilled talent intensifies even more. In fact, according to the Hay Group, global employee turnover is expected to increase by 12.9 percent in 2014 compared to 2012.

What does this mean to a CEO? Focus on the inside. Employees can be your best reputation advocates. But, too many leaders think of reputation solely from an external lens and do not pay enough attention to building the brand internally. So, in order to hold on to your most valued professionals make sure to talk and listen to them.

2. Communicate.

Most leaders are well aware of the fact that a good reputation creates advocates for a company, both among employees and customers. But, you can’t create advocates without effective communication. So in today’s reputation economy, where stakeholders demand executive engagement, get involved. Participate in periodic town halls and internal meetups to shape the debate rather than sitting on the sidelines, because the conversation will continue on with or without you.

3. Make social media your reputation driver

As of last August, there were 28 Fortune 500 CEOs on Twitter, up from 18 in 2012. Not quite the number you would hope for, given how studies have proven that the more social a CEO is, the more likely the company is to find untapped value, feedback and collaboration both in and outside the organization.

Social CEOs have the potential to use social platforms as reputation and loyalty drivers with critical stakeholders. But that requires active engagement, an authentic voice, fresh thinking, and perhaps most importantly, CEOs’ personal involvement. It is true that it takes years to build a brand like Richard Branson’s. But even if you’re not Branson, it is not too late to embrace social media as a way to build a bond with your stakeholders. If you do it right, you can create an army of brand ambassadors from customers to analysts to your employees.

4. Use big data to advance reputation and loyalty

People with access to more online distribution channels than ever before means little control over what’s said and shared about brands and their products. But it also means better insights that can prove invaluable to helping shape the future of your business. Big data is your friend. Use it to stay ahead of market trends and customer needs, ultimately advancing the reputation of your brand.

5. Own your role

The famous Peter Drucker once said that innovation and marketing are absolutely critical to company success. And he was right but there is one more leg to the table and that is the role of the CEO. As CEO, YOU are the voice of the brand, of your reputation. It’s well documented that almost 50 percent of a company’s reputation can be attributed to its CEO. Own it.

August 20, 2013 | cwinters | Tagged , , , , ,

CEOs Getting Social, Albeit Slowly.

The power and influence of social media is undeniable.

It has risen to be the No. 1 activity on the Internet (I’ll let you figure out what it overtook…). There are now over 1 billion users on Facebook. If it were a country, it would be the world’s third largest. Every second, two new members join the LinkedIn club. And the fastest growing social network in 2013…Twitter, with the fastest growing age demographic of 55-64 year olds, registering an increase in active users of 79 percent.

So considering that, in today’s social-dominated world, CEOs of top corporations must be tapping in to these networks to uncover invaluable insights regarding their customers, competitors, and well just about every one else, right?

Well, no, not really it seems.

According to a new report released by Domo and, 68 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have absolutely no presence on any major social network.

When compared to last year, things look slightly better on the surface. A whopping ten new CEOs – a 56 percent increase from 2012 – joined the Twittersphere in 2013, most notably Warren Buffet from Berkshire Hathaway (who hasn’t tweeted since his first day on the site and still amassed over half-a-million followers). Presence on LinkedIn, the most popular channel for CEOs, also grew slightly, with a modest 9 percent increase since last year.

But look a little deeper, and things go from bad to worse. Of the 28 CEOs on Twitter, only 19 of them are “active”…that’s less than 4 percent of all Fortune 500 CEOs.

Why more CEOs aren’t rushing to “get social” remains a mystery. But considering the proven benefits, CEOs may want to at least start by wading in the pool.

August 10, 2012 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

Top 3 Social CEOs – Who Made the List, and What They Can Teach Us

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the lack of social engagement among CEOs, and the impact of this trend upon overall leadership and company positioning. However, social media isn’t totally lost within the C-suite. There are some CEOs who not only demonstrate their use of social media for effective thought leadership, but also demonstrate social media best practices in general.

Let’s lay some groundwork here. In my opinion, a socially effective C-suite is indicated by:

  • Engaging, trust-building stakeholder dialogue (versus push monologue)
  • Relevance to audiences, with quality content that adds value – indicated by an engaged response – rather than noise
  • Frequency and consistency

In no special order, below are my top picks.

1. The Transparent Engager – Sir Richard Branson, CEO, Virgin Group

Branson gives the appearance of self-managing his active social engagement, tweeting and blogging personal musings as well as thought leadership. Across platforms (including Facebook and Google+), he gives stakeholders a “peek behind the curtain” of his business empire, discussing R & D and business decisions. He’s blogged about the possibility of buying back Virgin Records, and directly invites followers to ask him questions on Twitter.

By being a (mostly) open book about business decisions, even if the proverbial sausage is still in the process of being made, Branson achieves transparency and trust. However, keeping a consistent, personal voice is what allows Branson to stay relevant. By default, his company gains trust and relevance from these humanizing stakeholder connections.

2. The Targeted Publisher – Michael Dell, CEO, Dell

Contrasting with Branson, Dell uses social – including Twitter and Google+ – to provide stakeholders with company news, rather than personal opinions, and positions himself as an authority on the tech industry in general. His engagement is a great example of fishing where your fish are. In the case of Dell’s “tech-y” community in which he aims to thrive, Google+ is an effective platform – even if it isn’t the most relevant place for other audiences.

3. The (Local) Dark Horse – John Pepper, CEO, Boloco

Although he is not yet a Fortune 500 CEO, Pepper – Founder and CEO of New England and D.C.-based burrito restaurant chain, Boloco – is exemplary in intertwining his own social presence with that of the brand. Although he uses @BolocoCEO as his Twitter handle, he also engages with those who tweet @boloco, personally thanking them for brand advocacy or constructive criticism.

Pepper also demonstrates a clear understanding that identifying with existing local communities (for example, posting videos on Google+ of Patriots game outings with his Massachusetts-based family) can help a smaller business stay relevant. Time will tell how big Boloco will get. But by making social media engagement a habit, Pepper gives me the confidence to say that he’ll likely continue to maintain this consistent, personal engagement.

These CEOs each use social media to build trust, and accelerate relevance. We know it can be done. But social media engagement is unfortunately still the exception in the C-suite, rather than the rule. The good news is, because most CEOs have not yet caught up, the opportunity still exists for yours to get social and stand out.

As communications professionals, we often look to compelling case studies to inspire our business strategies and get them right. So, why should our approach be any different when it comes to advising our leaders on their own communications strategies? Feel free to share other examples here, as more evidence of success.

July 23, 2012 | cwinters | Tagged , , , , ,

A Beginner’s Guide to Socializing Your CEO in Three Easy Steps

Every day, new studies arise that make the case for why your CEO needs to get social – and the benefits to employees, shareholders, customers and influencers alike. Social Media is a real-time focus group, you can “tune in” to hear what any of your constituencies are thinking, and more importantly, to see what they are doing – sharing, liking or otherwise endorsing.

From a CEO’s perspective, social media offers the kind of insight that typically requires an appearance on Undercover Boss to obtain. The relative anonymity of social media – which some suggest may be the very thing that is making the C-Suite socially shy – provides an opportunity for the kind of candid, authentic discussion a CEO may be hard pressed to find in a corner office.

If you are reading this post, odds are you are already listening….so where to begin? Facebook (friends can’t be bad!), Twitter (brevity is the soul of wit) or even Quora’s Q&A formats all have their own appeal; but wherever you choose to start, you can follow these three easy steps to getting socially active and engaged.

STEP 1: SHARE CONTENT & FACTS – Transparency and trust start at the top. Social media provides an excellent opportunity for sharing information about corporate developments, in the CEO’s own words and voice. Michael Dell is a CEO who shares corporate news on Twitter. Similarly, Bill Gates shares lots of information about the Gates Foundation, studies, successes and new projects they are funding.

But the real opportunity in sharing is to share about something beyond your company news. Everyone loves to know what is on a CEO’s mind. What are you reading? Watching? Thinking about? And don’t hesitate to share knowledge or news that came from someone else, either. The retweet is your friend here, and it won’t detract from your own personal thought leadership one bit. Just make sure you maintain your own voice in between retweeting, liking, or giving a +1 to someone else’s content on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, respectively.

STEP 2: SHARE INSIGHTS – We trust people, not companies. Social media provides the opportunity for individuals to feel they know you, and can trust you…as the primary trust ambassador of your Company. Once you’ve accomplished the basics of using social media as a distribution channel for your news of the day, consider sharing deeper insights. How do you move past “who,” “what” and “where” information and provide the “why” as a thought leader? What are your views on your industry? The economy? On Leadership? This is how a CEO of one company can become the voice of an entire industry. And this is how a leader can achieve a feeling of intimacy in a large organization or among a large audience. Frank Sorrentino of North Jersey Community Bank (an MWW client) does this really well.

Mark Cuban, for example, has a Twitter feed that mirrors his interests – from sports, to digital media to entrepreneurism, Cuban has a well-informed opinion and is always happy to share it. Cuban’s distinctive, “in-your-face” manner may not work for all CEOs, but it works for him. As a medium that welcomes such on-the-fly, brief thoughts, Twitter is the perfect place to voice these opinions – and often is the perfect place for your CEO to start his or her social media engagement.

STEP 3: CONNECT & ENGAGE — The final step in becoming a truly social CEO is for the CEO to begin engaging with people he or she follows on Twitter, hosting chats or hangouts on Google+, or otherwise exchanging ideas in real time with stakeholders. These activities may be moderated or un-moderated, screened or unscreened, depending upon the executive’s comfort level and that of legal counsel.

Richard Branson engages and connects on Twitter in his signature freewheeling style, mixing promotional tweets about various Virgin companies with queries to his follower base about environmental issues, management trends and product ideas. He promotes charities, political causes and inspirational or funny quotes with equal fervor.

Which CEOs do you like to follow via social media, and what can we learn from them? Share your thoughts and suggestions for CEOs to add to my list!


July 19, 2012 | cwinters | Tagged , , , ,

Who is right: Marissa Mayer or Sheryl Sandberg? Leadership Lessons from Working Moms

It isn’t every day that the newly appointed CEO of a mega-company says “My maternity leave will be a few weeks long. And I will work throughout it.”

It’s great to see companies appointing leaders who aren’t middle-aged white males. And it is great to see a Board of Directors recognize that someone’s vision, talent and ability to lead are more important than the fact that she might have something in addition to work in her life…like a family. But I’m not so sure we should begin applauding this move as evidence that the glass ceiling has been shattered. There is a leadership lesson here, for sure. But is it a good one?

On some levels, Marissa Mayer is probably like every ambitious, driven woman I’ve ever known (other than the Twitter trending topic and the CEO thing, of course). She’s just like me, 18 years ago. Pregnant with a first child, women everywhere believe that having a baby is no big deal – just one more thing to juggle into the mix, a few more items on the to do list. I remember wondering what I would do ALL DAY on maternity leave. I even cried my last day of work before my daughter was born. The only day I cried harder was the day I came back, after 10 weeks that flew by in a spit-up clouded haze.

So maybe her statement is the understandable naiveté of a soon-to-be first time mother. Maybe she will regret that promise; maybe she will go from the delivery room straight to the board room. That is between her, her husband and the Yahoo Board of Directors, and it shouldn’t be used to add fuel to the fire in the never-ending Mommy Wars.

No one would care if a newly-appointed male CEO was expecting a baby…it wouldn’t even be a topic of conversation, much less a headline. And few women are CEOs before they sunset their child-bearing years. So what’s the fuss? Didn’t we settle this issue somewhere around the time that Diane Keaton starred in Baby Boom? Didn’t Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg establish the Working Mom 2.0 profile a few weeks ago when she told the world it was OK to leave work to be home for dinner?

It is hard to know if Marissa Mayer’s appointment despite her pregnancy is a victory for working women everywhere. Or if her commitment to working throughout her maternity leave sets an impossible standard that all women will feel pressured to emulate.

It is easy to chalk this one up to personal choice. But when you are talking about C-level leaders, their personal choices take on greater significance. Leadership is demonstrated, not discussed – what you do is more important than what you say. So Yahoo and Marissa Mayer can tell employees that they can, should or even must take their vacation, their parental leave or their sabbaticals. But will anyone believe her? Or will there be an unspoken pressure, at Yahoo, or among working women everywhere, to wear their shortened maternity leave or unused vacation days like a badge of honor?

Who do you think is right: Marissa Mayer, or Sheryl Sandberg? Let the debate begin.

July 17, 2012 | cwinters | Tagged , , , , ,

Socializing the C-Suite: Stop the Excuses, Start the Engagement

Social media is here to stay. Yet there is one group that has been slow to acceptance – the C-Suite. And it isn’t because they don’t get it – this IBM study of 1,700 CEOs across 64 countries demonstrates that CEOs are aware of the transformative power of social media. Yet 70 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs don’t participate in social media…at all.

Social commitment phobes often cite the time involved to be truly engaged, but underlying the fear of time is fear of the unknown. They believe that social media is the wild, wild west – uncontrollable, dangerous and out in the public square, leaving them exposed and vulnerable.

Understandable. For people who have their calls screened, their travel carefully orchestrated and their schedules planned and managed like a military operation, that is exactly the point. Access, insight and engagement with customers, employees and influencers can improve your competitive position, and some would argue, benefit shareholders as well.

Here are the three biggest reasons about why clients won’t take the social plunge that we hear at MWW…and the antidotes:

No time/can’t make the commitment – social media lends itself well to the time crunched, moving in a million directions executive. It is quick, easy and works in headlines, rather than novellas. ING Canada’s CEO Peter Aceto has some great advice on how to schedule tweets in advance, and keep it authentic.

No one is really paying attention This BRANDfog study makes some pretty compelling points, and focuses on CEO participation in social rather than the brand: 93 percent believe a Social CEO improves reputation in good times and bad; 82 percent are more likely to trust a company with a social CEO, 81 percent think a Social CEO is a better equipped leader; 77 percent are more likely to buy a product or service from a company with a Social CEO. And that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the role of a social profile in garnering more traditional media attention.

My peers aren’t doing it - Isn’t that the point? Leaders go first. And while your current peers may not be doing it – your scrappier, growing competitors probably are – and they are using it to engage your customers and your employees to grow their business. Joining the ranks of @MichaelDell, @BillGates and @richardbranson might be the kind of company your CEO should keep.

What excuses are you making, or hearing, about avoiding social media, and how do you combat them? Please share your stories and advice.

November 22, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Labor Unions Are Evolving…But Do They Still Matter?

When you think of labor leadership, what comes to mind? If you are thinking of the tough talking prototype portrayed in the movie Hoffa, think again. Labor unions and their members have massively changed in the past generation – 1/3 have college degrees, nearly half are women, and only 1 in 10 work in manufacturing. And their leadership is changing with it.

This NYT piece profiles three labor leaders who are women…that’s right, women. And they aren’t the heads of nurses or teachers unions.

Some would argue that this is simply a reflection of the changing demographic – but I think it is more than that. Today’s labor leaders live in an increasingly complex world, where the old style game of “chicken” that characterized negotiations may no longer be effective. As states entertain right-to-work policies, governors play hard ball with public employee unions and concessionary contracts become commonplace, the ability for a leader to create communities, build consensus and advance compromise as an acceptable, even successful outcome, has never been greater.

As I read about these women, there is a notable absence of “scorched earth” in their success stories, and an increased focus on being more broadly relevant to their communities at large – not just their immediate membership. This is a model that would serve leaders of all kinds well. Iconic leaders don’t just represent their own company, their own employees, or their own customers – they are the voice of an industry, or of the business at large. They stimulate conversation on broadly relevant issues. They lead.

August 1, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

Leadership Lesson: Trust Begins at Home

If you read this blog, you already know that I love the Sunday columns in the New York Times, especially “Corner Office.” This week’s column features the new CEO of Siemens, and reaffirmed many of the things I’ve long believed, advocated and practiced about CEO transitions….you begin by listening, trust is earned and the importance of diversity of thought and experience in the team that surrounds a CEO (A place where the “yes-men” phenomenon tends to thrive).

But what really caught my attention was the emphasis on trust…internally…as the foundation of great teams. At MWW Group, our POV is simple, and straightforward:


Typically, and particularly in our current environment, the discussion of trust centers largely around earning and preserving the trust of your stakeholders – mostly customers, investors and other external constituencies.

The notion that teams can’t function well…that leaders can’t effectively lead…unless there is trust inside the organization is an important one. Today, we are talking about it as an issue of effectiveness. But for those thinking beyond the immediate 10 percent unemployment reality, it is also the key to retaining talent. Great employees have job opportunities in any economy. And when the power shifts in the talent equation back to the employees, trust will be a key driver of whether your team sticks, or moves on.

How can a leader foster trust internally?

  • Tell your own stories….share news (good or bad) before they hear it somewhere else.
  • Share the credit…no one wants to worry that their boss (or their boss’ boss) is taking credit for their ideas, their work or their success.
  • Review your actions….does what you DO match what you say? Do you claim to hate internal politics, yet reward the political operatives with plum assignments? Do employees who challenge conventional wisdom get rewarded? Or sent to career Siberia?
  • Review your policies – do you restrict your team from use of social media, because you are afraid of what they will say? Do you have overly restrictive policies governing employee’s time?

Trust is a two way street. You have to give it, to get it.


July 15, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

Horrible Bosses….Are They Actually Horrible Leaders?

The movie Horrible Bosses is sure to spark lots of water cooler conversations – the legendary Paul Bunyan style, “I can top that” stories of impolite, unprofessional or otherwise horrible bosses.

Believe me, I have a few of those stories myself – a boss who used to make a mess every Friday, then skip out early and leave me to clean it up. The guy who told me straight up that he hadn’t hired me, and was going to make me quit. (Apparently my first job manicure, Ann Taylor suit and earnest expression rubbed him the wrong way.)

Which begs the question, what makes a horrible boss? And is a horrible boss truly a horrible leader, or is there a disconnect between what employees think is important and what leaders think is important?

Check out this piece from Forbes, which describes the Body Language of horrible bosses. Some of these are so obvious, they are funny – like you shouldn’t practice your golf swing while a member of your team is pitching an idea. Or a male boss staring at a female employee’s chest. But there are some occupational hazards of modern day leadership that could put you in the bad boss category:

• Failing to acknowledge people in the hall – Has your organization grown rapidly? Are there interns in the corridor whose name you are embarrassed to admit you don’t know? There is only one boss – it’s easy for people to know your name. Ask for a chart of interns with names and photos. Smile and say hello.

• Multi-tasking – people want your full attention. Yet we live in a world where multi-tasking is a survival skill. E-mail has set expectations that people get instant gratification and response. We want to take notes while someone speaks, maybe on a laptop or an iPad. How is this impacting your effectiveness as a leader?

• Claiming an open door, then “glaring” at someone who stops by without an appointment – your busy day is not their problem. If you are too busy to be interrupted, close your door.

May 31, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged , ,

What Dream Team CEOs Know that You Don’t

Fortune Magazine is creating yet another list….the “Dream Team” CEOs – one that is sure to be my favorite! Today, this piece talked about what it takes to be a dream team caliber CEO. Among some expected, yet valid, observations about the need to be able to reinvent strategy, like Sam Palmisano and Jim Skinner, or to truly be a citizen of the world, not just talk global – there was an interesting tidbit.

Dream Team CEOs treat government as a line of business.

Entire businesses have been built using government as a key line of business and source of revenue. Highly regulated businesses can tell you in dollars and cents the impact of government on their Company. But the implications here are significant – even if you don’t do business with the government, and even if you aren’t a regulated company, government matters. A lot.

At MWW Group, more than two decades ago, we began advocating a strategy we’ve dubbed Government as a Marketing tool. And it is more relevant than ever today. In order to be viewed as a leader among your peers, to be the kind of company that is trusted, and relevant to your employees, stakeholders, investors and communities, you need to be engaged and active with government leaders and influencers. Not only to advocate for issues that impact your business, but to be a thought leader. An advisor. A go-to resource.

Being among the most admired CEOs requires a great track record, and a solid leadership reputation. And while the first can fuel the second, these two things don’t automatically go together. Government provides an unrivaled bully pulpit for establishing trust and relevance. It is a key part of every company’s “network.”
This is a philosophy that we don’t just preach – we practice it, too. For ourselves and for our clients. Do you?