Reputation, part deux


Reputation is complex and multi-aspect. In my last post, I asked if you're a CEO leading a B2B, how do you unwind your personal reputation from the company's reputation? Which comes first? How do you manage both? Which should you prioritise?

This is an attempt to answer some of those questions.

I was recently consulting to a pair of co-founders. They both have reputations for excellence in their industries but their new company is unknown. The business has a website and a LinkedIn presence and they are on LinkedIn as individuals. However, having been in corporate for many years, both had neglected their own profiles (familiar story, anyone?). They wanted to understand where and how they should focus on brand-building.

To their surprise, my advice was 'Focus on yourselves.'

In B2B, customers buy from people. If an unknown brand with two little-known founders starts posting, it won't get much traction. However, if two people with great experience and interesting points of view start to post frequently, they will build traction fast and this will have a positive effect on their brand.

In another case, I worked with a new CEO at a spin-off from a brand that is a household name. He needed to build a reputation as an industry thought leader to attract investors and wasn't sure how to get started.

My advice was 'Focus on your own profile.' We worked together to build pillars for a thought leadership strategy and ways that to show up that demonstrated his expertise and his strong point of view. Outcome: he is leading a major cross-industry initiative with other thought leaders, getting invited to keynotes and panels, and gaining investor attention.

One of the CEOs I interviewed for my thesis is brought in by PE firms to rescue failing brands. His brand, which he works on very consciously, has a halo effect for the businesses he rescues.

Other CEOs from more established companies told me that company reputation comes first, but they do have executive communications teams working on their reputation management. In other words, they prioritise their reputations and company reputation.

So here's Charlotte's extremely scientific rules of thumb.

If you are:

  • Establishing a completely new company, put your reputation first
  • A new CEO replacing an old CEO, put your reputation first (for at least six months)
  • A new CEO in an established brand, put your reputation first
  • A fixer-upper CEO, put your reputation first

However, 'letting company reputation speak for itself' is no longer a viable strategy. Even CEOs of established brands have executive or CEO communications teams dedicated solely to building their reputation - especially in B2B. 

I like shining a light on CEOs who're doing a great job building their own reputation. Here are some previous posts:

Common factor: they are all showing up as themselves and they are demonstrating thought leadership and advocacy for the industry they're in. They post with enthusiasm and in a very genuine way, they're building followers and - most importantly - they're building connection with current and future customers.

If you're building a business, ignore your reputation at your peril.