Hiring a CEO with a great reputation can rubberstamp an organisation as a great business in the public’s opinion. This hire sets the tone for the future of the business and can help attract top talent. Likewise, a leader with a bad reputation can do a great deal of damage to an organisation. When making such a high-level hire, it is important to take a step back and remember you are not simply looking for a skill set, you are looking for a leader who fits with the culture of your business, in their behaviour, attitude, opinions, values and more. When you get to a stage where you have two outstanding candidates, then public opinion could make the difference.


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How public opinion impacts hiring

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How social media effects hiring – and firing

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The value of social media for brand-building

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Final thoughts

Alice: People have always wanted to work for interesting, successful businesses that offer rewards, recognition, opportunities to learn and develop, and where they feel inspired and proud of being part of that business. For any savvy, potential employee, public opinion of the leader will play a key role in the decision making process on whether or not to apply for, or accept, a position. Hiring a strong leader who fits your company culture and who commands a good reputation will have a trickle-down effect, attracting more qualified and culturally-fitting talent to your business as a result.

In the past few years I’ve seen organisations beef up their communications functions at senior levels, to manage the reputation of CEO, as well as at junior levels, to manage social media channels. This is reflected in the hiring of Directors of Communications. Part of their role is to manage the reputation of the CEO. There is increasing realisation that if this isn’t managed correctly there are consequences. Executives fear that something could happen in the business world that could tarnish them so having the right person in place to prevent or cushion that is important.

This role is having an increasing impact on the business, because the message they put out can be shared on so many channels. Day-to-day and crisis communications strategies need to be in place and ready to go. Because of the fast moving nature of media, businesses must have an infrastructure in place to respond to issues immediately. If you delay, the media beast can take over and steer the conversation before you have any chance to respond – this is especially true on social media. There is an increasing importance placed on communication and reputation generally.

Janie: The public opinion of a leader is not a new consideration, it has always been important. However, because of social media, leaders have a higher level of exposure than they did ten years ago. Leaders are scrutinised in ways they didn’t used to be, both personally and professionally. Having a credible leader with a positive image can make a big difference to how consumers feel about an organisation and ultimately the top line.

Alice: Senior executives who maintain a presence on social media must be aware that there is no longer a boundary between their personal and professional online presence. HR and hiring managers have long been aware of the effects of social media – inappropriate photos on Facebook, or comments on your twitter feed that don’t align with the business’ values, could mean you’re out of the running for a job – you’ll be seen as a risk and potential PR nightmare. For low-level staff, these issues may go unnoticed, but for senior staff or leaders, any disparity or controversial behaviour will affect your current and future job prospects.

Some CEOs are not allowed near social media. It may not be appropriate for their marketing strategy or they may use it for inappropriate rants that reflect badly on the business. But if a strong leader with a good public persona is important to your business, then you need to vet their social media presence before you make the hire – even if they tick all the other boxes.

Janie: The industry they work in has a huge impact on this decision but they must also consider their own abilities. Will they be naturally good at managing their social media? Will they be engaged and keep at it over the longer term? Social media is not something you can play with for a couple of months before moving onto something else, it needs to be a continuous message.

If they have a high profile while working at a company that is interested in brand-building, and then wish to later move to a company that tries to keep a low public profile, this can provide a barrier; they can’t get rid of a previous online presence. They could be a very good candidate, but if their personal presence does not align with a future organisation’s strategy, then they could miss out. When we shortlist for clients, questions are often asked about candidates’ online presence. They or their company may have been in the news in the past and the reaction the public has had to those stories can potentially be an issue. The importance of looking at a candidate’s online persona is increasingly important.

Alice: Social media can offer a huge opportunity to build your brand. It is relatively inexpensive and can take-off much quicker than more traditional campaigns. If you rewind five years, most people did not take social media seriously. They didn’t realise what a huge impact it would have on the world, and the world of business, so they were quite reluctant to engage. Now it’s generally assumed that if you’re not on social media, your business will be left behind because your clients or customers won’t be able to find you and interact with you the way they need to in our new social world.

If businesses want to be innovative today, they need to get on board with social media suitable for their sector. It’s important to consider the big picture and the future landscape, and how their strategy might fit in to that. Leaders who are capable of this will be valuable.

Janie: Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns are both clear examples of the value social media can provide to a brand. Many MPs in the UK are now on Twitter, because they have seen the value potential and they don’t want to miss out. Again, some of them need to be managed and we have all seen this go terrible wrong. In this rapidly changing media landscape, it will be important to stay on your toes and watch where social media is going next.

Alice: Ensuring that your company’s CEO has a great personal brand and public reputation can make a huge difference in your success. This person is the face of the company: customers, clients, investors, current and potential employees are all watching what this person is and ISN’T doing and saying. Public opinion of that person can make or break their decision to work with you and thereby can make or break your company.

Hiring leaders whose personal values and brand are aligned with your company will help minimise the risk of public opinion harming your business. Look for leaders who not only fit in with your company culture, but who exemplify it. This synergy will help solidify your brand’s identity and will help your company’s reputation.

About Hanson Search

Hanson Search is an international search consultancy specialising in strategic communications and marketing. From their offices in London, Paris, and Dubai, they source talent globally. Their recruitment experience spans all areas of marketing services including: PR, public affairs, digital, advertising, media, insights, analytics, innovation and branding. They recruit from mid to CEO level across a spectrum: Global and Regional CEO, Managing Director, Creative Director, Digital Expert, Head of Communications, Strategic Planner, Media Director, Head of Digital and Marketing Director. Hanson Search is also a disability confident employer, actively promoting diversity in all forms. They host roundtable events, commission gender balance studies, and contribute to the wider discussion on diversity in the marcoms industry.

Hanson Search