Why more brands should have CEOs like Sir Martin Sorrell and Richard Branson

Nearly half of Brits would like to see more high-profile UK CEOs in the mould of a Richard Branson or Sir Martin Sorrell, and those with a marketing background are best equipped to take on this more visible role at the top, according to a new study.

The ‘CEO Uncovered’ study, which polled more than 2,000 UK consumers and 200 business decision-makers for the UK Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), more than 60% of consumers believe it is more important than five years ago for CEOs to appear visible and engaged within the public eye.

A CEO’s involvement in positive activities, such as charity fundraising or supporting sustainability initiatives, is the most important factor when it comes to impressing consumers (59%).

The public opinion of a CEO can also have an impact on a brand’s revenues. According to the study, the perception of a CEO directly influences the purchase choice for a quarter of Brits (25%). This rate was highest among 18-34 years old (37%) and lowest (16%) for those over 55 years old.

Giles Fraser, co-founder of Brands2Life, says the data shows that those with a marketing background are some of the best equipped to transition to chief executives.

“It is certainly the case that many of the CEOs who are most outgoing tend to have had a marketing role in their past.”

Giles Fraser, co-founder, Brands2Life

“Typically a consumer-facing business will have a greater requirement to have a CEO with a strong public profile and therefore be more likely to have a CEO with a marketing background,” he says.

Increasing brand trust

Having a CEO that “reveals something of themselves” can also help boost trust in a brand, according to 20% of those polled. Being visible in the media (24%) and active on social media (19%) are also important factors for consumers.

There is also an acceptance among business leaders that the profile of a CEO impacts the company, with 75% of the polled business decision-makers admitting that the image of a CEO directly influences how customers feel about their organisation.

“Ronan Dunne, CEO of Telefonica UK, has said that he believes his public profile through traditional and social media helped O2 to rebuild customer trust faster when they had their outage in 2012,” explains Fraser.

“What is clear is that a more outgoing and engaged CEO is becoming more and more important among consumers and employees.”

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