Recent obvious caveats aside, businesses can no longer relyon celebrities to improve or sustain their brand image.  And, though manycompanies, large and small, have historically positioned their executive staffas iconic by placing the chief in the starring role, there may be a desirefor something a little different these days.

Evidence of this need was recently discussed at a March Churchill Club event in Palo Alto, Calif.,where panelists discussed new trends in corporate brand reputationmanagement.  During the panel discussion, Richard Edelman, president andCEO of public relations firm Edelman, explained that Toyota’srecent dilemma is a great example of what not to do.  Toyota’spresident and CEO, Akio Toyoda, held several press conferences to address theengineering issue their product experienced. The problem, Edelmansaid, is that Toyoda was not directly involved in the engineering process ofthe vehicle, and didn’t have the know-how to dive deep into the problem to helpgive consumers the solutions they were seeking.

Word cloud of credibility

To Edelman’s point, there has been an obvious shift  inwhat consumers define as a reputable influencer. According to a recent NielsenGlobal Online Consumer survey, 90 percent of consumers trustrecommendations from people they know and feel they have a connection. Both themedia and consumers are more critical than ever and it’s much easier to connectwith someone they trust. 

In order to maintain a healthy corporate reputation in thischanging environment, companies should focus on the following three attributes:

  •         Personalization: There is no longer adeep rooted connection with the CEO from a consumersperspective. Instead, consumers and businesses alike want to hear from aneducated peer who can speak their language and address their specific concerns.
  •         Employee Advocacy: Employees are thecompany’s best advocates and act as the core of the business—whether thatbusiness openly acknowledges it or not. Since these individuals work mostclosely to the strategic and tactical elements of a product or service, itmakes sense to utilize their expertise. 
  •         Authenticity/Credibility: Having anexpert employee be the face of the brand to transparently and consistentlydeliver a message to consumers will aid in keeping the business’ authenticvoice and credibility as an expert in its product.

Don’t get us wrong, the CEO still plays a vital role in thecompany’s success, but the public’s need to connect with a true peer or trustedexpert regarding that company’s reputation is becoming overwhelminglyapparent.  So, thanks but no thanks Toyoda  and other highprofile executives. We want to hear from more people inside your company.

— Heather Arft