How Ego Tanks Branding And Marketing Professionals’ Progress And Jeopardizes Companies

Many different factors can play a role in declining or stalling revenues, and one of the easiest to fix and yet hardest to admit is how much is due to a self-inflicted wound stemming from arrogance, ego and stubbornness. Sometimes the creativity of marketing and branding professionals can go awry. Here are three fixable mistakes branding and marketing leaders make that cost time and money.

1. Trying To Outsmart The Customer

In 2013, BlackBerry reported a $4.4 billion loss for its third quarter sales. The company took six years to design and launch a less expensive phone with apps and a powerful operating system. This allowed Apple and Android to gain significant ground in the meantime.

“The problem wasn’t that we stopped listening to customers,” a BlackBerry insider said. “We believed we knew better what customers needed long term than they did."

The solution lies in understanding human behavior in response to certain factors. Many companies now have "human factor professionals" who study how a new product will be accepted by the user it’s designed for. However, not all companies put the necessary time and effort into hiring someone to help determine the interests and desires of their consumer base, and they instead allow the ego to get in the way. This detrimentally affects sales and can cause an entire company to fail.

Organizations should use the various social media available to learn what consumers are asking for and then follow up with input from consumers. Feedback is crucial and more available than ever with today's technology. Companies that truly take the advice of their consumers in what they want tend to have greater success.

2. Trying To Be The MVP

Brandon Black and Shayne Hughes, authors of Ego Free Leadership: Ending the Unconscious Habits that Hijack Your Businessconducted extensive research to determine mistakes companies make when valuing their own genius over their customers’ preferences. Hughes describes working with a CEO “who was frustrated at not being able to hire strong senior leaders. He realized that his ego wanted to be the guy with the answers, so he never hired anyone who was smarter than he was.”

Almost any company can course-correct with sound leadership. When leaders take the time to listen to their team, they will gain insight they wouldn’t have thought of themselves. When executives take the spotlight of self and share it with others, it serves the entire company well. And team leaders who allow mistakes and build their team up as future leaders tend to raise companies where morale and loyalty are high.

3. Refusing To Change With Market Trends

According to Pearson, increasing sales and gaining popularity in your sector “becomes more complex as technology changes and the world becomes more advanced." Blockbuster really felt the sting of that mistake when it discounted the popularity of Netflix and Redbox.

Blockbuster ignored the signs as customers' behavior let Blockbuster know they were ready to advance with the new technology. Instead of joining the technology age that was advancing, it tried to entice customers with trinkets and sweets, becoming more like a convenience store than a video rental. It was given plenty of input from consumers themselves about what they wanted, yet the retailer failed to listen and filed bankruptcy less than one year later.

Ego doesn’t have to bring a company down as long as leaders understand that their market position isn't bulletproof. Resources like entrepreneur and educator John Assaraf's learning materials, which focus on helping people retrain their neural pathways, and Hughes' and Black's valuable insights shared in their book, can help branding professionals learn how to check their egos and grow their companies' success.

Chiefly, leaders must take into consideration what consumers are expressing as important. While giving in to every fad and trend isn’t necessary or even plausible, doing one’s own research on how a specific trend could impact your product is essential. When customers speak, successful businesses listen and then act appropriately.


Tips for successful business in the middle east and asia

With the global business landscape shift that has taken place over the last two decades, you might become a minority in a few years if you own a growing business that doesn’t have an international clientele. If you want to ensure a successful transition into foreign countries, here are a few tips.

Face-to-face communication is preferred.

It's important to attempt to speak with business people in person. The culture in the Middle East and Asia is reliant on trust and friendship.Meeting in person is the only way to build that. Face-to-face interaction is also important because the process of coming to an agreement takes much longer in the region. This results in more time needed to get to know each other personally and professionally. If face-to-face interaction is not possible, the secondary method of communication is a phone call. However, some cultures are averse to negotiating over the phone. In the case that you do need to send written communication, such as an email, it is important to follow up with a phone call. Written communication is considered less important and less personal, meaning you must have people on the ground. Pulling this all off yourself will result in significant travel expenses. Since you're flying cross-continent, you may end up being anxious because you are seeking an ROI which may not allow you to be at your best in building the rapport and being patient in negotiations.

Understand the culture.

Underestanding the local culture is a must. You simply cannot conduct business if you don’t. When speaking to Hassan Hussein, chairman, CEO and managing director of El Taamir Mortgage Finance Company, he said, “Cultures and people are fundamentally different to the point of being, in some cases, opposite. Therefore, understanding the culture of your counterparts is a primary element for building successful personal and professional relationships.” Listen to companies and people in that country and if possible, hire people from that country. Hassan works primarily in the Middle East. When speaking about the culture and how to conduct business here, he said, “The Middle East culture is one that is quite emotional and rests predominantly on trust, and to a certain extent, on compassion. Personal charisma and chemistry are among the key contributors to a healthy, smooth operation in that region. It goes without saying, of course, that business feasibility, profitability and sustainability are still a predetermining element in negotiations. However, trust that is a result of a deep understanding of the ME culture is always an icebreaker and an excellent way to establish a valid proof of concept.”

Get results fast. 

Although "time is money," is a cliché that is often heard in the business world, it is most true in Far East Asia. Today’s professionals are always under high pressure to deliver results of strategic value in weeks, not months. Missed deadlines are considered catastrophic and inexcusable. While you will be pressured to give fast deadlines, it is better to hold your ground and be more conservative. If you miss a deadline, it may result in the end of the relationship.

Consider getting a local partner.

While it may be tempting to hire a marketing expert that possesses market knowledge and relationships with local businesses, you're better off bringing on a strategic partner to help you. Partners want equity; marketing professionals want retainers. A committed partner will be a better investment.

According to Julie Rasmussen, majority owner and chairman of Hertz Russia, “Hire someone who knows the market you are expanding into intimately; preferably someone who speaks the local language in addition to being fluent in both spoken and written English and American business concepts; someone who can bridge the differences in the local market business and social cultures and American business and social cultures; someone who can break through red tape and corporate inertia to get things done and achieve the company’s mission in the market."

Although expanding your business into new foreign markets can be intimidating, it is critical that you keep the above tips in mind. These tips will ensure that you start your expansion on the right track and give you the confidence to conquer the vast landscape that is the global economy.

How to Use CEO Branding to Gain Visibility For Your Company

Most companies fail to leverage one of their most compelling and distinguishable points — the CEO’s brand. CEO branding starts with determining how the CEO's brand relates to the corporate brand and how it can be used to generate access to the target market.

Business isn’t just business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) anymore. It is human-to-human (H2H) and is often influential in building trust. When a CEO acts as a thought leader, it provides value to an audience. When done well, CEOs can talk about their businesses during interviews in a more organic sounding and contextual way.

Rebrand yourself in creative ways.

You can rebrand yourself by developing a one-liner that captures who you are in the marketplace. Utilize that single saying — position it in your LinkedIn header, on other social media profiles and in your bio. If people hear it enough, they will begin to buy into it. Branding is about leaving an imprint, and if you can articulate what you do well — keeping it to three to seven words –and have it visible, you'll be more memorable.

Build a stellar reputation and leverage it to bolster your brand.

Reputations aren't built overnight. They are built through consistent and memorable impressions. When networking, provide value to others instead of pitching your product. Make referrals to help people grow their business or offer valuable insights without charging for them. This makes you more endearing and trustworthy and builds relational equity — all adding to your reputation.

Overcome brand skepticism.

When a brand has taken a hit, rehabilitation can be difficult, but a likable and trusted face personalizes it. Instead of traditional reputation management practices, think about taking the offensive by showing key leaders participating in community service work or listening sessions with customers. Faceless organizations are easy to turn into piñatas. However, when you see leaders demonstrating care, these brands become more human.

The investment of your time in strategizing and executing your CEO brand can have a great impact on your company and, from my perspective, it is one of the most beneficial things you can do for its future.

Building a CEO brand can help drive top-line revenue, develop a more portable brand to use in launching new divisions (or a new company) and build a legacy. While all this advice sounds good in theory, unless it’s carried out in the real world, it holds no value. Below are examples of how successful CEOs are effectively using CEO branding and tips for how you can leverage these strategies for your own brand.

Conquer your industry without traditional advertising.

Specific strategies can be applied to gain exposure that's more cost-effective than traditional advertising. One way to do this is to utilize thought leadership-based public relations. Realize your audience is looking for you to provide value, and offer useful data and considerations for those in and connected to your industry.

Ascendant Group receives Corporate Brand Strategy Firm of the Year & Award for Excellence in CEO Branding – USA from Lawyer International

After over 42,000 votes cast, Ascendant Group was awarded the above achievement for excellence in what it does best: Executive Branding.

Corporate Brand Strategy Firm of the Year & Award for Excellence in CEO Branding

By winning a Global Award – 2018 Edition from Lawyer International, Ascendant Group, experts in corporate branding and CEO branding, is being recognized as a business that shines in this category, going above and beyond to provide value for their clients.

As Lawyer International States: “The winners, quite simply, represent those firms and individuals that are instrumental to the businesses that engage them, thus ensuring a swift, positive outcome is always achieved. These firms and individuals continually go above and beyond, always providing a high degree of demonstrable evidence which is consistent with positive comments from both clients and peers.”

What does Ascendant Group do that garners the above recognition?
Since 2004, inspired by trust and built on referrals, Ascendant Group specializes in CEO branding and has delivered significant results for a variety of corporations. Ascendant does that by developing an integrated brand strategy and employing a mix of media outreach, strategic social media, leveraging the likes of LinkedIn, offering award winning design work, securing awards, and even getting book deals with national publishers for their exclusive clientele. We have also helped broker strategic alliances, producing signature events and negotiating a book deal.

Raoul Davis, CEO of Ascendant Group, explains: “A strong CEO brand in today’s society helps to give emotional staying power to the company in a time when it is harder to differentiate a company’s services or product than ever before amongst the crowd of similar products, fast followers, and even those who will clone quickly. They want to give their business to a company with a great reputation… and that reputation begins with the person in charge.”

With offices in Newark and Wilmington, Delaware, Cairo, Egypt, Lebanon, the Netherlands, and
Nova Scotia, Canada, Ascendant Group will look to continue to be the global leader and most
integrated CEO branding firm in the world.

Contact Info

Phone: 302.450.4494 ext 202

Former Executive Vice President, Universal Studios, and Senior Vice-President, Twentieth Century Fox Films Neal Lemlein Joins the Ascendant Group

This press release was orginally distributed by ReleaseWire

With a role to enhance both the business’s global footprint while growing the firm’s Entertainment Division, The Ascendant Group welcomes Neal Lemlein as Senior Strategic Marketing Consultant

Newark, DE — (ReleaseWire) — 01/09/2018 — As Former Executive Vice President, Universal Studios and Senior Vice-President, Twentieth Century Fox Films, Neal Lemlein joins The Ascendant Group as Senior Strategic Marketing Consultant. Based on extensive experience gained from management posts at some of the most powerful media outlets in the world, Neal has made significant professional contributions in the marketing, management, entertainment, and new media categories. Two notable career highlights include Neal’s contributions to the marketing campaign of the original Star Wars film, and his success in generating over $100 million in new business revenue within the first 10 months of operation for DMB&B’s fledgling entertainment marketing practice.

Neal received his B.A. in Political Science from Tulane University and his Masters Degree in International Relations, from New York University. He has also served as Adjunct professor at The University of Southern California’s, Marshall School of Business, on both the graduate and undergraduate levels, teaching entertainment marketing. Neal is also a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (The Oscars). He published his first book, “Pilot Your Career… 18 Strategies for Career Building and Navigating the Economic Downturn”, in 2009. His second, “Marketing in Crisis”, is slated for completion this Spring.

“Raoul Davis has developed a compelling business model, extremely relevant for addressing today’s biggest challenges. I look forward to collaborating with the talented Ascendant team,” said Neal Lemlein.

About Ascendant Group
Since 2004, inspired by trust and built on referrals, Ascendant Group specializes in CEO branding and has delivered significant results for a variety of corporations. Ascendant does that by developing an integrated brand strategy and employing a mix of media outreach, strategic social media, leveraging the likes of LinkedIn, offering award winning design work, securing awards, and even getting book deals with national publishers for their exclusive clientele. We have also helped broker strategic alliances, producing signature events and negotiating book deals.

Raoul Davis, CEO of Ascendant Group, explains: “A strong CEO brand in today’s society helps to give emotional staying power to the company in a time when it is harder than ever before to differentiate a company’s services or product amongst the crowd of similar products, fast followers, and even those who will clone quickly. They want to give their business to a company with a great reputation… and that reputation begins with the person in charge.”

Ascendant Group Recent Highlights in the Global Division and Publishing World

Our Global Division has been hard at work in 2017, with many new clients and leads from Egypt, Dubai, Lebanon, Europe, and Canada. With offices in Newark and Wilmington, Delaware, Indianapolis, Indiana, and Cairo, Egypt, as well as plans to continue to expand further internationally into the Netherlands, Ascendant Group will look to continue to be the global leader and most integrated CEO branding firm in the world.

Ascendant’s clients range from Fortune 500 executives, CEOs of mid-sized companies, retired athletes, and leaders of other organizations including ministries. Headed by Leticia Gomez, Ascendant Entertainment has negotiated book deals with top publishing companies such as Bethany House, a division of Baker House Publishing Group, Thomas Nelson, Harper Collins, Career Press and Penguin Random House to name a few. We continue to work with our clients until we’ve met all metrics.

Ascendant Group welcomes Neal Lemlein joining The Ascendant Group team and bringing his expertise to help grow our Entertainment Division, which includes a successful literary agency and burgeoning film and TV practice.

Contact Info:
Phone: 302-450-4494 ext 202

Ezz Eldin El Nattar, Chairman of Ascendant Global, a Division of The Ascendant Group Invited to Give Keynote at Arab Marketing & PR Summit

Located at the Safir Hotel in Cairo, Egypt, from October 5th – 7th, 2017, the Arab Marketing & PR Summit is a wonderful opportunity to highlight innovative insights, new experiences, radical changes in the market as well as new media technology. There will be keynote speeches and panel discussions conducted by both regional and international professionals discussing the latest PR and marketing trends in the global marketing world. Chairman of Ascendant Global, the International Division of Ascendant Group (, Ezz Eldin El Nattar, has been given the honor to present a keynote speech highlighting the importance of CEO branding and how it can help executives, CEOs and entrepreneurs leverage their influence in their field by gaining global visibility and recognition. Other keynote speeches will focus on the following topics: public relations, marketing of all varieties, advertising, corporate social responsibility, innovation, digital PR, entrepreneurship and our favorite, branding.

This three-day Summit brings a wealth of information both regionally and internationally regarding new techniques to use in one’s business as well as far-reaching networking opportunities. To find out more information about this event and to register, visit this link:

About Ascendant Group
Ascendant Group ( is a world leader in CEO branding, built on referrals and inspired by trust since 2004. Ascendant is a founding member of the Forbes Agency Council for top PR and Advertising companies in the world. Ascendant has a multidisciplinary resident team of over a dozen professionals with 5 high profile partners, multiple brand managers, publicists, social media experts, copywriters, designers, entertainment industry professionals and an in-house literary agent. They have won multiple awards for PR, design and company culture, working with a diverse clientele that range from CEOs of multibillion dollar companies in China, Executives at fortune 50 companies in the U.S., NY Times Best Selling Authors, retired athletes, CEOs of mid-sized companies and some of America’s leading Christian brands. Ascendant’s global division has offices in Cairo, Egypt, Amman, Jordan, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Rotterdam, The Netherlands with a planned location in Nova Scotia, Canada in the near future.

About Ezz Eldin El Nattar
El Nattar currently holds dual positions as Chairman of Ascendant Global, the International Division of Ascendant Group, and CEO of Vantage Business Development Solutions in Egypt. He is also a board member on several of the country’s national and global initiatives and strategic committees. El Nattar is a graduate of the American University in Cairo with a BA in Economics, holder of an MBA in International Marketing from the University of Dallas, Texas and a Certified Advanced Projects Management Professional of Stanford University California. Former positions have included COO of Business DNA in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and Marketing and Business Development Director of the world’s 9th most popular B2B trading marketplace, in addition to a number of Egypt’s largest enterprises. Ezz Eldin El Nattar brings a vast knowledge and decades of experience on the topic of CEO branding, turnarounds, startups, global marketing and business development of small, medium and multimillion dollar corporations. “I am so excited for the opportunity to be a part of the Arab Marketing & PR Summit as this is a wonderful chance to meet others who are interested in learning more about the success of CEO branding. With my many years of experience in creating and executing out of the box concepts, I can’t wait to share my knowledge with others and learn new techniques to bring back to my colleagues at Ascendant as well.”

Ascendant Global Chair Ezz El Nattar, CEO Branding

In Memory of Hezekiah Griggs – More Than A Client, A Person That Impacted The World

The Ascendant Group organization mourns the loss of an incredibly talented young CEO, youth advocate, and inspirational figure Hezekiah Griggs III. We had the pleasure of working with this 28 year old transformative figure that impacted an entire generation for nearly 4 years.

Hezekiah passed away on Thursday, December 22nd, shortly after midnight. Our hearts are broken.

After finding success at an early age Griggs became a popular inspirational speaker and youth advocate, all before the age of 15. Still a teenager, he began giving MLK speeches and often educated his fellow millennials and the generation after his on the importance and meaning of the message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Griggs mentored hundreds of youth, inspired hundreds of thousands of people, and leaves a legacy dedicated towards service.

Though his life was tragically cut short by a car accident in Florida at the age of 28. Griggs lived an ambitious life where he was able to get a lot of philanthropic and professional milestones accomplished. He regularly spoke for church organizations and was a dedicated leader.

"Hezekiah was an amazing and innovative thinker that put God first in everything he did and challenged all to do the same. His entrepreneurial wisdom was unparalleled. He was a good friend and mentor, yes mentor, even 16 years my junior. He created my logo in 2008, he said Kim you are classy and smart, your logo needs to represent you, in 4 minutes he sent over what is now my logo. He was extremely giving and wanted everyone to succeed, especially our young people. I spoke at his leadership camps, he loved seeing youth thrive in our communities. I admired him greatly", said Kim Reed, Senior Partner at The Ascendant Group.

"When I met Hezekiah Griggs I was blown away by the maturity of his voice and business acumen. As I got to know Hezekiah I grew fond of his sense of humor, commitment to inspiring young people, and how focused he was on solving social justice ills even though he was at an age where most of his peers were concerned with having fun; Hezekiah never wasted a moment that he could positively impact a young person's life." Added Raoul Davis, CEO of The Ascendant Group. Another, Partner in the company Louis Lautman, was one of the first people that introduced Hezekiah Griggs story to the world in the inspirational documentary The Young Entrepreneur Society.

While Mr. Griggs has left us his life leaves a legacy. We encourage you to look at this video to get a small sense of that.


Ascendant Group has been Awarded the 2016 Corporate Brand Strategy Firm of the Year for Excellence in CEO Branding by Wealth and Finance 2016 Business

Following extensive voting and research conducted over the past two months, Ascendant Group was awarded the above achievement for excellence in what it does best: CEO Branding

Wealth & Finance International ( is a monthly publication, dedicated to delivering high quality informative and up-to-the-minute global business content.  Developed by a highly skilled team of writers, editors, business insiders and regional industry experts, Wealth & Finance International reports from every corner of the globe to give a global circulation of 130,000 readers the inside track on the need-to-know news and issues affecting banking, finance, regulation, risk and wealth management in their region.

The Team at Wealth & Finance International interacts with many respected and successful businesses on a daily basis, internationally as well as close to home.  As a result, they have set up a team of in-house professional judges to research businesses all around the world before awarding the above prestigious award… and this year, 2016, Ascendant Group had the privilege of receiving this honor.

By winning the 2016 Wealth & Finance Business Award, Ascendant Group is being recognized as being a business that as a result of using “innovative methods and outstanding results, (Ascendant Group) is changing the way we view their industry and seeing them surge ahead of their competition.”

As Wealth and Finance International themselves state: “Rest assured that only the most deserving nominees will walk away with one of our prestigious awards.” 

So what exactly does Ascendant Group do that garnered the above recognition?

Since 2004, inspired by trust and built on referrals, Ascendant Group specializes in CEO branding.  We’ve delivered significant results for a variety of corporations, from multiple-billion-dollar companies based in China to mid-sized U.S. companies and even early stagebusinesses with high growth potential.  We do that by employing a mix of media outreach and strategic social media, leveraging the likes of LinkedIn.  We have also helped broker strategic alliances, producing signature events and negotiating a book deal. 

Raoul Davis, CEO of Ascendant Group, explains: “A strong CEO brand in today’s society helps to give emotional staying power to the company in a time when it is harder to differentiate a company’s services or product than ever before amongst the crowd of similar products, fast followers, and even those who will clone quickly.  They want to give their business to a company with a great reputation… and that reputation begins with the person in charge.” 

We would love to be the team that helps you reach your next level of success.  Let us share details of how our creative and technical teams develop and drive comprehensive branding efforts that will raise your profile and attract the attention of others that share your vision, accelerating your longer-term career or business goals. 

With offices in Newark and Wilmington, Delaware and Cairo, Egypt as well as plans to continue to expand further internationally into the Netherlands, let Ascendant Group help you succeed.  

What Americans Think About CEOs Speaking Out – Important CEO Branding Takeaways

A recent report on the topic of CEO Activism recently came out and it has huge takeaways regarding CEO branding.  Here are some highlights.  Contact us with your questions about CEO activism and its role as part of the mix in building a strong CEO brand.

CEO Activists Reap Rewards; But Not Without Incurring Risks

Nearly 40 percent of American adults believe that CEOs have a responsibility to speak out on hot-button issues, according to a new survey, “The Dawn of CEO Activism,” released today and commissioned by global communications and engagement firm Weber Shandwick in partnership with KRC Research.However, the survey also showed that chief executives need to show caution with the topics about which they choose to speak out on, as three in 10 (32 percent) of those adults have a less favorable opinion of CEOs who speak out on issues that are not tied to their companies’ respective line of business. With CEO activism in its early stages, companies and their leaders need to proceed with a healthy dose of caution if they engage deeply on issues that are squarely and controversially in the public realm.

“As more CEOs begin to take public stands on current hot-button issues, we wanted to take the pulse on where Americans stand on this revolutionary shift,” said Micho Spring, chair of Weber Shandwick’s Global Corporate practice. “We gathered data to better counsel companies on how to engage and protect their brand health and reputations.”

CEO activism has at times been very effective. In the past year or so, a number of CEOs have spoken out about social and environmental issues such as climate change, income fairness, same-sex marriage, immigration, gun control and discrimination – all issues that are not necessarily tied to the bottom line.

This onrush of public announcements has been so evident that one CEO declared a “third [political] party emerging in this country, which is the party of CEOs.” (Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, CNN, June 12, 2015) Such activism by America’s business leaders has the potential to shape not only the reputation of CEOs but also that of their companies and the likelihood that consumers will buy or not buy their brands.

Activism Encouraged But Not Always a Plus 

As noted above, a sizeable segment of Americans (38 percent) believe CEOs have a responsibility to speak out on hotly debated issues.

The belief that CEOs carry such a responsibility is most likely to translate to favorable opinion toward CEOs who do speak out. When respondents are asked their opinion of CEOs who take public positions on hot button issues, the scales tip in favor of the CEO (31 percent more favorable vs. 22 percent less favorable). Yet, when the issues are not directly linked to a company’s bottom line, the reverse is true and Americans feel less favorable (32 percent less favorable vs. 20 percent more favorable). Favorability is thus dependent on how strongly an issue’s link is to the bottom line, the data showed.

CEO Activism Influences Purchase Intent

A CEO’s stance on controversial issues can also work for or against the company when it comes to sales. While four in 10 Americans (40 percent) say they are more likely to buy from a company when they agree with the CEO on an issue, a comparable segment (45 percent) say they are less likely to buy if they disagree with the CEO’s position. Since a CEO’s external stance may affect behavior as basic as buying a product, companies need to have a firm understanding of the attitudes of key customers and other stakeholders before CEO activism goes public.

Americans Unsure of Motivation

The public does not fully credit CEOs’ motives for taking public positions on hotly debated issues. Americans believe the top reason for CEO activism is “to get media attention” (36 percent). Four other reasons tie for second place with 21 percent of respondents saying each of the following: “to build a CEO’s reputation,” “to sell more products or services,” “to be open and honest about how the issue aligns with company values” and “to be open and honest about how they personally feel about an issue.” Among these top five cited reasons, only the last two demonstrate trust in CEO activism motives. Adding to the skepticism, only 14 percent cite “to do what is right for society” and fewer (11 percent) cite “to speak up on behalf of the company’s employees and customers.” At the bottom of the list is “to attract and retain the best employees” (7 percent). Clearly, if CEOs want to signal that the well-being of employees is at the heart of their activism, their message is not resonating loud enough.

Media attention, of course, may not necessarily be a total negative since activist CEOs are attempting to bring attention to an issue that they wish to influence and about which they feel passionately. Still, many Americans think that CEOs speak up out of self-interest, whether it be seeking media coverage or building personal reputations. CEOs need to make their rationale for participation in this type of public dialogue crystal clear in an attempt to alleviate such doubts about CEO motives.

According to Weber Shandwick’s chief reputation strategist Leslie Gaines-Ross, “As the world grows more complex, polarized and politically-charged, our research provides an early roadmap for CEO activists to consider when speaking up on pressing societal issues. It is understood that CEOs have to carefully balance many constituencies but they will find themselves increasingly in the spotlight as they try to make a difference in a world that requires them to stand up and be counted. This new strain of CEO activism requires leaders to articulate their positions in a straightforward, unambiguous and meaningful way in order to be fully understood.”   

Millennials Are On Board More

Millennials (18-35 year olds) are the generation more inclined to favor CEO activism. They are more likely than other Americans to be aware of CEOs having taken public positions on controversial issues, to feel favorably toward CEOs who speak out, and to say that they will buy from companies whose CEOs take a public position they agree with.

For companies looking to appeal to the next generation, CEO activism might just be the right course of action.

Guiding Principles for CEO Activists

Without a doubt, companies and their leaders need to deliberate whether to speak out on controversial issues of the day and to decide which issues should be addressed. Weber Shandwick’s report provides 12 guidelines for leaders and their companies to consider. Following are several rules of the road:

  • Recognize that CEO activism is an emerging dynamic that is only going to increase as CEOs become more deeply engaged in the new world order.
  • Carefully evaluate the impact of the CEO’s stance among key stakeholders.
  • Establish a link between the issue and the company’s values and business.
  • Consider employees. Assess how it will impact them and gauge their support. If some employees disagree with the CEO’s stance, will they feel excluded, less productive, less loyal?
  • Look in the mirror. Make sure there are no skeletons in the closet related to the issue. This is a good time to put one’s house in order.
  • Consider the channels, messages and tone of voice used. Ensure that the reasons behind the public stance are clearly and transparently articulated and voiced over time, not just one time when the issue first appears in the news.
  • Have a crisis preparedness plan ready for a media, stakeholder or social media backlas
  • About the Research

    The Dawn of CEO Activism was an online survey commissioned by Weber Shandwick and conducted by KRC Research. The survey sampled 1,027 U.S. adults 18 years of age and older and interviewed them in May 2016.

Kobe Bryant’s 60 Point Finale and what he has taught us about CEO and personal branding

John Salmons with Kobe

This is our client John Salmons as he was guarding Kobe Bryant which he did many times over his 10+ year career.  Here is what John said about Kobe before his big game last night:  "It always took your 100% focus to guard Kobe! Seeing the Lakers on the schedule was always a game I prepared a little differently for, because it was always the ultimate challenge. The NBA will miss him! Congrats Kobe for graduating from the game."

I never had the honor or more accurate the torturous deed of guarding Kobe Bryant.  I have however been watching him for 20 years.  To say that he was viewed as a villain for most of his career is a fair statement.  However, Bryant did a masterful rebrand this year.  He realized he will have a much longer career off the court than he ever had as a basketball player.  He did a farewell tour that endeared him to the fans and he left everything on the court last night.  He scored 15 of the last 17 points for the Lakers and he won the game. 

This last year in many ways rewrites his history.  He now will be remembered for his 5 titles, being a great competitor, and for ending his career scoring 60 points in a game.  A feat at age 37 seems completely implausible. 

I could only hope that we could help our CEO clients build a brand that performs a fraction of what Bryant has done.  Now what is next?  We get to watch Kobe Bryant be a CEO.  I have no doubt he will be a great one. 





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