Digital & Social Media

How We See the CEO

How We See the CEO

C-E-O. Those letters can conjure a wide range of thoughts, from powerful to overpaid, leader to misguided. Regardless, CEOs arguably play the greatest role in a company’s direction and success. While CEOs vary as greatly as the organizations they represent, FleishmanHillard TRUE surveyed 511 U.S. adults to get a sense of just how influential a CEO is perceived to be, how “social” the role should be and how much of a bottom-line impact political beliefs have.

“Celebrity” Executive Officer

Nearly seven out of 10 (69 percent) consumers are not aware of CEOs or are aware only of “celebrity” CEOs, indicating an opportunity for CEOs to enhance their exposure to the public.


However, consumers indicate they want to hear more from CEOs – and that a CEO’s personality has an impact on the perception of a company.

  • 68 percent would like to hear more from the CEOs of products/services they purchase.
  • Nearly three-fourths (73 percent) say a CEO’s personality impacts their opinion of a company.

Social CEOs

According to a study from, 68 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies have no social media presence at all. Based on the high demands from consumers to hear from CEOs, social media channels may be able to provide that avenue.

  • One-fourth of respondents currently follow a CEO’s personal social media accounts.
  • However, twice as many (51 percent) said they believe CEOs should be active on social media, posting/interacting at least once per week.

This gap suggests a current missed opportunity for CEOs to meet consumer demand.

Employee Treatment: CEO Job No. 1

How a company treats its employees is identified as the most important factor influencing purchase decisions, higher than the values, reputation and behavior of a CEO and a company’s CSR efforts.


Consumers Want to Hear From CEOs on Company Matters (But Maybe Not Politics)

Sometimes, CEOs make their political beliefs known. Sometimes, this can negatively affect sales. More than one-third (36 percent) of respondents have stopped or reduced purchases because of differing political views from a CEO.

What consumers do want to hear about, though, are issues related to products: launches, recalls, and responses to crisis situations. Just over half are interested in hearing about financial performance.


While consumers are interested in hearing about these topics, that doesn’t guarantee trust. Consumers are fairly trusting of information from CEOs across a variety of topics – with the highest level of trust found for new product/brand announcements. The highest level of mistrust (16 percent) pertains to information from CEOs related to product recalls, consumer groups or crisis situations. In addition, 13 percent don’t trust financial news from CEOs.