Nobody Loves Me! The Valentine Nightmare.

Ask any reputation strategist and he will tell you that the most vulnerable asset of any corporation is its very own leader. Actually CEO’s reputation represent around 49%-65% of overall corporate reputation and thus it is inevitable part of numerous Black PR scenarios. The reason for this is because it requires much less efforts and time to defame a person, than to concentrate on the disparagement of an entire organization.

The objectives of the smear campaigns, on the other hand, could also be different. Usually there are two simple goals behind every reputation attack. The first one is directed at the personal qualities of the target and it aims his official resignation. Most of the time these types of attacks come from inside the company and are used when the leader is no longer suitable for the general corporate performance. It is also very convenient when he/she cannot be dismissed directly or is a great obstacle for someone’s interest. The second reason for CEO defamation is when the black- hats are trying to distract the attention of the industry’s stakeholders or are aiming to cause extra troubles for the organization. It is not a surprise that this is a very common situation during important events like new product launching or some forthcoming acquisitions.

Due to the high volume of recent reputation attacks, I tried to summarize the most common malicious scenarios that CEO’s could be involved in. Of course, there are a lot more scenarios than those that I have listed. Keep in mind that everything depends on the creativity of the attacker. The golden rule here is that the more uncommon the plan is, the more effective the results would be.

  1. Sexual Harassment – This is the most popular type of attack that a leader could face. It is quite easy to be proved and works almost every time. All you need to do is to find a suitable victim, sufficient evidences and a tabloid editor, willing to pay enough for the story. Once the scandal is triggered, you can just sit down and relax.
  2. Hypocrisy – The point here is to reveal a discrepancy between leader’s official attitude and his actual deeds. The latest example is the Sara Palin fashion affair. The problem there was not that she likes to wear very expensive, designer clothes, but the fact she is not a regular American girl as she had been trying to portray herself.
  3. Membership of controversial groups – This is a really powerful approach. If you can prove that the CEO is a part of a mob gang, religious cult or secret society, than his media crucifixion will be certain. The corporate long term strategies will also be affected.
  4. Professional Incompetence – if the leader is incapable of making good decisions and taking responsibilities of his action , then the quality of the corporate services will be put under a serious suspicion. This is pretty scary for most of the B2B type of companies.
  5. Misuse of corporate resources (Embezzlement) – Financial wrongdoing and unethical behavior are probably the most significant threats to every corporate reputation.Such is the case with the Deyaar’s ex-CEO, Zack Shahin, who was suspected of embezzling over $33 millions into his personal accounts. The scandal broke earlier this year and let to his immediate discharge as the head of the biggest property developer in Dubai. According to the Gulf media sources, the company is still trying to recover its tarnished reputation and to regain the trust of its shareholders.
  6. I want to clarify that the person who was accused of embezzling Deyaar Development’ resources is Zack Shahin , not Nasser Al-Shaikh as was stated earlier before. Mr. Al-Shekih is the current Chairman of the company and The General Director of Dubai Department of Finance. Spin Hunters apologies for any inconvenience we might caused with this post.

  7. Indictment – When it comes to CEO’s reputation, ethical conduct is always on the top. Bernard Ebbers, the former CEO of WorldCom, learned that the hard way when he was indicted on federal charges stemming from the multi-billion dollar accounting fraud at the telecommunications giant. He was also charged of conspiracy and false filing with the Securities Exchange Commission. Today he is serving his sentence at the FCI Oakdale.
  8. Personality and Lifestyle – The main goal of the attacker here is to reveal all the dirty secrets of the target that are not publicly known. If the leader is a drug addict, a racist or a homosexual and this type of an image is in total clash with the position he takes, then not only the reputation of the organization, he is associated with, will suffer but also the reputation of the entire industry itself.

Bottom Line: CEO’s reputation will always be a target of professional smear campaigns. The best thing CEOs can do is to be completely honest and sincere with his PR strategic team, as this is the only way to tackle all pending reputation risks.