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Niall Gibbons, CEO, Tourism Ireland, Most Influential Irish Leader on Social Media for Second Year

For the second year, Tourism Ireland CEO, Niall Gibbons has emerged as the most influential Irish leader on social media, according to the second Social CEO Report released by strategic reputation and communications firm The Reputations Agency. The report highlights the vital role leaders can play in communicating on behalf of their organisations and reveals that close to one in two CEOs are not communicating on any social media channel.  

The release of the report marks the second year of the agency's Leaders Reputation Programme (see here), a three-month leadership communications programme, designed to empower and build confidence in business leaders to communicate and advocate for their organisation externally. The programme consists of four building blocks - the role of leadership in reputation management, social media training, preparing for media interviews and a national media profiling programme. 

The Social CEO 2021 Report analysed the social media activity and LinkedIn profiles of 100 CEOs and explored those CEOs who are maximising LinkedIn as a tool to communicate their own organisation’s purpose, business news, peer and team recognition and elevate their organisation’s corporate reputation. The study showed that LinkedIn was the social media channel of choice for chief executives, with 84% of the 100 Irish leaders examined having an account.  However, only 55% posted in 2021, up from 38% in 2020, while just 22% posted on Twitter.  

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The Social CEO Report 2021 - Top 10 overall  

Niall Gibbons, CEO, Tourism Ireland, emerged as one of the most prolific and engaging CEOs on LinkedIn, taking first place for the second year running, Niall successfully maintained and continued to grow his network, recognising its importance and relevance to Tourism Ireland. He gained the support of an influential group of external stakeholders to ensure cut through of his messaging. As a renowned leader in the tourism sector which faced huge challenges and uncertainty due to the pandemic, Niall Gibbons continued to champion Tourism Ireland and was highly praised for the vibrancy and optimism of his narrative in promoting the island of Ireland overseas, the quality of the engagement across his connections and the highest level of overall engagement from his followers.  

Robert Finnegan, CEO, Three Ireland and Anne O’Leary, CEO, Vodafone Ireland took second and third place, respectively. 

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While just 17% of the 100 organisations measured were led by women, eight of the top 30 were female leaders (27%, down from 37% in 2020), with Anne O’Leary Vodafone, Francesca McDonagh Bank of Ireland, Cathriona Hallahan Microsoft, Tara McCarthy Bord Bia, Carolan Lennon Eir, Sharon McCooey LinkedIn, Imelda Hurley Coillte and Dee Forbes RTÉ taking top thirty positions.   
 Leaders of Indigenous Irish organisations account for 40% of the top ten and 50% of the top 30 positions. Irish semi state bodies were also strongly represented, with their CEOs taking one third of the top 30 positions, led by the CEOs of Tourism Ireland, An Post, IDA Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia, Dublin Bus, Coillte, RTÉ and Irish Water, in order of ranking.  
 

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Social Media leaders played their part in leveraging these digital platforms to build corporate reputation. Interestingly Facebook CEO Gareth Lambe took 8th place, while LinkedIn CEO Sharon McCooey took 21st place. 

David McRedmond, CEO, An Post and JD Buckley, CEO, Sky Ireland, took the biggest leaps forward this year into top ten positions, with David moving up nine places to fifth place overall and JD Buckley moving up eight places to ninth place overall. Gareth Lambe, Facebook jumped four places to eighth place overall, while Martin Shanahan, IDA Ireland, jumped four places to joint ninth position. 

With the period under review, striking the right tone continued to be important. Among the top ten CEOs, 27% of content related to the pandemic vs 46% in 2020, reflecting a 40% drop year-on-year. At the forefront of commentary were Products and Services related posts (52%), portraying a “back to business” mindset amongst CEO’s.  

Well-executed social media strategies 

Of the 100 analysed, 30 CEOs were found to have a well planned and executed social media strategy that maximised their connections and their content to elevate their organisation’s vision and purpose.  95% of the top 10 CEOs used rich visuals to get their message across using either imagery (77%) or video content (18%) and understanding how to best use relevant and engaging content to connect with their audience.  LinkedIn is the social media channel of choice for CEOs given its popularity in the professional community as an undeniably safe space to communicate. CEO imagery featured in two out of ten posts amongst all 55 CEOs, increasing to three in 10 posts among the top 10 winners. Among the active 55 CEOs and the top 30 CEOs, nine in ten posts related to topics around their own organisation, while one in ten saw the CEO praise another organisation or share an insight unrelated to their organisation. The number of external posts rose to two in ten amongst the top ten winners, reflecting an openness to share credit with others.  

33% of all posts came from the top ten winners, who between them had close to 500 posts - almost one post for each week of the year.  83% of posts came from the top thirty, while just 17% came from those placed between 31st and 55th place, with an average of 10 posts each over the year.  

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Drivers of reputation  

An analysis was carried out amongst the top ten winners, examining the proportion of themes across the seven acknowledged drivers of corporate reputation. Organisational Products & Services (52% of posts) and Citizenship initiatives (32% of posts) featured most prominently. The most noteworthy posts related to how the organisation was having a positive influence on society such as advancing agendas to move society in a more positive direction, investing in the Irish economy, encouraging greater diversity and inclusion, and advocating for the vulnerable in society.  Examples include Niall Gibbons, Tourism Ireland championing Ireland’s road back to recovery, Anne O’Leary and Vodafone’s commitment to sustainability and building inclusive communities and J.P. Scally’s posts to amplify Lidl’s Economic Contribution in Ireland and industry leading initiatives such as Lidl’s launch of Ireland’s first Deposit Return Scheme.   

Workplace and Innovation related posts amounted to 18% each while 16% of posts were related to the Performance of the organisation and 13% of posts were related to the topic of Leadership.  

Just 11% were related to Governance issues, those which portrayed an open, transparent, ethical, and fair organisation, despite being the second most significant driver of a corporate reputation.  Leaders reporting on Governance related themes included Paul Marchant, Primark on the Primark Cares strategy; Jonathan Hill, FAI on equal pay for women’s football; David McRedmond on the An Post Gender Pay Report; Paul Reid, Pfizer on transparency on vaccine shipments and rollout; Robert Finnegan Three Ireland on Three’s DIB Strategy; Imelda Hurley Coillte on their Elevate Pledge to promote inclusion in the workplace; and Ray Coyne Dublin Bus on their Low Carbon Pledge.  As one of most important drivers of reputation, this presents a strong opportunity for leaders to shine in this space.

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Speaking about the results, Niamh Boyle, Managing Director at The Reputations Agency said:  

“Leaders are an important conduit for enterprises to communicate about their organisations, articulating a clear and compelling corporate vision and sense of purpose. A leader who can communicate openly, authentically, and transparently can help win the hearts and minds of their stakeholders. Organisations whose leaders can show that at their core, at the very heart of what they do, they exist not just for profit but for the betterment of society, will win in the reputation stakes, gaining exponentially more backing from their key stakeholders.” 

Commenting on the study, Anne Browning, Director at The Reputations Agency said: 

“Our latest study highlights the importance of a strong leadership communications strategy. Organisations who are perceived as well-organised, managed effectively, with appealing leaders, and a strong vision for the future can help build stronger corporate reputations. When making our analysis, we pinpointed three key areas to decide the ranking – popularity, engagement & activity. LinkedIn and Twitter were examined because they are the most used of corporate communications platforms. When we dug deeper, LinkedIn was the ultimate channel to focus on for our rankings given its space as a professional community. It remains an undeniably safe space to communicate on and elevate your organisations’ corporate reputation.”  

“Over the course of the study it was interesting to observe the type of content used by Irish leaders who ranked in the Top 10. Across the board those leaders understand the power of using rich imagery and video content for connecting with their audience.” 

Survey Methodology  

The study analysed the LinkedIn profiles of the CEO’s of the 100 organisations featured in The Reputation’s Agency annual Ireland RepTrak® study – amongst the largest, most familiar, and most important organisations in Ireland across 18 sectors. We focused on the eleven months from November 2020 to October 2021. 

Three key metrics were applied to decide the ranking – popularity, engagement & activity: 

  1. Popularity is based on how many followers the CEO has built up on LinkedIn indicating their potential audience reach on that platform (30% weighting). 2
  2. Engagement is based on the absolute engagement the CEO received from their posts (the total amount of likes/reactions and comments they received from followers this year) (40% weighting) and the quality of engagement they received (the percentage of likes/reactions and comments they received per post) (20% weighting). 
  3. Activity is based on how many posts the CEO published, indicating how active they are on the platform (10% weighting). 

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The importance of strong leadership   

Leadership is an important driver of corporate reputation. The annual Ireland RepTrak® report from The Reputations Agency shows us that organisations who are perceived as well-organised, managed effectively, with appealing leaders, and a strong vision for the future have stronger corporate reputations. Some of the world’s most reputable companies have visible and respected leaders, while others have been brought to their knees by leaders who mismanaged communications during a crisis. 

What can TRA do to help business leaders maximise their social media?   

The release of the report marks the second year of the agency's Leaders Reputation Programme (see here), a tailored three-month leadership communications programme, designed to empower and build confidence in business leaders to communicate and advocate for their organisation externally. The programme consists of four building blocks - the role of leadership in reputation management, social media training, preparing for media interviews and a national media profiling programme.  

This programme will empower and build confidence in CEO/Senior Management Teams and Senior Business Leaders to communicate and advocate for their organisation externally. It will support the communication of their organisation’s Purpose, Values, and business objectives through impactful communications across multiple communication channels. The new Leaders Reputation Programme (see here) will raise the profile of an organisation and leadership team amongst key stakeholders to attract new talent, customers, win support, and ultimately to grow business. 

Popularity Top Ten - Most followed CEOs 

For the second year running, Niall Gibbons of Tourism Ireland emerges as the most followed CEO in our study, displaying an impressive base of connections and followers.  

As leader of an organisation decimated by Covid-19, Niall Gibbons continued to champion Tourism Ireland and remained optimistic, despite the challenges and uncertainty facing the Tourism Industry. As one of the most prolific and engaging CEOs on LinkedIn, he successfully maintained and continued to grow his network, recognising its importance and relevance to Tourism Ireland, which is responsible for marketing the island of Ireland overseas as a leading holiday destination, deliver world-class marketing programmes in over 20 markets across the world and reach a global audience of over 600 million each year with a workforce of up to 150 staff.  

Without the might of a workforce in the thousands to share and engage with the content published by their organisation’s leader, Niall has gained the support of an influential group of external stakeholders to ensure cut through of his messaging.  

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Absolute Engagement Top Ten - CEOs with highest overall engagement  

This table ranks CEOs on total engagement for their posts. Total engagement means the entirety of likes/reactions and comments they received for the period under review. 95% of the Top 10 CEOs used rich visuals to get their message across – either imagery (77%) or video (18%) – understanding how to best use relevant and engaging content to connect with their audience.  

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Quality Engagement Top Ten - CEOs with the highest percentage engagement per post  

This table represents the biggest deviation from the other league tables. David McRedmond, CEO of An Post, which employs a workforce of more than 9,000, receives the highest average engagement per post on his LinkedIn channel. While his postings may be less frequent and his connections or followers base smaller, the highly engaged workforce of An Post get behind the content that he posts. There was consistency in the quality of posts, and David McRedmond consistently delivered quality engagement, moving up fifteen places since last year. In the overall rankings, he also moved up nine places into 5th position. This Top Three garnered the most engagement on posts that specifically recognise their team’s efforts, supporting good causes, sustainability, resilience, and performance during Covid-19. 

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Activity Top Ten - Most Active CEOs 

Looking to creating impact, the frequency of posting will enhance any leader’s opportunity to elevate their organisation’s corporate reputation as long as the content is aligned with organisational values and feels relevant and engaging. Activity was calculated by the number of times a CEO posted on their own page. Frank O’Keeffe, EY Ireland was most active on LinkedIn, while Niall Gibbons of Tourism Ireland and Ray Coyne of Dublin Bus, took second and third place, respectively. 

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For more information on the agency’s Leaders Reputation Programme  

https://thereputationsagency.ie/latest/news-and-thinking/2021/11/15/leadersprogramme  

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For more information on the agency’s Leaders Reputation Programme  

https://thereputationsagency.ie/latest/news-and-thinking/2021/11/15/leadersprogramme  

For further information or comment please contact:  

Niamh Boyle, Managing Director, The Reputations Agency for further information or to register for the programme.  

niamh@thereputationsagency.ie 

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