Corporate Eye

Brand Trust and Integrity Starts with the CEO

leader teamSince 2009, I’ve been writing about the importance of building brand trust here at Corporate Eye. I’ve given reasons why internal brand building should be a strategic priority and provided questions to ask employees in order to build your brand from within. I’ve called upon CEOs to hire Chief Brand Officers to focus on brand building, and I’ve made it clear that building brand trust must happen from the top down in order to be successful. That means it starts with the CEO.

Ben W. Heineman Jr. of the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation recently dove into the topic of building a corporate culture of integrity (which supports developing a trusted brand) and asked, “Why and how do the CEO and top business and staff leadership govern the company itself in order to create high performance with a high-integrity culture?”

Heineman suggests that building brand integrity is a core part of any CEO’s job and begins with a consistency and commitment by the CEO and leadership team to develop a company of high integrity. He calls for systems and processes to monitor integrity and ethical practices beyond what formal government regulations require. He also advises companies to offer integrity education and training to employees and to offer ways for employees to report on and give feedback related to compliance and ethical practices that are anonymous and without retribution. In fact, Ben suggests that companies develop a pay-for-performance-with-integrity bonus compensation program.

Heineman warns that the CEO must lead the charge to run a company with integrity, but the finance, human resources, legal, marketing, and other business leaders must commit to working together to, “Integrate these principles into business activities as both partners of those leaders and guardians of the company. We should never underestimate that our success in this core task depends mightily on having the right CEO with the right values, energy, and commitment truly to lead the company.”

For brand marketers, building brand trust is a top priority, but getting the CEO and leadership team to lead the charge in building a culture of business integrity that promotes brand trust can be challenging. Heineman makes a great case for creating this culture from the top down. How many CEOs will listen?

What do you think? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts on building a corporate culture of integrity that starts with the CEO and leads to increased brand trust among internal and external stakeholders.

Image: Barun Patro

The following two tabs change content below.
Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.