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  • Getting Away with the CEO Swap

    So, Tony Hayward is being replaced as CEO of BP by an American. It’s not surprising to see that the company is doing whatever they can to minimize damage and public outcry. I’ve come to find it interesting that when a company gets itself in to serious trouble, that the “CEO Swap” is viewed as an acceptable part of the solution It has become an expected worst-scenario step whenever a corporate scandal breaks out.

    The acceptable solution

    The “CEO Swap” has become increasingly popular over the last few decades. In a way I’ve began to think that this public relations tactic is on its way out now that the availability and consistency of information insures that real change is necessary to quell public opinion. I even admire companies that opt to keep their CEO’s in-office to prove that they don’t need to use this type of PR distraction to make changes.

    Your brand

    What if I could do that when I did something wrong… could I just quit something every time I mess up and expect to keep my brand marketable and respectable? No. Could my company replace employees every time they messed up and still expect good work from their employees and trust from their customers? No. When you make a mistake you fix it – sometimes you can end up in a better place because of it. This concept has some major applications to the longevity and value of your brand. You want to be seen as someone who can make things happen, fix problems, and take on tough challenges.


    David Trahan is a Strategist at leading social marketing agency Mr Youth in New York, which was named one of the Top 10 Most Innovative Marketing Companies in the World by Fast Company Magazine. He currently serves on the board of the AD Club of New York Young Professionals and is an Alumni Mentor at Pace University. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter or read his blog posts at GrownUpThinking.

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    3 comments on “Getting Away with the CEO Swap
    1. avatar

      Is there something more going on with these corporations than just a CEO swap? I’ve never really considered this topic before, and read the Reuters article about the CEO who successfully kept his job.

      I think that the necessity for a CEO swap tells a lot about the failure of large corporations to choose leaders based on strong principles-based personal brands. I spent a few years working for a large multi-national oil company and spent a lot of time wondering how they managed to remain successful given the selection criteria for managers and upper echelon leaders.

      BP has one of the worst industrial safety records, and their strategy is to put profit-at-any-cost above responsibility to workers or the environment. It didn’t come as much of a surprise to me that a CEO chosen under these circumstances was unable to lead them out of trouble.

      Using the “CEO Swap” as a tactic is more of a reaction to getting caught-out than to any a priori planning. Planning requires intelligent people with a plan. ;D

      I hope you’re right that this is on its way out because of the increasing transparency we get today with web-based media. It will certainly be an improvement when we can get more ethical, responsible and professional behaviour on the part of big-business CEOs.

    2. avatar
      David says:

      Great point Elizabeth. If a company can just swap out their CEO to help improve their image, it doesn’t say much about their trust in that CEO’s performance and potential.

    3. avatar
      Kelly Green says:

      Swapping CEO’s doesn’t go far enough in my opinion. I’d like to see a company say that they’ve re-visited & revised their mission statement and commitment to its’ customers. When the automobile industry was in trouble, Ford not only swapped CEO’s, they refused a bailout and made a public commitment to invest in more fuel effiecient vehicles. They lived up to their promise and hence, they were the first of the big 3 to see a profit.

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