Media Camera Lens

How Can CEOs Generate Media and Social Media Attention During a Crisis?

May 26, 2020

Exploring the link between a CEO’s activity on social media and media coverage of their actions

To better understand why certain French CEOs are more frequently cited in online discussions than others during the COVID-19 pandemic, we used publicly available data from 23 January – 24 April to create a focused database of CEO media/social media activity and popularity.

We organized the database into six variables:

  1. Twitter Followers: the number of a CEO’s Twitter followers
  2. Twitter Activity: the number of tweets posted by a CEO
  3. Twitter Engagement: how many likes + retweets were received by a CEO’s tweets
  4. Twitter Popularity: how many tweets mentioned a CEO
  5. COVID Media Popularity: the number of online articles related to COVID mentioning a CEO
  6. Other Media Popularity: the number of other online articles mentioning a CEO

We then used multiple linear regression to model the capability of these variables to predict COVID Media Popularity and Twitter Popularity for the top 40 French CEOs.

COVID Media Popularity: the importance of a long-term, integrated communications strategy

The first model used the five variables measuring Twitter Followers, Twitter Activity, Twitter Engagement, Twitter Popularity and Other Media Popularity to test the correlation of each variable with COVID Media Popularity. Together, these five measures accounted for approximately 72% of the observed variance in the COVID Media Popularity of a CEO. All of the variables except for Twitter Activity were statistically significant, indicating that CEOs with a strong Twitter presence and who are generally talked about in other contexts during this time (e.g. in other media, on Twitter), were also likely to be discussed in media coverage linked to their COVID-19 response.

Key Takeaway: CEOs who have clearly established strong media relations practices (as measured by Other Media Popularity) and who have built highly engaged online audiences (e.g. high Twitter Followers and Twitter Engagement) are more likely to earn coverage of their COVID-19 response.

Twitter Popularity: Correlation between COVID Media Coverage and online conversation

The second model examined how the five variables measuring Twitter Followers, Twitter Activity, Twitter Engagement, COVID Media Popularity and Other Media Popularity correlated with the Twitter Popularity of a CEO. Together, these five variables represented approximately 98% of the variance in Twitter Popularity and there were three statistically significant predictors: Twitter Followers, Twitter Engagement and COVID Media Popularity.

Interestingly, we can also quantify the impact of these predictors:

  • For every increase of 100 followers for a CEO, we would expect to see an additional 4 tweets mentioning the CEO;
  • For every increase of 100 engagements with a CEO tweet, we would expect another 33 tweets mentioning the CEO;
  • For each additional article related to COVID-19 citing a CEO, we would expect another 2 additional tweets mentioning the CEO.

To recap: during this crisis period, three factors were significantly linked to the popularity of a CEO on Twitter:

1. How often a CEO is cited in COVID-19 related news

If a CEO succeeds in communicating his response to the crisis to the media, there is a higher probability to then generate conversation on Twitter. 

2. The number of a CEO’s Twitter followers

CEOs who take the time to create, manage and grow their online audiences have loyal ambassadors ready to contribute to online conversation about the CEO.

3. Engagements received by a CEO’s tweets

CEOs who employ a strategy of quality over quantity benefit from an engagement boost that amplifies their popularity on Twitter.


Media relations and social media communications are more important than ever during this time of fast-paced news cycles and endless Twitter debates. By analyzing the media and Twitter activities of French CEOs during this time and modeling the predictive potential of their activities to gauge their popularity online, we can highlight two key findings:

  • Media relations and social media activities are complementary. Media interest in CEOs during this time of crisis is not correlated to individual Twitter activity, but rather the popularity of a CEO in other media, their general popularity on Twitter and the CEO’s ability to generate engagement with their tweets.
  • Social media popularity comes from the quality and relevance of published content and not from quantity. The popularity of a French CEO on Twitter during this time can be predicted by measuring the CEO’s visibility in COVID-related articles, the number of the CEO’s Twitter followers and the CEO’s level of Twitter engagement.

To read the full report, you can find the complete study here (in French).

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