SJR Unveils CEO Leaderboard, Ranking COVID-19 Pandemic Response of all Fortune 100 CEOs

 Powered by ENODO Global, the Leaderboard quantifies how executives are communicating and how they are being perceived amid the global pandemic.

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--SJR, a WPP digital content and corporate communications firm, announced today the launch of the CEO Leaderboard, the first objective gauge of a set of CEOs’ actions and communications as measured by tracking their real-time conversation across the digital landscape. This CEO Leaderboard is a ranking of brand perception across Fortune 100 CEOs, measuring how they were perceived before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic and how their reputation shifted in the subsequent weeks.

Each CEO was graded on a scale from 0 to 100 based on the analysis of their online presence, including digital media stories, social media channels and general public sentiment across a wide variety of platforms. Nike’s John Donahoe claimed the No. 1 spot, with Dell’s Michael Dell and Target’s Brian Cornell ranking No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. The top 10 CEOs are as follows:

  1. John Donahoe, Nike
  2. Michael Dell, Dell Technologies
  3. Brian Cornell, Target
  4. Hans Vestberg, Verizon
  5. Satya Nadella, Microsoft
  6. Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin
  7. Bob Swan, Intel
  8. Kevin Hourican, Sysco
  9. Jim Umpleby, Caterpillar
  10. Ernie Herrman, TJX Companies

Of note, Hans Vestberg (Verizon) improved 36 spots between the first and second ranking (40 to 4), and Doug McMillon (Walmart) improved 40 spots (57 to 17). Our other key findings include:

Retail’s Shining Moment

The industry that shined above all others was retail — of the top 25 CEOs, seven lead brick-and-mortar retailers, with five of those in the grocery trade. For many, especially retail grocery, the pandemic has reinforced their role as essential to daily life. From the beginning, “panic buying” stressed supply chains and work staffs, forcing some CEOs to create a plan while already in motion. In many ways, retail was (and still is) on the front lines of the pandemic, and a lot of leaders have proven their ability to communicate effectively with all of their stakeholders. Some of the tactics they’ve taken include:

Big Tech Breaks Through

Technology as an industry is scattered high and low throughout the Fortune 100, but brand leaders are increasingly finding their way amid quarantine life, supporting school and work-from-home realities. Many CEOs have identified this time as an opportunity to demonstrate the essential nature of their products and services to American families, driving demand for increased usage and sales. The activities we’re seeing include:

The Visible and Voluble CEO

The Leaderboard’s most successful CEOs don’t shy from communicating — most employ an array of social and owned brand channels that they publish on frequently. In many circumstances, positive movement and rankings correlate with CEO and brand communications being closely aligned. Examples include:

Further insight into each of these CEOs indicates the investment each made into putting forth clear, actionable communications that targeted relevant stakeholders from employees to customers and partners.

“It’s critical that brands — and consequently, brand leaders — fit into the context of the global pandemic by leaning into the human element of their businesses,” said Alexander Jutkowitz, CEO, SJR. “The ability to connect with people on a genuine and emotional level determines how their brand will perform going forward. By exploring how leaders positioned themselves before and after the initial days of the global pandemic, we’re able to evaluate which CEOs are prepared to live up to this new standard.”

“In today’s communication environment, public perception of a company’s brand and its leadership is a leading indicator of performance, and value and has a direct impact on a company’s stock price,” stated James R. Sisco, CEO, ENODO Global. “Our CEO Leaderboard enables companies to accurately measure the performance of their communication plans and engagement strategies in real time, delivering a competitive advantage.”

The full ranking can be viewed HERE, along with a downloadable report of SJR’s complete findings.


ENODO Global’s proprietary methodology and customized Python written data analytics platform collect and synthesize all publicly available data anywhere digitally available. Thus, the dataset is more robust and includes online local, national and international news outlets, RSS feeds, 20+ social media sites and additional open-source information.

The data set was created to assess the online conversation around the Fortune 100 CEOs between January 1 and April 15, 2020. The data set included:

  • 1,798,645 Facebook posts
  • 904,079 Tweets
  • 819,690 Instagram posts
  • 702,537 LinkedIn posts
  • 679,904 YouTube comments
  • 497,497 news sites
  • 306,789 RSS feeds
  • 224,579 blogs

The Leaderboard accounts for the positive, neutral and negative sentiment that occurs around the CEOs’ communications and what is written and posted about the CEO. The scores or rankings range from 0 to 100, with higher scores representing higher positive and neutral sentiment.

Two rankings were created. An initial baseline assessment spanned from January 1 to February 29, 2020, before COVID-19 became a constant presence in the daily news cycle. The second period included data from March 1 to April 15, 2020, assessing the performance of each CEO during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the top-ranking CEOs, the report identifies the leaders whose positions most increased or decreased due to their COVID-19 responses.


SJR is a collective of artists, writers and consultants, driving corporate communications and creative content for today’s leading brands. Specializing in insights, content creation and audience development, we create experiences worth your time. SJR was founded with this simple objective in mind: how to connect brands and companies with the right audience, keep it and develop it. SJR is a WPP company.


ENODO Global is a social risk advisory firm that combines advanced data analytics, social media exploitation and a population-centric methodology to deliver real-time awareness and predictive analysis that enables commercial and government clients to manage their risk exposure, increase profitability and safeguard their brand.


Steve Hirsch