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When I first switched to the “dark side” — a menacing term my fellow journalists use to describe the transition into public relations — the media landscape was different.
At the time, the only way to reach a mass audience was to have your news picked up by one of the few media outlets that had a monopoly on reaching mainstream audiences.
As a result, communication with the CEO was by default via speakers – a PR professional wrote a message on behalf of the CEO and then distributed it to the appropriate editors and producers. Removed from the complex world of optics, a CEO’s reputation has been severely tarnished through this process.
Those days are over. The widespread use of social media gives every employee, customer and investor a virtual insight into the workings of the companies that interest them and the lives of the executives who lead them.
Current research shows that 82% of employees expect executives to use social media to communicate about their company’s mission, vision and values - and four to one would rather work for a CEO who uses social media than for one who does not.
As the landscape has changed, so has the role of the CEO. A company’s top executive can no longer be expected to act without taking an active part in corporate communications. Still, many leaders, particularly in traditional industries like finance and law, have not adjusted to modern expectations. The recent Collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank was a shining example of how not investing in an executive communications strategy can literally destroy a company.
Amid corporate leaders who go for callous and viral unsympathetic communicationHere’s how to ensure your CEO’s reputation helps, not hinders, your business.
Related Topics: Build a brand that boosts your CEO’s reputation
Build an online presence
Whether privately owned or not, we have entered the era of public company formation. Every person your CEO interacts with has an opinion and a social media channel to share it on. Therefore, building an online presence for your CEO is not a vanity project, but reputation management.
If executives do not intend to create an online fingerprint, the portrayal of who they are and what they stand for is left to Google’s evolving algorithm. Without an executive content strategy, a negative tweet, a poor customer review, or an inaccurate press quote can be the first impression your CEO makes online when stakeholders conduct an online search.
Platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter impact search rankings and, when used properly, can create virtual communities that lead to real business opportunities. But don’t mortgage your CEO’s social media presence to an inexperienced employee. To build a personal brand for your CEO, you must leverage their personality and lived experience to create content that aligns with the company’s strategic goals and addresses the needs of the target audience – a complex process that requires the support of an experienced communications manager consultant , which can also warn against communication that could lead to a problem or crisis.
given four out of five investors Use digital media to make an investment decision. A strong online profile for your CEO can not only improve visuals, but also help land financing, sales, and strategic partnerships.
Related: 6 data-backed reasons why a CEO should take the time to build a strong personal brand
Empathize with the needs of the stakeholders
In the past few months, we’ve seen several CEOs go viral for all the wrong reasons. Andi Owens, the CEO of MillerKnoll, an American furniture company, rose to internet fame after a video was uploaded to social media in which she unsympathetically addressed her employees’ concerns.
In the video, Owens, who earned $5 million in 2022, taught his employees — who earned an average of $44,000 — to focus on revenue rather than personal compensation. Owens committed a sin many CEOs and business leaders regularly commit: she failed to empathize with the needs of her stakeholders.
Before a CEO releases any form of sensitive communication, it’s important to anticipate audience questions and gauge sentiment on the topic. This can often be achieved by distributing an anonymous survey beforehand to get candid feedback from the target audience on the topic and its impact on them. If you’re not attuned to your stakeholders’ needs, you’re less likely to respond with the information that’s most important to them—or, worse, offend them or raise concerns. This can cause irreparable damage to your business.
One of the best ways to keep up with the needs of your stakeholders is to create avenues for two-way communication. In the digital age, social media can be one of the most efficient tools to monitor public opinion and stay in touch with your stakeholders.
Related Topics: How to build a reputation that leads to success
Don’t be afraid to build publicly
In my nearly two decades of working with CEOs, I’ve noticed a general hesitancy when it comes to speaking publicly on a trending topic: “My company hasn’t perfected this yet.”
While it’s nice to have mastered a solution to a common challenge, it’s not necessary to have a viewpoint about it. Building in public space — the idea of openly sharing challenges, insights, and personal reflections as they arise — can be a powerful way to humanize a business leader and build a community around their online profile.
Building in the public domain doesn’t mean you have to proceed with radical transparency, but you must be willing to test ideas publicly and seek feedback from stakeholders. Sharing a comment, newsletter, or thoughtful LinkedIn update gives a CEO a great deal of control over their narrative and, when done strategically and consistently, can be a powerful way to establish their purpose and intent.
Building a personal brand is not a traditional part of being a CEO, but is becoming a requirement in the age of algorithms and viral videos.
The good news is that corporate leaders don’t have to be charismatic or even good at public speaking to build a public profile. All they have to do is deal with their online reputation in a targeted and strategic manner. By investing in an executive communications strategy, CEOs are better placed to protect their reputation and that of their company through the ups and downs of business.