The CEO’s Vital Role in PR

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The CEO’s Vital Role in PR

A CEO is the most visible person in the company. The reputation of a CEO is often directly related and crucial to a company’s valuation and its short- and long-term success. Now, more than ever, it’s important to establish the CEO as a trusted leader with a strong vision, someone that will move the company and overall industry forward.

With the shift to a non-stop, around-the-clock media and news cycle, CEOs need to work with their communications team to help manage their reputation in ways they never had before. Public opinion and profitability may depend on how customers, employees and shareholders perceive them, extending a CEO’s reputation beyond the company and the products or services it provides. Even their views on social and economic issues factor into their reputation and how the broader industry perceives them.

CEOs own the message they communicate that are critical to their brands. While some CEOs are enthusiastic about getting their name out to as many outlets as possible, other CEOs would prefer to delegate the spokesperson’s role and focus on the business. There are effective strategies for either approach, and it is important to identify your CEO’s preference early on.  A strategic approach to positioning CEOs as leading industry thinkers, trendsetters and influencers will set your company apart from the competition, build employee morale, improve customer loyalty and boost sales.

 

Top 5 strategies to help raise a CEO’s visibility

1. Share unique knowledge

Every CEO has a unique story and perspective on why they founded the company or took over as the CEO.  It’s important to capture that insight about the industry you’re addressing. It goes beyond having a deep understanding of your company’s mission, vision and business strategy. Do you have a distinctive vantage point about trends, challenges, and risks affecting your industry?

Be a voice for the marketplace, not just to land sales, but with the broader purpose of raising the issues of utmost importance to the industry and its customers. Brand attention and sales may follow, but if you’re in it for those reasons alone, your audiences will sense it and lose interest.

2. Be authentic and personal

CEOs should be willing to share themes, opinions and issues that are deeply meaningful to them. For example, what are you discussing with your customers or employees? This could give your PR partner a chance to align messaging with broader trends the media cares about and position you as a resource. Be authentic and true to your values.

3. Invest and execute realistically

Marketing and PR fully appreciate the value that thought leadership campaigns can bring to a company to help stand out in a crowd. A PR practitioner can help execute the CEO’s visibility strategy, which should be designed to reflect your personality, communications style and work style and play to your strengths. For example, if you perform best in a prepared setting, focus more heavily on contributed content.  If you are a CEO that thrives in larger groups, look to events on stage. If you’re a wealth of knowledge on a complex or technical topic, be a subject-matter expert and be willing to talk with a reporter knowing that you won’t be covered, at least initially. If you’re the CEO that likes to be deep and thoughtful? Craft an op-ed.

4. Identify, believe and support what’s important in the world now

What is your view on the industry, and what problems are you addressing that are bigger than you and your industry? Are you and your company committed to sustainability, making the rollout of 5G as sustainable as possible? Are you committed to retaining and recruiting a more diverse workforce? It’s vital for the CEO—and leadership to get clear on who you are as a business and represent those values.

For worldview issues. What is your and your businesses’ role in addressing broader societal issues? For example, how are you addressing hiring to improve diversity and employee needs for people of color, women and LGBTQIA+. A holding statement of the company’s stance on diversity, equity, and inclusion is now table stakes.  Sam Whitmore, Media Survey, shared with Engage PR last year, 2021 Media Predictions, Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) will remain top of mind among many national media outlets, but readers and consumers want proof that your company is making progress.

CEOs should work with their communication partner and address the following questions:

  • Who are you as a business?
  • What’s your view of the industry?
  • What’s your world view and what’s your business’s role in society?

5. Socialize to help build and manage reputation

Data from BuzzSumo’s index of 8bn articles shows that social media engagement surrounding content has risen by 88 percent since 2016 – especially between 2020 – 2021, with an uplift of 42 percent. CEOs that use social media platforms, most notably LinkedIn, will have an opportunity to share their perspective directly with their audience on the above themes and engage in a broader discussion. While it is important to regularly post, social media is not a one-way communication channel. Respond to articles, add thoughtful comments and engage with followers. CEOs should use their social media presence to address what’s happening in the industry, issues your customers care about, and issues impacting the world. Think of what knowledge or expertise you have as an organization that could be helpful for your audience.

Empower your team

CEOs need to trust their communication team and empower them to help tell their story. It goes beyond having clear business goals but also the values behind them. Where does the CEO want to take the company? What does the CEO stand for? How do you lead and motivate your employees? Why is the CEO passionate about the business? Not every CEO is the same, and it’s up to the communications team to adapt to the CEO’s strength.

Elevating executive visibility creates a competitive advantage and positions your company as innovative, employee and customer-focused. But it also, directly and indirectly, increases a CEO’s communications and leadership skills, helps build trust and rapport with customers and business partners, and can be a mechanism for thinking through industry problems and solutions and testing new ideas.

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