The CEO’s Vital Role in PR
The CEO is not only the face of an organization; they also personify the brand. Public opinion of a CEO can impact stock prices, valuation, and the financial bottom line. As Generations Y and Z prefer to work with companies that share their core values, establishing the CEO as a trusted leader with a powerful vision is more important than ever. The CEO must be a public figure that promises to move the company and overall industry forward.
Considering our world’s 24/7/365 media and news cycle, CEOs must work with their communications team to manage their reputation in novel ways. Public opinion and profitability often depend on customer, employee and shareholder perception, extending a CEO’s reputation beyond the company and its products or services. Even their social and economic views factor into their perceived role and reputation in the broader industry.
CEOs must own the critical brand message of a company. While some CEOs are enthusiastic about self-promotion in as many outlets as possible, other CEOs prefer to delegate the spokesperson’s role to focus on the business. There are effective strategies for either approach. But marketing and PR teams need to identify your CEO’s preference early. 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 their leadership role. It’s important to capture that industry insight. 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? How does your CEO’s individual story apply to the greater whole of your company and industry?
Be a voice for the marketplace and address the most important issues facing 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. People don’t like a shameless sales pitch. They like human connection facilitated by a relatable narrative.
2. Be authentic and personal
CEOs should be willing to share industry themes, opinions and issues that are deeply meaningful to them. For example, what are you discussing with your customers or employees interpersonally? This gives your PR partner a chance to align your messaging with broader media trends, then 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 bring to a company’s individualistic vision. A PR practitioner can help execute the CEO’s visibility strategy, which should be designed to reflect the CEO’s personality, communications style, and play to their strengths. For example, if your CEO performs best in a prepared setting, focus more on contributed content. If you are a CEO that thrives in large groups, look for live events If you have a wealth of knowledge on complex, technical topics, be a subject-matter expert and talk with a reporter knowing that you won’t be covered individually, at least initially. If you’re a CEO that likes to be thoughtful, craft an op-ed.
4. Identify and support the world’s most pressing issues
What is your view on the industry, and what overarching problems are addressing on a global scale? Are you and your company committed to making 5G rollout sustainable? Are you committed to retaining and recruiting a more diverse workforce? It’s vital for the CEO and adjoining leadership to clarify who you are as a business and represent those values.
As an industry leader, what is your role in addressing broader societal issues? Where does your company fit into the solution for a particular issue? For example, how are you addressing hiring diversity and workforce 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 of Media Survey shared this with Engage PR last year in his 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 to 2021, with a significant 42 percent spike in 2020. CEOs that use social media, most notably LinkedIn, have an opportunity to share their perspective directly with their audience. This allows CEOs to address 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 industry happenings, issues relevant to customers, and issues impacting the world. Identify the knowledge or expertise you have as an organization that could be helpful for your audience, then work with a PR professional to implement a strategy that highlights your strengths.
Empower your team
CEOs need to trust their communications team and empower them to help tell their executive story. It goes beyond having clear business goals. A good story highlights a company’s underlying values as well. Where does your CEO want to take your company? What does your CEO stand for? How does the CEO lead and motivate their employees? Why is the CEO passionate about the business? Not every CEO is the same, and it’s up to the communications team to emphasize the CEO’s strengths.
Elevated executive visibility creates a competitive advantage and positions your company as innovative and employee and customer-focused. Enhanced visibility also 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. These facets of a good visibility strategy give thought leaders the space to test new, innovative ideas and differentiate themselves in their respective fields.