Around the world, business executives are experiencing unprecedented scrutiny, with at times searing effect on companies’ reputations. However, the answer is not to assume a “small target” or low profile.
In fact, an increasing number of agile business leaders are taking the opposite approach. They are using the tools available now through social media to achieve an authentic and sustainable reputation position, which provides their companies greater freedom to operate in a complex world.
Business leaders can no longer afford to keep a low profile – and employing social media as a communication tactic should be viewed as an opportunity to have a platform for your own voice and corporate messaging.
Utilising executives and CEOs on social media can be a powerful tool to showcase the breadth and experience of a company’s leadership team, but it’s imperative to have a robust and purposeful strategy in place that protects both the individual’s and the business’s reputation.
Rationale for being social – leadership at all levels
Companies hire talented professionals; their business depends on it. As such, there is a powerful argument for showcasing the breadth of that talent, their professional experience and what aspects of the business they are driving.
Too often, the only exposure point is at the CEO-level, but in that role, they are supported by a team of highly skilled and specialised individuals at an executive level.
Has your company invested in innovation? Has your company’s parliamentary submission influenced beneficial policy outcomes for your industry? Are you driving change in your community? It’s ok to speak to your successes – in fact, it’s important to.
Not only is showcasing and sharing success stories a valuable tactic to build corporate awareness and trust, but utilising executives can be a powerful tool in connecting with different stakeholder groups.
Using social media is an opportunity to promote, diversify and engage proactively with a range of important stakeholders.
Connecting with stakeholders requires different channels, and social media should be considered as simply another communication platform from which to connect and engage.
Stakeholders don’t want to just hear from your CEO – especially if there are other interesting and engaging leaders in your business – they are an asset. In the same way we connect with different stakeholders through different channels, the same ideology applies to utilising different people.
For example, showcasing your company’s investment in technology will be more suitably aligned to the executive who drives that initiative. Their passion will come through in their communications, they will reach a unique audience and be able to create a more compelling narrative.
“Successful leaders will no longer be measured just by stock price. Managing and communicating with shareholders, employees, government, community, customers will be table stakes in the future.
They are talking about your business anyway. Why not be included in the conversation?” Peter Aceto, Former CEO, Tangerine Bank Canada
By aligning an executive to a specific (and relevant) business venture, offering or investment, we are also able to focus and align CEO messaging and conversation to drive a more specific and overarching corporate objective. This can have a significant advantage in times of crisis or industry disruption, when investors, media, government and customers will look to a CEO as a single source of truth and commentary.
Where to be social
Social media content can take many different forms, including text, images, audio and video – using social platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and an ever-developing list of other contenders. But for an executive or CEO, the channel/s needs to be aligned to the messaging and audiences.
Relevant channels will vary depending on your target audience and should be carefully considered before engaging.
Twitter can be used to target a broad and diverse audience, covers a range of stakeholder groups and is simple to use. While LinkedIn is the most ideal channel to target current and potential employees and functions as the most suitable platform for thought leadership.
By creating a presence, we can learn and participate online to establish an authoritative, credible voice on a variety of topics.
Risk mitigation – protecting the corporate and the individual
Social media presents corporate executives with both internal and external risks which can impact brand reputation, security, ASX compliance and productivity. Creating a strong governance program can mitigate the exposure of internal and external risks.
Implementing a social media strategy as part of an integrated communications strategy can maximise the exposure to your company’s message or strategy.
It is important that any corporate executives are shown to be a good example to the company’s employees by adhering to the corporate social media policy and guidelines. If these aren’t already in place, the risk of engaging online can be severe – for personal reputation and the company’s.
Social media accounts – corporate and CEO/executive – need to be monitored constantly. These sites officially represent your personal brand and can also affect corporate reputation. But with the right tools, protocols and strategy in place, it can be a powerful method of communicating with your audience.
Listening in to social conversations is important for several reasons including hearing relevant stakeholders’ views and the ability to be on the front foot if an issue is escalating. Social monitoring allows you to be agile, responsive and proactive.
Measure your success – otherwise ask yourself why you are engaging online…
As with any communications campaign, return on investment defines success.
The fact is social media can offer some of the best metrics for measuring return on investment. Social media analytics need to reflect the traction your efforts are getting.
If the numbers are low, it is an opportunity to reframe your content plan. If your results are good, it is a guide to what is working well and to continue along that path. Use your metrics as a report card for your performance, treat it as constructive feedback to grow and develop your presence.
A solid social media following and engagement plan takes time to build but consistent maintenance of your accounts will help you achieve results.
Don’t forget, you’re there to be social!
Social media should function as the name suggests – socially. Too many think of and use social media as a broadcasting platform, forgetting that your audience are there to engage with you.
Social media works best when CEOs and executives are social with their respective audiences and aren’t afraid to both initiate, facilitate and join conversations.
Like tweets, respond to interesting questions or share news and opinions that work cohesively to generate a personal narrative – ideally one that supports an overarching corporate strategy.
CEOs and executives need to remember that while they are there to represent their respective companies, they are also using social media to promote themselves – its dually beneficial. Finding a balance between sharing corporate messaging and project development and tweeting a snap of your dog is part of the allure for your audience to follow you.
Regular content is the key to growing your social media audience. Creating a calendar of regular content is the best way to ensure social media accounts aren’t forgotten and that the user stays relevant to their audience.
FTI Consulting’s View
FTI Consulting’s Australian Strategic Communications team are experts in helping companies tell their story online including how companies best equip themselves, and their executives, to communicate with stakeholders via social media.
Companies are best placed to utilise social media with a strategy in place to mitigate risks and use resources effectively.
The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting LLP, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals, members or employees.