There has long been talk about the need for organisations’ senior leaders to embrace more social forms of communication. The evolution of social media channels towards more publishing-centric models has meant that it is now more important than ever for executives to be mindful of their online presence.
The opportunities that modern, social and digital-led executive communications programmes present are almost too numerous to mention. In the past ‘profiling’ campaigns may have been seen as having limited value or simply exercises in vanity, in the current business and media environment they are an invaluable part of an organisation’s communications activity.
The 2017 Reputation Dividend Report (PDF) provides context of its value. It found that the combined value of corporate reputations across the FTSE 350 stood at £986bn (42% of the gross market cap. in the FTSE 100, and 25% in the mid caps).
Its importance is only increasing. This reputation premium is 3.5% points up in the FTSE 100 and 2.1% points up in the FTSE 250 on last year’s figures. All told, the increased reputation impact accounted for an additional £130bn of shareholder value across the two indexes.
A major contributor to corporate reputation and that significant premium, is the perception of the organisation’s senior leaders. It is crucial that businesses recognise and actively manage this aspect of their operations.
For the past two years I have been involved in designing and delivering communications programmes for senior leaders in all manner of sectors and industries. It’s something I see a growing number of requests about and I, like my senior colleagues Jo-ann Robertson and Stephen Waddington, believe that it will be a growth area in 2018 – not just for our business, but the whole industry.
Why Is Executive Communications So Important?
As Stephen rightly says, publishing and sharing ideas enables executives to build their social capital.
Social media powerhouses such as LinkedIn, that serve both as a professional network and publishing platform allow executives to engage with the full spectrum of stakeholders that can have a material impact on the businesses they lead – industry peers, employees, customers, suppliers, even media.
The ability to cut out the middle man and communicate directly with key stakeholders, serving them with highly targeted content that builds affinity, strengthens relationships, or changes behaviour is very powerful. These programmes can generate significant returns on investment.
So How Does It Actually Work?
These programmes are straightforward – all they require is a bit of thought, well conceived strategy, and effective planning.
Once those basics are in place you can make activity as involved as you like, whether that is simply publishing a regular cadence of content online, or much more holistic, 360 degree programmes incorporating targeted media activity, speaking appearances, bilateral meetings, employee engagement, and so on.
There are a few key things to establish:
Workflow and Ownership
Depending on the nature of the programme there can be several moving parts involved. It’s important to clarify from the outset who is responsible for what, how processes are escalated, and who is the ultimate decision-maker for various scenarios. Communications professionals (whether in-house or external advisors) can do a lot of things, but at this level some of the calls cannot be delegated and the executive will need to action appropriately. It’s important that all parties involved understand the commitments of time and resource investments they need to make from the outset.
Aims and Objectives
As with any communications activity setting out the aims and objectives very clearly is paramount. With digitally-led executive communications programmes there are lots of different stakeholder demographics and audiences in play as well as the wider corporate and business-level objectives. Make sure you define what you’re trying to achieve with each group of publics, so you can plan your activity effectively and measure success.
Timescales and Commitment
Success won’t happen overnight. Reputations are built over time and lost in an instant. Clichés perhaps, but all true. While programmes can generate quick wins and some results will be immediately visible, you can’t pluck authority and credibility out of thin air, or become an influencer overnight – you need to put in the work. Programmes can be designed and scaled for periods from months to years, depending on what is trying to be achieved, but they should always be viewed through that longer term lens. It’s great to have those lofty ambitions and stretch targets, but it’s crucial that everybody has realistic expectations of when those targets are going to be met.
Tell Me More
Having rolled out a number of these programmes I’m always happy to speak about the benefits and opportunities associated with well-thought out executive communications programmes for the digital age.