How to make your CEO your chief communicator
Written by Simon Turner, chief executive, Freshfield.
I have been fortunate to work with many brilliant leaders and see first-hand how strong communicators can have a positive impact on an organisation. They inspire their people and create brand loyalty.
Whether a CEO of a large organisation, the owner-manager of a small growing firm or founding partner of a new venture, a well thought out leadership communications strategy can have a huge impact.
Here are six tips to help your chief executive become a chief communicator, win hearts and minds, and play a central role in a successful PR and communications strategy.
1. Make CEO communications strategy ‘a thing’
Cher Wang, Richard Branson and Elon Musk. When you hear the names of these leaders, you quickly think of the brands they have led.
Likewise, you’ll know of certain leaders in your region or sector who stand out. Their reputations and those of their businesses are intricately intertwined.
The main benefit of stepping out from behind the logo is that it differentiates you from your competitors. There’s nobody like you or your people. All leaders have a unique DNA.
The other key benefit is that clients, employees and partners start to get to know the leaders of your company, and this starts building those trust factors that are so important.
So, as part of your communications strategy and planning, ensure you have a dedicated strand for CEO communications. As with any plan, set goals, define your audiences and messages, and choose your channels wisely.
2. Bring clarity to your vision
Whether it’s a vision, mission or purpose, a key role of a leader is to bring clarity to the direction of travel for that organisation, its clients, and its people.
The process in creating a compelling business strategy can be complex but the language you use to communicate it needs to be the opposite. People don’t want to hear corporate management buzzwords. Keep it simple. It needs to inspire your people and resonate with your customers and communities.
As part of your CEO communications plan, ensure you have a clear story around your vision and you are consistently sharing this narrative.
3. Be authentic, be you
CEO communication is a human-to-human discipline and people don’t want a well-rehearsed corporate broadcaster. They want to experience someone who is real. Inject your personality into your communication style. Letting your authentic ‘you’ shine through is a great way to communicate more effectively with your audience and build meaningful relationships.
4. Make employee engagement a priority
The most successful leaders I have worked with make employee engagement a priority and find the time to do it. They find opportunities to interact with employees, involving them in decision making, asking questions, and listening (one of the most important communication skills!).
By making meaningful employee engagement a priority, leaders can ensure their vision and key messages are understood, building deeper relationships with their people.
5. Get familiar with social impact
The World Economic Forum studied 5,000 millennials across 18 countries. They said the most important job of a business should be to improve society.
It’s not just millennials. Thankfully, we are in a world where more business leaders and employees are taking their role in society more seriously. They are using their businesses and careers to make a tangible impact on communities and lives.
This movement has been building for some time and is only going to get stronger.
B-Corps is a great example. It’s a community of leaders and a global movement of people using business as a force for good.
It is important for all leaders to get familiar with social impact because it matters to more of our people, customers, and partners.
Embracing it presents an opportunity to make a difference and do something good in the world. That will always win hearts and minds.
6. Get training
Being a chief communicator can be daunting, even for the most experienced professionals.
How you present, speak, respond to journalists, host a meeting, dress and use social media all have an impact on how well you communicate.
Communication involves specialist skills and it is important to invest the time and resource to give yourself the best chance of being a successful communicator.
One recommendation from me is to look up Kelly Anne Sharp, a voice coach and CEO of www.voice-work.co.uk. She says ‘your voice is one of your most effective tools in communicating effectively within business and social situations. Why do we invest so little in them?’