What made Steve Jobs a good leader for Apple? Was it his technical brilliance? No, that was more Steve Wozniak. Was he a design guru? Again, not really, that was much more Sir Jony Ive’s role. Steve Jobs was a great communicator – on the surface he communicated information and demonstrated knowledge, and beneath the surface, he conveyed trust.
Why does Papa John’s use Shaquille O’Neal in their advertisements? Aside from the fact that he’s a member of the board, it’s because people like Shaq. They recognize him, they’ve grown up with him and they’ll listen to him. Over the years they’ve gotten to know him. They even bought his video game. People trust Shaq.
The importance of visible leadership in advertisements, giving presentations, making media appearances or posting content on social media, is the same for external customers as it is for internal staff. The leader that you can’t see can’t be followed.
Your company leaders, by the nature of their positions, should be good communicators, knowledgeable on your products and sector and behave in a way that is consistent with your brand’s values. Including your leaders in your communications program allows them to be seen, and to build trust and respect for them and your organization.
So, leaders have the qualities you want in a good comms program, but they also bring personhood to the message. For the recipient, a message is more compelling when delivered by a human than a faceless media stream. The more they get to know that person, even at a distance, the more they will seek them out amongst the noise.
When it comes to social networks, dependent on your content setup, you can either allow your leader to fully control their online posting or filter them through another staff member. This of course depends on many factors, but in particular when it comes to the effectiveness of blogging, keyword threading and SEO revisions are usually better done by someone else with that expertise.
Once a decision is made to place someone from the c-suite into the comms program, consider the following factors in establishing leadership presence:
Frequency is important for building familiarity and trust. A leader who only communicates when there’s a new product to sell is going to seem like a shill. If they communicate consistently, even if it’s only on specifically business matters, trust is better established with the audience. If trust is defined as taking an action you are uncertain about but are willing to do based on past interactions, it’s the quality of those interactions that count when it comes to calls to action or generating purchase intent.
Content is important for attention. Or rather, variety of content is important for sustaining attention. Frequent messages about products probably duplicate other, less human, comms and marketing activities you’re undertaking and wastes the leadership presence you’re trying to cultivate. If you’re reading through your feed or watching the news or TV, there’s already adverts in there. As such, customers are well practiced at swiping past the advert post or switching the channel or generally dismissing overt advertising. A c-suite staff member who is pushing out content on behalf of the company already has a corporate overtone so there’s space for a different kind of content. Meeting with teams, visiting cities, attending events (maybe one day there will be events again) and all of the variety that comes from overseeing a company can be interesting and can be used to build an audience without the need to focus on what gauge sprockets you’re manufacturing this season.
Scale is what creates connections. The c-suite leader who only blogs, vlogs, tweets or posts when there is a product to announce is talking to a wide audience, anyone that might buy said product. Communicating more frequently, more interestingly, to more specific groups, allows them to build more personalised connections. Can you connect the content created by your leader to a specific vertical you serve, or one specific customer persona? If so, push it a little, make it a bit more specific, make it a bit more personal for that slice of the audience. If you do it consistently across your audience, you can build stronger connections. In terms of communicating, it’s the difference between a town-hall and a meet and greet, listening to a speech or having a conversation. This latter point is also as true for leadership connecting with employees as it is with customers.
You want existing and potential customers to hear you, that’s why you have a comms program. You want them to trust you, be interested in you, follow you and to see that you’re knowledgeable about the industry as well as products. That’s why you put your leaders into your comms.
Need assistance with your executive profiling campaign? Contact Mulberry today to discuss how we can help your leaders shine.
Mike McConnell is a Creative Lead at Mulberry Marketing Communications, an award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London and Melbourne. He has years of experience creating and editing written work for a diverse range of clients across multiple formats.