CEOs on Video--Enter the Storyteller

I was delighted to see this forecast for 2011 in The Economist about CEOs. The article, Words Fail Them, strikes a chord with me as I look ahead too. As I mentioned in my last post, I made some predictions about Reputation Trends for 2011 on Huffington Post.  One of the eight trends was the Ascendancy of Social CEOs. In our research on Social CEOs, we advised that CEOs consider video as a primary tool for communications. The Economist article agreed that video was critical to this new age of communications but was much bolder than I was:

  • Email as a mass communications tool for corporate messages will be finished. Video will be recognized as more effective for reaching internal and external stakeholders.
  • Video is expected to be more than 75% of Internet traffic by 2012. The Economist believes that over the next 12 months, companies will be driving video usage and leading it.
  • A different kind of person will ascend to the corner office who can take advantage of video's simplicity and immediacy. That's an interesting prediction! A little too close to the CEO celebrity argument that died a sudden death a few years back.  The Economist said: "Charisma will be back in:  all successful business chiefs will have to be storytellers and performers. Just as political leaders have long had to be dynamite on TV to stand much hope of election or survival, so too will corporate leaders. They must be able to sell not only their vision of their companies but their vision of themselves."
  • The Economist then made this rather shocking prediction which I don't buy: "With this shift will come a change in management style. Numbers and facts will be supplanted by appeals to emotion to make employees and customers do what they are told. The businessperson’s emotion may be no more genuine than the politician’s, but successful bosses will get good at faking it."  Obviously you can't fake leadership and performance through video, as good a tool as it may be. I agree that CEOs will need to master video and master it fast but they cannot pretend to be what they are not and cannot say that which is not true.

I agree wholeheartedly that video will move up the communications chain with lightning speed but authenticity and transparency will still matter when it comes to reputation....no matter who is speaking.