Have been meaning to mention that I attended a luncheon a few weeks ago where Bill Holstein spoke about the relationship between CEOs and the media. Bill is an award-winning editor and journalist who regularly writes about CEOs and board members. You have probably seen his name mentioned in The New York Times, Fortune, BusinessWeek and so on. Bill just wrote a book for Harvard Business School Press titled Manage the Media (Don’t Let the Media Manage You). It is part of a new series of HBS books called Memo to the CEO. These books provide leaders with advice on a wide variety of topics pertinent to top executives. The premise of the book is that CEOs are not managing the media well and instead are having their reputations shellacked. Bill’s advice is to manage the relationships with the media for the long-term, not just when you need it. He advises proactively working with shareholder groups, using social media, architecting messages and never underestimating the importance of communications. Instead of living in a “gotcha” media environment, take control or your reputation will suffer.
Bill had a few unconventional ideas. He suggested that all CEOs in training spend one year training in the communications department to learn how to articulate their messages better and understand the media. His hope of course would be that rising stars would see joining the corporate communications department as an opportunity and not as punishment or a career detour. Not sure this will happen soon. His second suggestion had to do with his belief that many reporters do not really understand what CEOs do. He suggested an Adopt A Reporter program where CEOs educate reporters on the overwhelming complexity of the corner office. I thought that these ideas did a good job of challenging the status quo.