CEO as Content Provider

June 18, 2010

CEO as Content Provider

  We at Weber Shandwick just issued a new report on placing senior executives at conferences. As you know, one way of building reputation is to get your senior people, including your CEO, out on the conference trail. Not only is it important for CEOs to be visible in times of economic recovery but the same goes for the senior management teams who can individually support the overall positioning of the company. Years ago I used to refer to the CEO job as that of the narrator CEO — communicating internally and externally about where the company was headed and what the storyline was. Now I have been thinking about reframing that reference to CEO as content provider. It actually makes sense with all the channels available to communicate to employees, customers, media and other stakeholders. Since CEOs have the bully pulpit and are in great demand, they can provide the content that tells your company’s plotline.
I wanted to share some of the findings of our recent research (“From Guessing to Planning: Placing C-Suite Executives in the Most Strategic Forums”) that we did with Vital Speeches of the Day and David Murray, its founder. We both found ourselves at a conference in February on external communications and realized that external executive communications pros appeared anxious about figuring out a process for placing senior executives.  Everyone was seeking the holy grail and asking if someone had a better way to judge if a conference was right for an executive and if they had only limited time, which ones were most important. We decided to do a little more digging and here we are. You can find out more here and don’t miss the executive summary either. Here are some key findings:

  • Senior executive participation at business leadership conferences has held steady or grown since the start of the global economic crisis, according to nearly three-quarters (73%) of external communications professionals we surveyed in April.
  • CEOs, according to those surveyed, consider speaking engagements prime channels for communicating thought leadership platforms (61%), attracting new business and cultivating customer relationships (58%), and defining or redefining brands (52%).
  • CEOs are most interested in speaking at top-tier business media events (44%), public policy conferences (41%), and business school gatherings (31%). Jen Risi, my colleague at Weber Shandwick who runs our Voiceboxx practice on executive visibility and conferences,  says: “Essentially, this new data validates what we’ve been saying to our clients. While financial media continues to be the preferred outlet for enhancing corporate reputation by executives, the strategic use of high-level speaking opportunities is steadily becoming a close second.”
  • One of the bigger messages in the survey was that placement is an art, not a science. Clearly the conference business needs greater metrics and better demonstration of ROI to prove that executives are using their time well.  With substantial risk for making a bad recommendation about an appropriate executive conference, communications pros told us they depend upon various resources to confirm their suggestions. Ultimately, they admit that they need to do their own research including networking, monitoring event Web sites, conducting media searches, leveraging agency expertise, and “cold-calling” conference organizations for their schedules. A large 44% report that they have no related processes in place.  Of the remaining 56% who say they have a process, confidence in their system is evenly split – exactly half are confident and half are not. All the more reason to call us……

Hope you find the results useful in getting your CEO out there as content provider. Check in tomorrow for more on executive conferences and social media.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of corporate and CEO reputations.

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