Getting CEOs to be More Social

May 24, 2011

Getting CEOs to be More Social

An article on how CIOs need to get a seat at the table and boost their reputational status within the organization appeared in the WSJ this week. I read it on a plane but left myself a message to post about it  (are CIOs really second-class citizens in the C-suite?).  I am always interested in who is sitting at the table with the CEO and have over the years been particularly interested in the role of CCOs — Chief Communications Officers — and how they are increasingly sitting at that table as crises soar and reputations tumble. So naturally, this drew my attention. 
 As I went to find the article online, I stumbled upon another WSJ blog post about the article which had this quote or two from Brian Halligan, chief executive of Hubspot, who spoke at a panel by MIT’s CIO Symposium on the role of the CIO:

 “Mr. Halligan also said CIOs are the logical choice to help chief executives master new communication tools like blogging, Facebook and Twitter. Many chief executives are either uncomfortable using those media, or hire professionals to stand in for them: Either way, their audiences can sense the lack of spontaneity. CIOs can help their CEOs “have a more authentic relationship with the market and vendors,” he said.

Since I have been carefully monitoring how CEOs become more social, I admit that I had not thought about this in the same way. In my world of communications, I think that CCOs are the natural teacher for showing CEOs how to use social media and video to communicate deep within the organization and to customers and other important stakeholders. I liked Halligan’s statement about how being more social might change perceptions of CEOs as stodgy, risk-adverse and uncommunicative. He is probably right.

Related to this topic, it is probably not a good idea to hire professionals to stand in for CEOs although I don’t doubt that it is done. CEO voices are hard to imitate and employees should be fairly adept at noticing counterfeit CEO-speak. So I would advise that if you are getting your CEO to blog (it does not have to be too often as we advise in our research) to get to know people and let them get to know the CEO, get them to do it themselves.

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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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