What Should CEOs talk about in 2016?
During 2015, media content analysis of mainstream print and broadcast in Namibia indicates that CEOs spent more time talking about employee development, and employee wellness programmes – while focussing on economic contributions and growth.
Opportunity remains to address good corporate governance, to elevate companies’ reputation standing. Just how will CEOs manage to become storytellers that impact public perception and following that advocate widespread stakeholder support?
One of the immediate challenges is to bridge the gap between popular perceptions of the CEO brand versus reality; the notion that the person is not a perfect representation of the brand and its values. Being authentic is not supposed to be complex. CEOs are followed keenly across social media channels, fired by shares, hashtags, and word of mouth to seek stories that contradict with current news events.
Now comments really matter, and every opinion is easily published, monitored, and used as evidence. It can count to your advantage (long term reputation investments) or to your detriment. The ‘now’ factor of news these days (breaking stories, crisis management) has developed the ability to create unforgiving reputation hangovers that can last days, months or even years. 2016 has already reminded us not to share content that can be offensive to any majority/minority group – it’s not worth it.
Standard Bank SA Economist Chris Hart was suspended early 2016 for “making inappropriate assumptions about SA [with] racist undertones”. Simply put, we have learned over and over again that being a CEO requires of you to be or become a people’s person. Why are acting CEOs in most cases also the Head of Human Capital?
Another challenge is that it’s “all title”. Your reputation exceeds you; and you are trying to live up to expectations or perceptions that do not align with your personal values, ideas or goals for the core of business that you have committed yourself to. Do not become the ‘face’ of a brand, a purpose that you do not feel passionate about.
We still err and blur the lines between a title/authority and leadership. Is everything always your idea, or a representation of the team (experts or employees) created ideas? If you are not into democracy, it might get lonely up there. 2016 will continue to teach us that power is in the people that surround you. Thinking about your communication strategy; only words that become things will be listened to, and engaged with. We will need to ‘tap in’ and listen more, sympathise more (relate, walk a mile…), win face (appeal to the nobler cause), instigate (not steamroll), and empower (trust more) in 2016.
The favourite words of all time is not ‘you’, ‘your brand’, ‘your thoughts’. It is me, myself, and I or best put; me, my selfie and I. It has become “my generation”; “my culture”; “my heritage”; “my legacy”. But the most impactful way of communicating 2016 will be from the other perspectives that have helped shape, built, and execute the vision of your personal and company brands.