When it comes to CEO blogs, many companies have CEOs and other executives weigh in as part of their intranet’s news and sometimes on their Internet site. They use this voice to talk to employees in all-employee meetings, onboarding opportunities, quarterly financial announcements and more.
Some executives excel at getting their message out with humor and grace. Some executives struggle with their voice or may not even know why it’s important. For those executives and their communication teams, we have a few ideas on how to inspire your executive team.
Getting the voice right is important because we see CEO blogs and executives having clear voices as a major trend in communications.
Why is getting information from a CEO or other executive a communication trend?
If your executives hate being the mouthpiece of the company, marrying their brand to the company’s brand, they’re missing the opportunity to win people over. Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, had a rallying cry for her employees asking her communications team to win “hearts and minds” of employees, partners and customers. Hearts and minds gets to passion and purpose – the companies we really believe in and the brands we have an affinity for.
Consumers are actively looking for advice and information, and they want to understand products and services (your brand) through your specific distinctive voice. Executives can provide that lens.
Employees deeply want to understand and care about a company and its leaders. Employees need to know why decisions are made, what the brand means and more. For employees, you’re providing stories and context that demonstrate what matters to your company’s culture and ultimately your customers through your executives.
Winnning hearts and minds will get and retain top talent as well as get raving fans to be your customers.
Top things to embrace in your executives’ blog and voice
1. Show empathy
Posting a corporate social responsibility (CSR) manifesto on your website isn’t enough. Executives should demonstrate that manifesto in everything they do, every day. From joining in on community engagement activities to understanding issues at the office, it’s important CEOs show they have heart, including in their blogs. Incorporate these heart-felt matters into the office and talk about what it means to employees.
- Elon Musk, Telsa and SpaceX, may be seen as an innovator, but he’s also set on fixing problems. When Puerto Rico had power issues, he offered to assist with a solar panels and batteries for a children’s hospital.
- Dan Price, Gravity Payments, did something amazing. He took a significant pay cut to give his employees a $70,000 annual minimum wage. He admitted to being afraid after the Great Recession, keeping wages low to sustain his business, but listened when an employee complained about pay. Not only did Dan listen, he did something about it.
- Warren Buffet, investor and “Oracle of Omaha,” pays lower taxes. To make the playing field fairer, he raised awareness that he pays a lower percentage of taxes than his administrative assistant. Did he have to? No – he just cares, including about his employees. It’s why he devotes so much money to worthwhile causes in the community.
Every one of these are both corporate talking points and spotlights in how values matter.
2. Have an opinion, especially when it matters
Many companies are so worried about offending people, that they refrain from taking a stand when it matters even to their company and its core purpose. But CEOs and executives who take a stand are often rewarded by the market; people choose brands that match their own values over brands they don’t.
Here are a couple of good examples of when CEOs have demonstrated principles that match their company’s brand:
- Recently, Rose Marcario of Patagonia, reinforced what her company is all about – the great outdoors. Patagonia had a chilling message on their home page, indicating they would bring a law suit to continue protecting lands. Rose didn’t shy away from controversy. She said, “We’ve fought to protect these places since we were founded and now we’ll continue that fight in the courts.”
- Howard Schultz, the previous Starbucks CEO, takes a stand often, especially when it comes to equality of benefits and pay. Not only do his part-time employees get benefits, but he now tours areas to discuss equality, including visiting Houston after the hurricane.
Not only should Public Relations tout these, but it’s important to take these stories inside the company as well, including in all-employee meetings as executives explain why they’re taking a stand. Employees will have feedback and it’s important to listen, especially when they disagree with their executives. Often that discussion helps the brand and executives as they communicate the company’s position and brand.
3. Be authentic and vulnerable
We understand that CEO blogs are ghostwritten many times to save CEOs time and money. If they’re writing for themselves 100% of the time, they’re not being effective executives after all.
Often, good executives meet with communications employees to discuss what’s on their minds and what they’d like to tell employees, customers, partners and potential customers. Many times, communications professionals know their executives so well, they know what they care about and can write exactly how executives would phrase things. (That’s talent!)
The following clearly do that with a distinct voice that sets them apart:
- Richard Branson is fun loving and caring. He admits he loses bets, talks about his childhood days struggling with Dyslexia and shows the exotic places he’s traveled. His voice seems to complement the Virgin brand. The brand itself is bold, unique and cool, just like he is. Maybe what Virgin doesn’t have that Richard Branson does is earnestness. When Richard talks about his struggles with his disability or his family, there’s a sweetness there that’s inspiring and loving.
- Bill Gates, former Microsoft CEO and co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, may not be as chic as Steve Jobs, but not only does he really care about people – as evidence through his good works – but he doesn’t mind showing he’s a geek. Yearly, he participates in gift giving of the nerdiest kind and always provides a reading list.
- Microsoft’s current CEO, Satya Nadella, shared information about having a son with a disability. Not only does the CEO indicate this helps him better understand empathy, it’s shapes him as a father and leader.
Again, these stories are important to share outside the company and even more important to show inside the company. Authenticity and vulnerability show employees humanity, increasing employee loyalty. After all, many employees can identify with the struggles that make everyone, including executives, human. It may even explain why things are done a certain way in the company.
4. Reflect your company’s values
In all of the above examples, executives are showing what matters to them personally and to their companies. The executive’s brand and the company’s are complementary. Elon Musk’s vision is to bring technology to help the world. That’s something Tesla and SpaceX do regularly. Rose Marcario demonstrates how to care for the outdoors and protect our lands. Satya Nadella changes the company culture, even, to reinforce what’s important to him, helping to develop technology for those who have disabilities as they embrace teamwork.
No matter what your values are, you have strong voices in your company and you can showcase them. Don’t lose the opportunity to do so with your executives. For example, if you’re in healthcare, your executives should be talking about caring about people.
Not only will you help employees understand the company, the culture and their leaders, but you’ll also help them to understand what’s expected of them. That, no matter how shy or retiring your executives are, is something that your leadership team can get behind. When employees understand what’s expected of them in company goals as well as what behaviors are expected, they’ll deliver not only goals, but they’ll do it in a way your company can be proud of.Your CEO should have a voice on your intranet and we can help. Our intranet platform comes with news and culture areas to help reinforce your executives’ messages. Video, podcasts, infographics and words can all be used to tell a story to your employees.