Dora Nikols (main photo) is a PR and social purpose specialist at Social Mission. In her latest post for B&T, Nikols says for a better result on your campaigns, don’t leave the CEO out of the loop…
Today it’s very important for PR professionals and marketers to engage CEOs with their campaigns to show leadership, build trust and reflect the values of their company. Instead of trying to ‘manufacture’ a campaign idea it’s time for the marketing industry to have a meaningful conversation with the CEO and leadership team and see how they can bring their values, ethics and purpose to life.
Marketing, advertising and PR has evolved, today it’s not about ‘telling’ your audience how amazing you are but raising awareness for the issues your company deeply cares about and bringing them to life. It’s about raising the profile of the CEO and bringing out their ‘human, real, authentic’ selves so people make a real connection with the brand and the person behind the brand.
This approach has been hugely successful for Anita Roddick of The Body Shop who back in 1976 became the first activist founder and CEO. Their marketing and PR was never about how great the products were, they were already stood out, it was about bringing to life the issues the founder cared about and creating a marketing campaign around that. Anita Roddick became known as the activist founder who was on a mission to stop animal testing. And it worked because she created a cult following for her brand.
The Body Shop was a pioneer in this space where their values guided everything they did and marketing campaigns were designed to raise awareness for the issues they cared about. Today this trend of CEO activism has gained renewed traction as the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer found 56 per cent of consumers have no respect for CEOs who remain silent on social issues.
While a further 69 per cnet of consumers believe building trust is the number one job of the CEO. This means CEOs need to be more active, vocal and visible to not only show they are high performing business leaders but also meeting the needs of conscious consumers by bringing strong values into the business culture and brand personality.
Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce who is worth $6.4billion established the “1-1-1 model,” where his company contributes one percent product, one percent equity, and one percent of employee hours back to the communities it serves globally. Benioff has declared that, “Today CEOs need to stand up not just for their shareholders but their employees, their customers, their partners, the community, the environment, schools and everybody”. This makes a great story, it’s real, it’s authentic and it’s meaningful.
CEOs are well positioned in the community to start conversations that can have a real effect on public opinion to grow their brand and impact an important issue. Which is why they are so vital in your marketing and how you are positioned in the market. Some great examples of CEOs who do this well is Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, who was a standout campaigner for same-sex marriage. Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest who lobbied the government to introduce the modern slavery legislation and has dedicated a chunk of his wealth to the Walk Free anti-slavery campaign.
Today 88 per cne tof consumers want to know how companies are making the world a better place, while employees expect their corporate leaders to demonstrate leadership on the issues they care about. This means strong values need to be ingrained inside the business so staff feel engaged in their work and then communicated externally to keep customers loyal.
The trend for CEOs to take a more activist role is driven by millennials who expect their leaders to be authentic, transparent and purpose-driven. The 2017 Global Millennial survey by Weber Shandwick found over 40 per cent of respondents are more loyal to a company if its leader takes a stand on a social issue. The research also shows millennials are making employment decisions based on the reputation of the CEO which says a lot about the company.
According to millennials, a strong CEO reputation attracts 78 per cent new employees while it retains 71 per cent of current employees. CEOs who show leadership on the social issues they care about not only attract engaged millennials but increase sales, the study found 76 per cent of millennials are likely to make a purchase from a company whose CEO is outspoken on a social issue they agree with.
While CEO activism is vital today and hugely beneficial to bringing the values of a company to life, it still needs to be carefully considered and thoughtfully executed so it conveys transparency and authenticity.
How marketers can help CEOs can be more vocal on social issues:
- Encourage them to speak out on an issue that aligns to their corporate values and is something they personally care about
- Prepare for pushback as not everyone will agree with their stand, make sure you know the facts and have prepared your key messages
- Ensure that most staff and key customers share the views the CEO believes in to keep them loyal and engaged in your corporate values and campaign
- Keep the lines of communication open with staff and customers so they have an understanding of the issues the marketing campaign is focused on to get their buy-in and create an authentic brand positioning
- Encourage CEOs to speak out about an issue when its topical and you know your audience will be eager to hear your stance, the way Alan Joyce did with marriage equality. But make sure the company walks the talk first and the CEO truly does care about the issue
- Map out exactly how you will respond to the media with anticipated questions and answers that could come up about your issue
- If you publicly talk about an issue the CEO cares about ensure it is ingrained in your corporate culture to protect the brand’s reputation and credibility when launching your marketing campaign.