Comments on the CEO as Chief Communications Officer

CEO-blog-1One of the earliest pieces of advice I was offered as a new CEO was to never deliver the bad news.  I could not have received worse, or more outdated counsel.

CEO’s today cannot afford to hide behind press releases or an appointed spokesperson
for the organization.  They must demonstrate strong and accountable leadership by taking responsibility, internally and externally, for the wins and losses of the company.

Boards of director’s have a responsibility to ensure that their CEO is able to perform their public role, and bring to the organization strong communications and public relations skills.  Regardless of sector or industry, when your company is under the spotlight, you have a responsibility to step forward as the CEO and represent actions of your company.

The media expect the CEO to play this role and so do your employees, shareholders, investors and the general public.  CEO’s must, at all times, demonstrate that they are in charge, and must exemplify grace under pressure.

They must be courageous and stand tall and communicate all of their organization’s key messages, in particular, in a time of discourse or crisis.

When it comes to your employees, they should not have to read about their workplace through the media, but should hear about significant company events and activities directly from the CEO.

With today’s technology, real time information should be provided to all your staff teams, notwithstanding their physical location.  As the CEO, you should be making use of videoing your messages for the staff, utilize Skype services, Twitter and Facebook.

The tools for a CEO to communicate en masse have never been more accessible – you just have to do it!

Today’s CEO must understand that this is, and always has been, part of your responsibility and will be held accountable for all messaging, so you must make the time to develop and internal and external communications strategy, and keep it current.

For many CEO’s, communications is not a natural core competency, and takes them out of their comfort zone.  Everyone is not media or public relations savvy.  However, it is now a fundamental role and responsibility for today’s real leaders.

Take a course, hire a PR coach, embrace this part of the job. If the CEO is not acting as the key spokesperson and chief communications officer for the company, they are not performing as a leader, and this will ultimately impact the Board and the entire organization.

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Views on the CEO as Chief Advocacy Officer

Today’s CEOs  —  sector and industry notwithstanding  —  have to take on many more complex roles thCEO Blogan before.  As chameleons adapt to every unique environment they are in, CEOs need, and are expected to possess a vast array of professional competencies balanced with strong personal characteristics to succeed in their roles.  Experienced leaders know full well that as the Chief Executive Officer you must also be the Chief Advocacy Officer of any organization you serve.

We look to today’s leaders to have an equal amount of personality to match their business acumen.  Giving a passionate speech is just as important as reading a balance sheet.  Staff, at all levels, look to their CEO to be not only a positive role model for the organization, but also their ultimate champion.  Leaders must look beyond the boardroom and remember to visit the shop floors, go to see all of their operating sites, show up at staff retirements and picnics; show interest in your staff teams and advocate for them when you can.

Organizational cheerleading is a lost art form and one that many CEOs should be embracing, and realize that more and more boards are searching for these types of talents and traits in their leaders.

The CEO needs to be the face and the voice of the organization, as well as their cheering section.  They need to be prepared to both internally and externally to articulate and live the vision, mission and values of the organization.  And, in advancing their company, need to spend as much time applauding the merits and importance of their people as they do rooting about the value of their product or services.

After all, if you, as the CEO, are not your company’s ultimate champion, then who is?

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Thoughts on the CEO as Chief Fundraising Officer

The roles and responsibilities of a CEO are constantly evolving and your organization must adapt and develop with the needs of your client base, customers, and shareholders.  Revenue development is one predominant change in the skill set demanded of a CEO in any sector or industry.  No more can CEO’s simply delegate revenue generation; today, they are required to play a far more hands-on role.  Customers want to hear from the CEO directly; donors want to see the whites of their eyes.  People raise money and people, customers and sponsors respond when being solicited directly by the CEO.

Look at today’s advertising, CEO’s are selling and guaranteeing mattresses, cellular phones, department stores and yes, even banks and insurance companies.  Corporations need a face and a voice, and it is the Chief Executive whom, in this economy, should be playing that role.

In the non-profit and public sectors, it is most important for the CEO to also be the champion of their organization through fundraising efforts and means.  They need to advocate for the organization with corporate donors, individual donors and through special events.  In fact, in today’s highly competitive CEO market, it is extremely reasonable and appropriate for boards to insist that their CEO be comfortable and experienced in community-based fundraising and, even require credentials such as a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE).

These credentials will assure a board of directors that their CEO has the skills and edge required to compete in a busy charitable environment.  When donor fatigue is high, the CEO needs to lead the charge for revenue, avert attrition and grow the base of both donors and dollars.

Sector and industry notwithstanding, the Chief Executive Officer is, among many other things, the Chief Revenue and Fundraising Officer for their corporation.  This is the type of core business competency which will differentiate them as a leader, and create greater value for the organization.

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