Helping a CEO connect with an internal audience

Tips to help your CEO to communicate effectively

January 19, 2015

We tend to find most CEOs are in a unique position. When they speak, people – both members of the internal and external audience – will listen.

This unparalleled reach alone should make a chief executive’s words an invaluable part of a corporate communications plan.

But there are pitfalls too as many internal communications professionals will testify. So what simple steps can be taken to maximise the reach of your CEO’s communication?

Here’s our tips to help your CEO connect with an internal audience…

1. Remember understanding the need to communicate is an early win
If your CEO is already eager to communicate with colleagues, then this basic fact is something to grip hold of and run with. Whether it is via a blog, regular social postings on your enterprise network or email newsletter, that enthusiasm should be harnessed and nurtured.
Every senior leader will claim they understand the value of clear and transparent communication with colleagues but far less actually walk the talk too.

2. Make goals clear from the outset
Whatever channel you decide to utilise for the CEO to use, the approach needs to have a clear vision from the outset.
What is the main objective for the CEO’s communication?
Promoting the business’s vision and values? Giving colleagues a deeper insight into the world of the firm’s senior leadership? Or perhaps reinforcing key challenges/opportunities facing the company in the coming months?
Having a clear strategy – channel, content and measurement – will help manage expectations over the comms outcomes and aid long term planning.

3. Only fools rush in
By the nature of their position, CEOs are busy people. This almost goes without saying.
However this doesn’t mean their words should be rushed – banged out between the daily grind of meetings.
For years, internal communication has fought to be taken seriously.
Connecting and engaging effectively with staff pays dividends for a company’s bottom line – a fact that has helped employee engagement become more prominent in senior leader’s mindsets than ever before.
Take your time helping the CEO create the right words – and topics – rather than try and meet self-imposed deadlines.

4. Let the audience guide you
So what are the right words?
In my experience, a CEO’s mindset is important in this. Some I’ve worked alongside only want to tell their own story – rigid and completely focused on delivering their own message to the troops.
Others have been far more open – keen to discuss popular themes among the employee base before interweaving their own key messages into the content. This approach tends – in my experience – to work slightly better.
What if your CEO is a carbon copy of the first example?
We have more evidence than ever. Stand firm and let the facts speak for themselves. Online analytics can guide comms professionals over the popularity of content, pinpointing themes that resonate with the audience. Feedback tools can also harness priceless opinion from colleagues, allowing the CEO to directly address concerns or matters of genuine interest.

5. Open a two-way dialogue
Crafting content is a skill that should not be underestimated.
The CEO offers a unique perspective for the company’s workforce, offering real insight for the internal audience. This position provides the CEO with a ready-made audience.
However interest will soon wane if the content is not engaging and providing value to the readership.
Cannily created content is becoming a necessity in today’s world of information overload. The changes do not need to be huge – just a shift in mindset.
For example, a company may have just opened a new canteen. Telling colleagues that the new facility is open would be a waste of time – most are already probably using it.
Instead, why not say: “The new canteen opened last week. What are your first thoughts of the new facility?” or “What extra facilities would you like to see added to the new canteen?”

6. Listen and respond
Listening is a big topic in internal comms at the moment. Employees want to see their voices being heard – and acted upon.
If a CEO gets feedback on a certain subject and acts upon it as a result, then colleagues will see the true value in the communication.
Listen, listen, listen and respond. Engagement will grow as a result.