MIAMI—A great communications strategy can easily be scuppered by poor PR skills on the part of a company’s CEO, delegates at the Global PR Summit 2013 were told today in Miami.
The panel, led by Adfactors CEO Madan Bahal, also featured HSBC Holdings global co-head of communications Pierre Goad; VTB Capital member of the board and global head of communications and marketing Olga Podoinitsyna; and, Bayer head of communications and government relations Herbert Heitmann.
Goad noted that HSBC CEO Stuart Gulliver had not done a single TV interview since the beginning of 2011, because of the need to demonstrate that banks are not run by one person.
“People look for instruction – where do they find that? The CEO,” said Goad. “A key part of our CEO’s strategy is to show the organization how it should be communicating with all of its audiences.”
Heitmann noted that when crises hit, “the public will look to the one with the highest paycheck,” adding that CEOs cannot function as effective leaders if they cannot communicate.
“Internally, they can’t fulfil their roles as leaders if they can’t get people to follow them and that’s only possible through effective communication,” said Heitmann. "The CEO is the main public figure that everyone will look to comment. This task cannot be delegated to anyone else."
However, the communications style that a CEO adopts must not stretch credibility. “Whatever you develop needs to be highly authentic to the person you are working with,” said Heitmann.
VTB’s Podoinitsyna said that the CEO was a crucial element for a company looking at new and emering markets. “The CEO remains the center of attention,” she said. “In a new market, it’s very important to work with stereotypes. CEOs are both influential leaders and individuals, so it is very important to promote their role.”
To do that, CEOs must be have a well-rounded range of communication skills. “We’ve all seen examples of people who are technical experts but not good communicators,” said Goad. “A CEO who can communicate in a way that appears genuinely natural is the CEO to admire as a communicator. You need to build on your personality and your own strength and develop your own communications style.”