The Social CEO: 7 Pitfalls to Avoid When Taking Your Boss Public

BrianAdamsPR
Brian Adams US Communications Director, WildAid

Posted on October 30th 2012

The Social CEO: 7 Pitfalls to Avoid When Taking Your Boss Public

Following my post The Social CEO: 8 Tips for Taking Your Boss Public I was asked several pertinent questions. I narrowed the list down to two inquiries, the first if which I will answer today:

What pitfalls should you avoid when taking your CEO online?

Unrealistic Expectations
Provide your CEO with an overview of your communications program and how his or her new social media role will fit into it. If they cannot fully commit to this program it may be best to look at alternatives including online Q&As that you can assist with in real time. Set expectations by showing how long it can take to build an audience and gain public trust. This is not an overnight popularity contest and should be treated as a long-term approach to community relations. Unless they have the notoriety of Richard Branson this will be a long road. Too many CEOs have started a blog or a Twitter account only to abandon it weeks later before it had any time to gain traction.

Vanity
Fully explain how social media can enhance or possibly harm your CEO’s public image. Listen to his or her concerns and goals regarding their image. Raise concerns regarding how the public will tie the CEO’s image to the organization’s mission and brand. If your mission is to promote fair trade shopping then photos for example better not contain any questionable products that could land your CEO in hot water.

Lack of Content
Once you have discussed a realistic social media format you need to review appropriate topics. Ask your CEO to keep an ear to the ground for fresh topics that are unique to his or her position. Respect their feedback and don’t push for too much too quickly. Some CEOs may begin this process full of energy and slowly taper off as the process becomes a grind. Be sure to have your own suggested topics to keep the ball rolling.

Lack of Attention
After you discuss appropriate topics you should create a weekly schedule. Since things pop up this should remain flexible however it needs to be a regular part of your meetings with your CEO. Proposed ideas for posts, sometimes weeks in advance in the case of fundraisers and events, can really help to get the juices flowing and keep ideas fresh.

Missing Details
Ghostwriting is allowed. While this can provide you with a sense of control you may miss a few key details. Authors can gain rare insight by requesting notes from their CEOs prior to jotting down their first drafts. You may be surprised by the small details that help you take an article or a tweet from being posted to being shared.

Poor Dubbing
There’s nothing worse than a poorly dubbed film except maybe a blog clearly not written by the CEO.If you are writing your CEO’s posts you better be a fantastic impersonator. By agreeing to go public your CEO made a promise with the public to speak with them directly. It is ok if a CEO dictates topics and details to you to write up however you must always use his or her voice. If your writing is not authentic it can ruin the entire program. The following step will also help you to keep an authentic voice in all posts.

Rookie Mistakes
Each post ties directly to your CEOs image as well as your organization’s brand. Regardless of writing responsibilities you and your CEO should review posts prior to making them public. If one of you eventually trusts the other to post without a review, don’t do it. It only takes a moment to review a tweet or a few minutes to check a blog post. Schedules may fill up however it is important to remember the importance of each positively received post and the potential harm of a negative placement. I recommend drafting practice posts for days, weeks, or months before taking them public to work out any kinks in your review process. Some of these posts can be evergreens and remain eligible for future posting.

These tips are provided to improve internal sharing. It is best to iron out wrinkles, build trust, and grow into your new regimen privately. You want to avid any novice errors that create a need for your crisis communications skills.

What hurdles did you hit taking your boss online?

BrianAdamsPR

Brian Adams

US Communications Director, WildAid

Brian Adams (@brianadamspr) is the US Communications Director @WildAid. He also consults with nonprofits, including Komera Project and Samahope, regarding communications strategy. Brian was previously Senior Director of Communications at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and the head of Media and Community Relations for the MSPCA-Angell. A version of this story first appeared on the author's blog.

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Comments

This is great advice. I'd say the biggest risk is that the organization has a CEO who came from outside the industry. In that case, the content focus should be leadership and inspiration. If you do ghostwriting, you'd better be confident that your ghost won't dig up the bones of somebody else's writing and try to pass them off as genuine.

For CEOs who are experts in their fields, came up through the company, founded the company or are simply well-known in the industry, we've found that there is simply no replacement for the words that come right out of the CEO's mouth. If the CEO doesn't have time to write, our Shortcut method can help produce weekly content via a podcast-sourcing model. We pair the CEO up with one of our broadcasters and conduct a monthly recording session (about an hour per month) where we glean a month's worth of topics in an interview. We transcribe and then edit the raw transcription into a series of blog posts that are crafted to be in the CEO's writing "voice". Of course, the audio can be utilized (if the CEO is comfortable with it) as a public-facing podcast as well. That's 2 pieces of unduplicated social content. In fact, if SEO is your goal, we suggest publishing the raw transcript along with the podcast for a total of 3 unique pieces of content. (the rewritten blog post is different enough that the search engines flag it as duplicated content.)  For one of our clients, the CEO and President both participate in the interviews, and we publish only under the CEOs byline. Obviously, they don't use the podcast version, but they are happy with the results as it lets them fill in the blanks that the other might leave out. In their case, the CEO is the "inventor/developer" and the President is the Operations guy. It gives a great mix of insight, vision and process.

I love seeing good CEO blogs.

 

As the Marketing Manager for my company, this is an issue I've encountered.  We are taking baby steps regarding taking my CEO public.  Thanks for the tips and LOVE the graphic!  Brought back memories my earlier "gamer" years.  

Brian, I enjoy your posts and this one hits the heart of why many prefer not to deal with Social. Never mind the CEO, I am trying to convince the though-leaders we have that they need to get more involved with the Social dialogue before the train leaves the station completely. I think fear of failure (see all the points you make above) is the biggest reason I don't get the traction I would like to see. I think it is important to point out that one flub won't kill anyone. Even Branson's first LinkedIn post was a bit choppy. He is continuously improving though, and cares about his audience.

Brian. Great post. I love your series on the Social CEO. I am facing many hurdles even getting our thought-leaders to get more involved in the social dialogue before that train entirely leaves the station. I think that biggest reason we don't see more Social CEO's is fear of failure (yes, even for these big egos). So much can go wrong (see your entire post). I think it is important to remember that one flub alone won't kill anyone usually. Even Branson's first LinkedIn post was a bit choppy. He obviously cares about his audience and has been steadily improving in my mind... 

A great Post Brian, really got to the essence of establishing a CEO presence.

Some of the people I have written for have much appreciated me picking up some doozies in their initial drafts. Most of them were happy but there was one CEO who insisted on no changes, and guess what, the backwash saw him last only 6 months given the grief the company became entangled in. 

I look forward your future posts now that I've found your site.