Should CEO’s use social media and what is role of PR ?

should ceo use social media The debate on whether CEO’s should use social media continues to heat up.  Some suggest it’s a good idea while other believe it could cause damage to companies and brands. While people continue to argue for social media use by CEO’s corporate communications people have their hands full trying to be transparent in an age of instant information.

At my last position I had an opportunity to work with the President of my division to prep him on what to expect as he launched his own BLOG.  The first thing that I did was to present him with an overview of how people felt about our industry and company via feedback from different social media sites.  I also reviewed trade and consumers media articles to list any issues that might come up.

Once he has an overview of the online and media environments we came up with a direct objective for his using social media.  Basically, he wanted to put a “face” on our brand and let customers know where the company was headed in R&D (we made a medical device for diabetics).

After he wrote his first entry I was asked to proof read and made some changes before posting it online.  Within the first few days we had quite a few people posting comments and a lot of them were not positive.  ”How can you charge $6,000 for your product” wrote one person.  Another said “you’re customer service is terrible. I was on hold for over an hour”.  Welcome to the age of engagement.  Needless to say he was “taken back” by the negative responses and soon asked “doesn’t anyone have anything good to say about our products?”

Well the book says that happy customers tell one person, angry customers tell 10 people. So should your CEO get into social media ?  Well here are some questions that you can ask;

  • 1. Why would the public want to hear from our CEO ?
  • 2. Who is our target audience (i.e. investors, Wall Street, customers, prospects, the media) ?
  • 3. Do people trust our CEO and our industry/company ?  Trust is an important issue with social media or any relationship.  You’re not going to earn trust with social media but it’s a first step if you’re ready for some honest feedback.
  • 4. Should our CEO write the content and post or should it go through legal and PR first ?  This really depends on your industry and your CEO’s willingness to open up to the public which has to be balanced with risk.
  • 5. Is our CEO ready to answer questions from the public ?   People today are angry, especially at big corporations that lay off people while CEO’s make tens of millions of dollars.  If your CEO is going to engage people via social media she, he, has to acknowledge the climate.  This is where corporate communications can help.
  • 6. Finally, CEO’s are busy people and do no have the time to answer ALL questions via social media.  Therefore questions need to be prioritized and integrated with your objectives of your social media strategy.  Also, don’t be afraid to delete questions from zealots who have a hidden agenda.

CEO’s have to balance a lot of responsibilities in their jobs but that’s why they make the big bucks.  Before they decide to take the plunge into social media, however, they need to sit down with corp comm to determine if it’s a smart move and it it is really worth the risk to the brand or company.

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