Leadership in a digital age
Author bio: David Taylor is a Business Communications Specialist & Contributor Author, The Social CEO.
We have a major problem. We are now in a connected, Covid19-dominated, predominantly digital world, and yet business leaders STILL don’t get social media.
Despite huge armies of community managers, digital analysts, and content creators operating within companies and billions being invested in digital communications, when it comes to the C-suite, most are still utterly in the dark or even contemptuous of social media.
There are two key issues – age and gender. Most leadership teams and Boards are stuffed with men in their late 40s to 60s who grew up in a pre-digital age. Very few will have had any digital skills training, and most have very little understanding of how exactly their own organization communicates with the outside world. Many won’t even understand how the performance of the business overall is impacted by the performance of its digital channels.
Furthermore, for this group of professionals, personally engaging on sites like LinkedIn and Twitter is utter anathema – something to be avoided at all costs.
Not surprisingly then before Lockdown, a survey from business advisory firm, Brunswick Group, revealed that fewer than half of all S&P 500 and FTSE 350 CEOs had a social media presence, while only a quarter had posted anything over the past year.
This blissful ignorance which, let’s face it, would not have been a huge problem in the past, is now a major issue for a variety of different reasons:
Social media impacts so many areas of a business – from sales & marketing to customer service and from recruitment to corporate governance – that it is vital the leadership team has a handle on how it is performing.
Many stakeholders – investors, shareholders, the media – increasingly want to hear the views of senior executives within companies, rather than just their press teams.
As leaders, the senior management team or Board represents the key brand ambassadors for their organization so need to be engaging with the corporate content being posted by their own marketing department. Some even go a step further and willingly become thought leaders, further enhancing both their personal brand as well as the corporate brand.
Listening to what your competitors, the Government, the media, and your customers are saying is of paramount importance. Without this, leaders are effectively operating in a void.
The senior management team needs to understand exactly how effective the digital channels (website, app, social media) are and whether they are delivering on strategic business goals. Ideally, they should have access to two dashboards; one showing the financial status of the business and one showing how it is performing digitally.
Indeed, this is why I believe there should be a Chief Communications Officer on the SMT of every major company. Their role is to work with the Finance Director to bring together these two dashboards and build a 360-degree picture of how the company is functioning.
They are also there to ensure that the organization can communicate effectively with all its various stakeholder groups including customers, clients, staff, prospective staff, suppliers, regulators, investors, the media, influencers, and associates.
Any communications directorate would include content creators, data analysts, community managers, contact centers, marketers, PR professionals, and developers. Plus, it would need to interface with the HR and IT teams.
So how do we convince these ‘digital luddites’ to embrace change and take the necessary steps to adapt to the new business paradigm?
· Identify ‘change makers’ in the senior management team who can become your allies.
· Also identify other change makers within your organization who can support you.
· Audit the LinkedIn profiles of your SMT and compare them to competitors.
· Find digital leaders within your industry who have built strong personal branding platforms. Compare them with your leadership team.
· Give a short presentation to the SMT outlining the role of your organization’s key digital channels and what business objectives they currently achieve.
· Look at creating a corporate LinkedIn strategy for your business. This ties in marketing, brand awareness, thought leadership, PR, recruitment, and sales. Plus, it starts a useful conversation about personal branding, brand ambassadors, and the need for proactive corporate social media guidelines.
Are you working within a company and struggling to convince the SMT about the merits of social media? Do you feel you are not adequately supported in your role? Do you believe your company is just ‘going through the motions’ when it comes to social media?
If this is the case, contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will talk you through the steps you need to take to make your organization truly socially-enabled and fit for a post-Covid, post-Brexit, digital world.
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