Engaging your senior executive

As I write this, I am on my way to Edmonton to present on the value of media relations and social media to a client’s senior executive team and the board of directors. I love this part of my job. It’s always interesting to hear what the leadership of an organization thinks about media relations and social media – and believe me, it’s different every time.

We are often asked by clients to present to their senior executive, to their board of governors or directors, and to other leaders within their organization. There are times when having an unbiased “outsider” come in and share knowledge and information in this area is beneficial. We don’t have an agenda, we’re not trying to “sell” them on an idea, and we have a range of professional experience that can help put media relations and social media into context for them.

One of the key components for us in delivering this type of presentation is to collaborate with our client (usually the communications manager or director) to develop the organization’s key messages.

We have had great success in engaging the leadership team and I believe that’s because we build our presentation in a way that speaks to how they see the world. Believe me, the CEO, senior VP, board chair or board member perspective is different than that of the communications manager (and it should be). Our role is to help the communications manager to clearly connect on all levels.

The first thing we do is clearly define what is being done in the specific industry. This is, of course, much easier when we are presenting to a long-term client. We know what the competition and partners are up to – it’s a part of our role. If this is a new client or they want a one-time workshop, and it’s an industry we don’t know well, we research it and do a competitor evaluation as well as review what the organization we are presenting to is doing.

Another key point that we include in any presentation is what the budget (human resources and financial) will be to develop a strategic communications plan or to integrate these new components into the existing plan. We want to be realistic about what it will take because the fact is, if you don’t adequately resource this type of outreach and give it enough time to develop and grow, you are setting yourself up for failure. These days, the leadership team wants to know what it is going to cost them in time, effort, energy and money. As an aside, being open and transparent about the costs is also a support for our client. If you don’t showcase what it takes, there can be the expectation that it is “free” (it’s not) or that it can be added to the current workload, which in many cases, is already too heavy.

We also talk about the value of measurement and how crucial it is that you make sure that you measure throughout the campaign, not just at the end. There are lots of areas of public relations, media relations and social media that are a little “soft” and it’s hard to put definitive numbers to them – we all know that. There are also plenty of opportunities for clear measurement that tells you what is working and what isn’t. Measurement is key. And it isn’t something to be afraid of. It’s a strong tool that helps campaigns become and stay effective. I can’t tell you how often I get calls after a presentation from a CEO or senior VP saying thank you for including measurement. The fact that measurement can be put in place is what shifted their response from one of not thinking this is a good idea to being open to trying it.

That takes us to our last point for today’s post. We believe that small pilot projects are the way to go. Take small steps into the pond and see how the water is. Test and measure, refine and revise – then measure again. Build slowly and give campaigns the time to build momentum and to provide you with small results at first, so you know that it is a positive move forward. You can always ramp up when you see what works. It’s pretty challenging to ramp down from something too big and not have the project be seen as a failure.

2 Comments, RSS

  1. Kimberley March 8, 2012 @ 12:37 AM

    Hi Ruth!

    I really am enjoying your site. Each time I take a look I always find valuable tips. I like that you have pointed out how important it is to take measurements during the campaign. It is a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach. It would allow you to change gears along the way if needed.

    Thanks again for all the useful information!

  2. Ruth Atherley March 14, 2012 @ 9:49 AM

    Thank you for reading our website/blog Kimberley. I am glad you are finding valuable tips. Thanks for the comments. Much appreciated.

    Ruth

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