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When Should CEO’s Deliver the Message?

Communication is a key ingredient of every aspect of business and organizational success. Good works, new ideas, and innovative solutions to critical problems all have to not only be effectively implemented, but they also have to be clearly and positively communicated in ways that are easily understood and delivered in a timely manner. Additionally, they have to be delivered by the proper person.

Strategic and clear communications is the #1 job of an effective CEO, who has to have an eye on both external and internal audiences at all times, as well as be concise, inspiring, and/or reassuring in how messages are delivered to these audiences.

The true starting point for this higher-ordered communications outreach is in defining the types of messages that are best coming directly from the organization’s CEO.

Internally, these critical messages are the purview of the CEO:

  • What the company believes in and stands for, as well as desired behaviors that reinforce these aspirational values.
  • The overall direction in which the company is headed, and both the higher-ordered conceptual plans and the more day-to-day implementation steps that will ensure the desired end results.
  • How employees can best assist in attaining organizational goals – in as specific terms as possible.
  • Workforce expectations that are non-negotiable.
  • How the entire organization will benefit if and when key objectives are met.
  • And of course, when there is bad news affecting the entire organization that must be delivered/addressed.

Externally, the CEO’s role in communications typically involves the following topics:

  • Higher-ordered aspirational goals of the company.
  • Significant changes in the way the company does business, especially as this impacts key customers and constituents.
  • Important announcements around major product introductions, unveiling industry-changing services or upgrades, and executive-level personnel changes.
  • Important new partnerships, such as mergers, acquisitions, etc.
  • Negative news and scenarios which impact key external audiences.

So, when should significant/impactful news be delivered by the CEO? The general rule-of-thumb is that the more critical the news/announcement, the more important it is for the CEO to deliver it (and deliver it quickly) – whether the news is good or bad. Corporate leaders should never shrink from this job or push it down the ladder within their organizations.

The more people the news affects, the more important it is for the CEO to deliver it in person and/or be the primary media spokesperson. In critical or controversial situations particularly, the audiences of importance need to actually see and hear the CEO delivering the message.

When the news or communique is important to the overall standing and success of the company, the CEO needs to be the one delivering it.

Cathy Ackermann, founder and president of Ackermann Marketing and PR, may be reached at cackermann@thinkackermann.com.

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