Selling Social Media to the CEO

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Keynoting at PRSA Digital Impact Conference

Keynoting at PRSA Digital Impact Conference

While the Public Relations industry does everything possible to become immersed in the social media space it’s presented with the question of “How do you sell Social Media to the CEO?”

This was the topic of a presentation I gave at the PRSA Digital Conference this morning in New York.

From my perspective, as communicators we should adopt a principle we’re already familiar with, understand your audience and get inside the head of the CEO. By understanding their current exposure to Social Media, most likely read in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, they are probably familiar with many of the examples of where social media goes wrong.

Examples such as Amazon.com, Dominos Pizza, or John Mackey, the CEO of Wholefoods will all be top of mind. And in truth they probably have more immediate priorities, the economic downturn, top line growth, reputation, shareholder value and customer satisfaction.

Not surprisingly then, most CEOs are sitting on the sidelines with only 16% of Fortune 500 companies having a public-facing corporate blog and a whopping 48% of them believing that social media lacks relevance to their target stakeholder audience. Our job then is to create a new context. Many of their competitors are already there, their customers are most certainly there and no matter how obscure their business is, there’s a conversation going on somewhere about them that they need to listen to.

But to make any of this a priority we need present it in terms that are relevant. How will improved brand reputation deliver top line growth and ROI, how do they connect with new customers in a more direct manner, how do they protect their reputation by being authentic, how can they avert a crisis before it happens and thus protect shareholder value. Only by answering some of these issues might we get a CEOs attention. The recommendation won’t necessarily be to get the CEO personally engaged in social media, but ensuring they understand it, support it and see the tremendous value it can deliver in practical business terms will take us a long way beyond where we are today.

To follow the ongoing discussion from today’s PRSA Digital Impact Conference, please join the conversation here.

Photo credit: Eric Schwartzman