Looking at trends, the average CEO at an S&P 500 company has a tenure of 8.4 years; the average CMO lasts 2 to 3.6 years and the average CFO lasts 5 to 12 years depending on which statistic you believe. And for HR execs, well those stats are ironically difficult to find.
That means most CEOs will go through 2 to 3 CMOs, 1 to 2 CFOs and probably a couple VPs of HR in their tenure. Heads of R&D and product teams turnover as well with timing that varies greatly by industry. Combine this information with general employee turnover and it is not surprising that recent research by the Altimeter Group found over 60% of respondents say social media carries a critical or significant risk to the company’s brand and reputation. Yes, social media risk is the digital paparazzi of the corporate world.
As a CMO you have a unique opportunity to use these trends and set your company apart in positive ways. We discussed making your VP of HR your cohort in branding to turn the tide of former employee and current employee sentiment. But what about the executive suite?
Each executive at your company (including you as the CMO) needs a personal brand and a connection of that brand to your company brand. An executive’s personal brand will hit social media in a fast and furious way which will impact your company brand like it or not. As CMOs we make sure our company brand has a laddered up set of value statements, backed up by good visuals and overall marketing but many of us forget to do a similar exercise with our entire executive team.
So what does your CxO stand for as an executive, ambassador of your company and individual? What are their personal values and things that are important to them? How do they show up in person and online? What is the trend and perception of their digital footprint? If you do not know these things and do not track perception regularly, it is only a matter of time before you find yourself in a PR crisis situation. Seriously, the crisis is a “when” question not an “if” question and can arise from rumor or fact but it will arise none the less.
How to start and what to do as the CMO? Five easy steps:
First claim a digital footprint for each executive. Set up Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles for each executive and if you lead a well known brand do verified accounts. Claim the space so the “fake” profiles don’t. Make sure the privacy settings are aligned to your company’s social media policy.
Second, update the executive profiles and PR sections of your company website. Bios should be current, photos / visuals aligned with your brand strategy. The language used should map to your brand strategy and reflect key words about your company so the SEO of the company brand and executive brand will align. Remember everything online is marketing content – period.
Third, educate your fellow executives in online etiquette, personal branding and privacy settings in social media. If you are not sure how to do this yourself, hire some help. Hopefully you have a social media and online policy for your employees already in place, but if not then you need one fast. The executive policy has a few unique spins and personally tailored advice – as an example, your VP of Business Development who is off doing cutting edge deals probably should not check in on Foursquare for work items as it will tip off competitors and press as to what your company is up to. People will notice that this executive has been to XYZ city 5 times in 5 weeks which is unusual given your business landscape and the rumor mill will go full tilt. Your average account manager checking in at airports, however, is usually less of a risk. Many PR firms have a digital-executive practice. Examples of good ones are Airfoil and Brandfog.
Fourth, set up monitoring. Hopefully you already monitor and track the brand perception and news of your company, your biggest customers and competitors. Make sure to include the digital landscape in these efforts – lots of tools do this well like Sysomos and Radian6. Add overall executive digital trends to your business reports and give each executive in your company a personal report on a regular basis. Some PR firms will even benchmark your executives’ digital presence to those of your competitors or to executives they aspire to be like.
Fifth, integrate and adjust. Most executives are out in public for work or personal projects like charity events. Make sure you integrate public appearances into their digital strategy so a keynote at an industry conference translates to positive twitter buzz and traffic to your company website as well as positive press mentions in general. If you have an executive with a less than favorable perception, you can then put in motion an integrated branding campaign for that executive and monitor the shift of perception over time.
Claim, update, educate, monitor and integrate – it is that simple.