The Stakes Have Never Been Higher: How to Unlock the Power of Executive Storytelling
The U.S. workforce comprises nearly 124 million people (source: Statista). Of that, only a fraction is considered “executive level,” meaning that they ensure a company stays true to its established plans and policies.
Each day, these executives are tasked with driving advancements across their organization. For example, take the role of the Chief Diversity Officer. In 2020 this was the fastest growing C-suite position according to LinkedIn, sparked by social unrest and the call for companies to be more accountable. Yet while it may seem that the responsibilities of this role are straightforward, how it manifests and the executive who brings it to life are uniquely individual.
Most professionals in the PR world know that effective communications start with a good story. But equally important are the storytellers. Today’s corporate leaders should be thoughtfully deployed to advance the mission of their organizations and the intention of their roles. Not only does this help promote the company, but it also protects it by demonstrating the work being done, told by the voices who are leading it. Other benefits of executive positioning programs include:
- Elevating a company’s reputation
- Fostering connection with stakeholders in real, human, tangible ways
- Strengthening relationships with current and prospective customers
- Attracting and retaining talent
While executive positioning programs are not new to our industry, the role of today’s leaders has evolved. Now it’s more important than ever that an executive’s public presence is carefully considered. Establishing the goals of an executive positioning program is critical to success, including identifying key themes each executive will address, what audiences they are best positioned to impact, and what channels are most appropriate to communicate their messages.
The stakes have never been higher for executive communications. Getting it right can unlock opportunities for your company to be viewed favorably by the audiences that matter most.
Follow these four imperatives of effective executive communications and you’ll be on the right path:
- Understand what you stand for: One goal of any corporate executive positioning program should be to elevate the company’s reputation. This includes understanding the business goals, as well as corporate purpose, of the organization being represented and how executives can bring them to life in an authentic way. Similarly, every executive has their own personal passions, interests and ways of communicating, and those human characteristics can increase their relevancy to key stakeholders and help demonstrate the empathy that people are craving in leaders today. For example, we’ve recently worked with an executive who is a breast cancer survivor. She uses what she learned through that journey and applies it to how she leads – adding dimension and authenticity to her point of view on the evolving workplace.
- Offer a differentiated point of view: The best storytellers are those with good stories to share. It’s important to not only communicate what matters most to you and your company, but to do so in a way that sparks interest and stands apart from others. Ask yourself what unique perspective you can bring to common topics. What have you personally seen in your work? How is your company approaching certain topics that may be different that your peers? And what type of data or insights can you offer? Identifying a unique angle to common issues in one way to stand out and get noticed.
- Words are important, but actions matter: Today’s leaders are constantly under the microscope, and it’s not only about what you say, but also what you do. All executives need to be thinking about how their messages are validated by real, actionable efforts by themselves and their companies. For example, if you’re sharing your perspective on future advancements needed in your industry, you should also be detailing your own path to getting there – even if you don’t have all the answers just yet. It’s important that your aspirations are validated by ongoing commitments that show progress and results.
- It starts at home: While most executive positioning programs are geared toward an external audience, you should never overlook engaging your employees. Gen Z and millennials now make up nearly half (46%) of the full-time workforce in the U.S. (source: Gallup). According to their research, older millennials want open, transparent leaders, while Gen Z and younger millennials desire leaders to support a diverse and inclusive workplace. Thinking through how to involve employees and ensure they understand your broader goals is key to successful positioning. Employees can often be your biggest advocates – and most vocal detractors if they don’t believe in what you’re saying.
The bottom line when considering any executive positioning program is to devise a strategy that supports both the company’s business goals and the executive’s own role, expertise, passions and interests. This will ensure your message resonates and that your desired outcomes are achieved.
As Robert McKee, author, lecturer and story consultant writes: “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world.” How will your company’s story be told? And who will help tell it?
Need help activating your own executive storytellers? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.