Elon Musk is at it again. It wasn’t enough for the SEC to ban him from an executive position with Tesla for three years, or even the $20 million fine it imposed on the company due to an ill-considered tweet about taking the company private. Musk couldn’t help himself and used Twitter to fire a shot across the bow of the agency that just punished him:
This surely sent a chill up the spine of many a communications professional. Engaged CEOs can be the strongest asset of a communications program, but can also present the greatest risk because of the weight their words carry and the attention they command.
Sure, one option is to ban your CEO from such platforms, but that is increasingly difficult as social media becomes integral with all media, and as these platforms play a greater role in CEOs personal brands. Like it or not Twitter can be a powerful tool for good when used wisely, so setting it aside may not be the best option.
So how do you reduce the risk presented by social media and still tap into its promise? Beyond the obvious steps of having a robust social media policy, the best thing a communications team can do is to really engage with your CEO on this issue. Not a presentation on social media trends, but a real discussion about how the CEO thinks about social media, what they would like to do, and what guidance they want or need.
That understanding will enable you and the CEO to share an understanding of the objectives and risks surrounding each social media platform, and agree on how it should be used. It’s important to start off on a collaborative approach, rather than a combative one where you are trying to impose rules.
Some key areas to agree on in this discussion include:
- CEO’s PERSONAL GOALS What is he or she trying to accomplish? Highlighting thought leadership on a specific issue? Promoting the company? Celebrating innovation? Try to be as specific as possible.
- COMPANY GOALS How do the CEO’s objectives align with the company goals? If they diverge too greatly, it can signal discord and make employees and investors nervous.
- TONE Will the CEO’s personal posts signal wisdom and calm or does she want to be an industry firebrand? The latter can be great for a disruptive startup, but maybe not for a bank or corporate law firm.
- FREQUENCY What is the right volume of posting to ensure that the CEO gets the right kind of attention and doesn’t overshadow the company’s strategic communications?
Every CEO and every social media strategy is different. By having a friendly conversation at the outset, the Social CEO can be a positive element of the company’s brand, rather than a new risk to manage.
– Tom Faust