Arment Dietrich

Communication In the Digital Landscape

By: Arment Dietrich | August 10, 2011 | 

Last fall, before I joined the Spin Sucks Pro team, Gini Dietrich asked me to contribute a letter to Dear CEO, an ebook compiling advice from more than 30 PR and Marketing experts to CEOs in the new era of communication. Following is my letter. You can purchase the eBook here for $40.

Dear CEO,

You may have discovered you have become the leader of a media company in addition to the business you’re accustomed to guiding. If you haven’t, I hope you’ll think about it that way as you move forward.

I know. You’re on it. Your organization embraces social media. You have dedicated staff working the social networks. They are broadcasting news, interacting with customers, blogging. They are talking. But are you taking a good look at the walk?

Communications is just as much walk as it is talk. Let your actions lead your communications plan. What do you want to be? How do you want to be perceived? Are you being that at every level of your organization? And when I say being, I definitely don’t mean are you just saying it on social media. Big difference.

Transparency and authenticity. What exactly does it mean to be authentic? Tony Hayward was all too transparent about his feelings and it cost him his job. He certainly couldn’t be accused of being inauthentic when he said he wanted his life back.

So what does that mean to you? How do you navigate this new world and avoid being the butt of the next satirical video that goes viral?

Inspire us. We want to be inspired by a great leader and learn lessons from someone like you. If you’re running an organization that inspires us in any way, we want to know everything about you. We want to know what you’re reading, how you start your day, how you manage your time, and where you get your inspiration. Lead an organization that is bigger than just selling your widgets. Be a great place to work, be a steward of your community. Share your knowledge. We’ll do the talking for you.

If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide.

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there on the digital landscape.

If you are uncomfortable opening your blog to comments, or starting a Facebook page because you are not prepared to go there, you are hiding something. Look inside, identify where the source of the potential backlash is, and fix the problem. Then, go do your best champion self-talk in the bathroom mirror and face the masses.

The negative discussion will happen with or without your presence. Invite it to your forum, wherever that may be, and address it head on.

Don’t be a stranger. If you’ve been inspiring us and engaging with us, you’ve built a community that knows and trusts you. In times of crisis, you’ll be pretty happy to have them on your side.

Let us inspire you. I’m sure you are curious about us. What are our habits, behaviors and preferences? You can ask me what I’m reading, what I’m doing this weekend. Wow, you can conduct your own market research under the guise of just you know, talking to us. And when you show an interest, and we’re sharing stories? That’s engagement.

So when you sit down with your PR professional, and ask, “How can I get people to understand we’re a big community philanthropist?” The answer should be simple: Be one.

When you ask, “How can we get people to think of us as the go-to such and such widget maker?” Be one.

Be one. And let others do the talking for you.

All the best,
Lisa Gerber
Chief Content Officer
Spin Sucks and Spin Sucks Pro

If you were to give just one piece of advice to CEO’s about digital communication, what would it be?

Tomorrow is our webinar on webinars! We hope you’ll join Christina Pappas and Gini Dietrich in a discussion on how to use webinars to generate inbound leads. It really works, and you don’t even have to leave your desk to do it. Join us tomorrow, Thursday August 11 at 11:00 a.m. CT. This webinar is $50 and you can buy it by clicking here.
  • I think the best advice is to be a leader by continuing to learn, admitting your mistakes, and knowing your strengths and weaknesses. In my opinion, one of the most important things a CEO must be able to do is inspire their staff and help to create opportunities to help them reach their career goals.

    Great post Lisa!

  • @rachaelseda I think inspiration is a big one. From an internal standpoint, it really sets the tone of the entire organization; the culture. 🙂 thanks, Rach!

  • @rachaelseda I think inspiration is a big one. From an internal standpoint, it really sets the tone of the entire organization; the culture. 🙂 thanks, Rach!

  • OMG, soulati this is downright embarrassing over here. I better get to work. Thankfully, I’ve learned from the best.

  • alanbr82

    Maybe I am missing the point but to me there is a difference between “command” and “lead”. If the CEO really understands the value of a communication plan, they should have a blog, their own twitter account and even post/comment on other blogs. Show people what your company is about and don’t be afraid to say “contact Mary, here is her twitter name”. Shows you believe in Mary’s ability but also understand twitter as a relationship tool. Think of the customer contacting Mary, they will feel empowered and respected.

    Basically lead from the front. To me this is true for anything, but in social world it is even more important. Sorry if I am off base but I feel better now.

  • ginidietrich

    My favorite is “inspire us.” We all want to be inspired. Even as leaders, we want someone to inspire us. So why is that so hard for people to do?

  • @alanbr82 I think you’re right on point. It would be a different place if all CEO’s adhered to that!

  • @ginidietrich because they’re focused on the small stuff. And the to-do list.

  • @ginidietrich because they’re focused on the small stuff. And the to-do list.

  • alanbr82

    @Lisa Gerber One of the first things we learned in the Army, “Lead by example”.

  • Although I’ve never actually watched the show, I apply the “Undercover Boss” test. If a CEO can successfully “hide” among the employees, that’s a sign of disconnect. At my last company, I never met the CEO personally, but I still “knew” him–his vision, his leadership style, his expectations. A CEO that strives to build connections is truly inspiring.

  • Ana | Traffic Generation

    A CEO should be in the trenches with the team as that shows leadership and builds respect. If he / she is open to both positive and negative interaction with the public, it shows commitment to excellent service and that they care about the community. Great post!

  • Let me boost your tally…Hi, All! These women really know that they’re talking about, so read and send your friends. In fact, go to other blog posts and add this link so people come to comment. @Lisa Gerber soulati

  • I’d like to add that TRUST goes both ways. That. Is. All.

  • “The negative discussion will happen with or without your presence. Invite it to your forum, wherever that may be, and address it head on.”

    Excellent point. But lots of heads would prefer to remain in the sand…

  • “The negative discussion will happen with or without your presence. Invite it to your forum, wherever that may be, and address it head on.”

    Excellent point. But lots of heads would prefer to remain in the sand…

  • @Lisa Gerber@ginidietrich

    Have you seen some of these CEOs? Some aren’t all that inspirational…

  • @ShakirahDawud @ginidietrich it’s funny you should say that. I had one particular nameless CEO in mind when I wrote the letter. And so, I have to agree with you.

  • @alanbr82 see? Digital communication doesn’t change anything. There’s still something to be said for the things we learned in the army, from our parents, grandparents….

  • I’m not a CEO, but this is advice many need to absorb. Just about all of it is so much easier said than done, especially for the head of a company.

  • alanbr82

    @Lisa Gerber Kills me when people think social/digital is something sooo special. There are basics you do for anything, that’s why they’re called “basic” 😉

  • @marianne.worley what a great point. I waited tables (a looong time ago) in a restaurant with a famous chef. At the time he owned only 3, but he was still quite renowned. And he’d come in, a lot, and never get to know the waitstaff, the FACE of his business. Never thought of that until now.

  • @Ana | Traffic Generation yep. And it takes self-confidence to be able to do that. I didn’t mention or think of that until your comment. And thank you. 🙂

  • @Soulati | PR I’m on my new iPad (did I mention I got a new iPad?) so I can’t like this comment. But consider this “liked.”

  • @fitzternet ignorance is bliss.

  • @ShakirahDawud indeed. Seems simple but it’s not always. 🙂

  • I would add to ‘not ask us to do and lead what you yourself are not willing to’.

    What I mean by this is often CEOs are excited about ideas that require a lot more than just one person to participate (social media, especially blogging is perfect example). They hear your pitch and buy into it but that’s it and their ‘thumbs up’ never leaves their office or the meeting room. So when you ask your sales team to tweet or contribute to the blog, they are most likely not going to respond. The CEO needs to lead and contribute as well or at the very least communicate that they support the idea and expect participation. I also have experienced CEOs who like an idea but are skeptical and expect results before they will attach their name to it. This is really hard to do as well without their support.

  • Adding on to what @C_Pappas said, CEOs (and other leaders) should verify with their teams what is possible before making external agreements.

  • glenn_ferrell

    Good advice. Spin is not enough. Heard a saying years ago: “If you want to be a dancer, dance.” 🙂

  • glenn_ferrell

    @ginidietrich CEOs need to realize that even small things can end up being inspirational. Jaime Dimon put on his business casuals and did a one day bus tour of his Pacific Northwest banks. Only one day. But the photo-ops, positive press and general “image-enhancement” he got out of that were really phenomenal.

    Like you said, Obama should forgo the $38K/plate dinners for hotdogs and beer, and more CEOs should forgo the limos and company jets and hop on a bus 🙂

  • ginidietrich

    @Lisa Gerber I get focused on the to-do list, too. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t get anything accomplished. But then, maybe I’m not as inspirational as I think.

  • lisagerber

    @miligonza thank you! 🙂

  • lisagerber

    @miligonza thank you! 🙂

  • lisagerber

    @miligonza thank you! 🙂

  • lisagerber

    @miligonza thank you! 🙂

  • miligonza

    @lisagerber No need to thank! Great website and content! 🙂

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