Social networks like Twitter and Facebook have the power to profoundly advance or ruin a company’s reputation. It’s the Wild West out there with lots of misinformation flying across the web. That’s why the CEO must be communicating regularly to employees, customers, regulators and other stakeholders with the real story.
First, there is the company’s own internal communication programs. And, as I’ve stated before, speed is of the essence in communicating important news to employees. If you don’t tell them they will turn to the web for the latest dirt on the company and share it with each other.
Instead, turn them into ambassadors to spread word about the good things happening in their company. That’s why the CEO has to be talking directly to the company’s stakeholders regularly with quick takes on new developments. Many CEOs are turning to Twitter and posting their own tweets – such as George F. Colony, CEO of Forrester Research, who is giving advice to his peers about social communities and wrote a blog “How can CEOs understand social technologies?”
If the tweets are authentic and genuinely represent the CEOs own voice, the followers will come, especially the company’s own employees. Who would have thought just a few short years ago that the company’s chief communications channel could be Twitter! But if that’s what it takes to get the message out, then that’s what CEOs should be doing.
A few tips for the CEO as Chief Communications Officer:
• Write the updates in your own voice. A 140-word Tweet that links back to the company’s own website with more information is golden. You should be writing them yourself and not someone from the PR Department.
• Speed is of the essence. If something dramatic happens (think of Domino’s employees contaminating a pizza) get out there right away with a Tweet or write a blog for the company’s website. Now, this minute. Getting the PR department to write a press release that needs to be vetted by 10 lawyers is too late.
• Write often. Be out there every day, if possible. When you’re checking your Blackberry one last time before going to bed, think about something good that happened for the company and put out a 140-word tweet. It will take less time than brushing your teeth.
• Encourage feedback. That’s what so great about the social communities. There’s two-way communication. You can get instant feedback from customers and employees. They will tell you if they don’t think they are getting the straight story. So be authentic.
This is the time for CEOs to be bold and brave. Trust your employees, customers and other stakeholders to believe you. Be a good leader and they will follow.