Creating a public platform for your top executives can rattle nerves, but finding that authentic voice for your organization has never been more important.

Making your leaders a more visible and empathetic face for your organization has become a top priority in the months since the global pandemic upended everything.

Audiences are looking for guidance and reassurance, someone who can show them how to get through the challenges ahead. They want to know that top leaders are taking them into consideration when making decisions and approaching the future of work and business with empathy.

PR pros are used cot creating “thought leadership” for their clients and executives, but crafting that message has only become harder in our low trust environment.

In a recent session for Ragan Training titled “Creating Fresh Thought Leadership Content That Cuts Through the Noise,” Rachel Spates, associate directo0r of communications for Sun Life shared five essential lessons for executive comms in today’s world.


Her list:

1. Transparency and authenticity are key. Your executive video doesn’t have to be “polished and professional,” as Spates puts it. It needs to be real and reflect the experiences of real people.

 2. We embrace two-way communication channels with our employees. Tools like Workplace from Facebook have been a “game-changer,” says Spates. “We feel like we are not juts broadcasting out to our employees; we are having a conversation.”

 The ability to field feedback in real time and adjust to the needs of employees or other audiences is essential, particularly in times of uncertainty.

3. We stick to our brand attributes. “Regardless of the channel, regardless of the person delivering the message, regardless of what the message is,” says Spates, its important to make sure that the message adheres to core values and beliefs.

4. Work smarter, not harder, by repurposing content for multiple channels. Spates gives examples, such as thinking about how internal and external messaging overlaps or finding content form a webinar that can be turned into a flier or a one-pager, blog post, etc.

5. We’re prepared for questions and criticism on sensitive topics. “You are going to have critics; you’re going to have naysayers,” says Spates. “And that’s OK.”

In an increasingly polarized environment, it’s not possible to please everyone and instead of trying to work backwards from criticism to find the least offensive posture, lean into core values and be prepared to weather critiques that you don’t agree with.

That said, Spates says it’s crucial to “have a strategy.” Being prepared can make all the difference in defending your position on an issue that you know will leave some in your audiences unhappy and looking to lash out.

What lessons have you taken from the past year in external communications, PR Daily readers?


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