We introduced our CEO Communication Summit back in December—a simpler time. Through original research, expert commentary and candid conversation, we were going to seek fresh answers to an old question: Should CEOs use their power and platform to do more than market their company and protect their industry? And if so, how should they go about it?
Many CEOs are in trouble every day, and it’s a kind of trouble that won’t go away. On the U.S. Muslim travel ban and myriad other questions arising daily from declarations and policy changes from the Trump admnistration, CEOs are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Employees, suppliers, distributors, customers and investors have conflicting demands, offered in the strongest terms.
“Boycott Culture Forces CEOs to Walk Tightrope in Trump Era,” says the Bloomberg News story, which quotes Weber Shandwick’s Micho Spring, summing up the situation: “Consumers are holding brands accountable as though they were political candidates, and they’re voting again and again.”
And if CEOs wake up every morning on the horns of a new dilemma, so do the communication execs who support them. I personally spoke with a Trump-loathing executive communication director who was nevertheless frustrated with her CEO for saying something mildly sympathetic to employees freaked out by the travel ban. Why? Because the comment caused untold trouble and immediate revenue loss for the organization, some of whose business partners didn't appreciate it.
In this climate, CEOs and leadership communication professionals have two choices:
Under the opposing pressures of political turmoil, they can turn slowly to stone.
Or, they can realize that everything has changed, from one circumstance to another. CEOs are now denied the artificial corporate possibility of pleasing most of the people most of the time by saying very little, as blandly as possible. They have been delivered to the more common human requirement of stating their position as carefully and strategically and clearly as they can, knowing they will offend some and please others, and letting the wood chips fall where they may.
You know, like leaders do. And writers. And moms and dads, for that matter.
All those kinds of people are gathering at the CEO Communication Summit in Montreal to build strategic positions, and make the means to describe them. Register now to get a seat before they run out.