Council Post: How Corporations With Introverted CEOs Can Develop A Strong Media Presence

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While CEOs are undoubtedly proud of the corporations they run, not every chief executive feels comfortable being the public “face” of their company. Public speaking, expressing one’s thoughts in writing and communicating with the press are skills all CEOs need. However, if they don’t enjoy the spotlight to begin with and are already struggling to find the time to do so, some CEOs may simply put building their company’s media presence on the back burner.

For companies with more introverted CEOs, there are alternative, effective ways to handle media relations. Here, 15 Forbes Communications Council members share some solutions and workarounds for CEOs (and their PR teams) to help develop their company’s media presence.

1. Do Media Training And Speaker Training

Anyone leading a corporation should receive both media training and speaker training. Even though a CEO may not be the face of an external campaign or situation, these are skills that are vitally important to the management of a company. There will always be speaking engagements, whether with shareholders, the board of directors or employees. – Deborah Farone, Farone Advisors LLC

2. Use Ghostwriters

Often, a CEO doesn’t want to participate in thought leadership or media relations because they either don’t have time or they feel like they are bragging about their personal success. PR team members can solve the time issue by interviewing the CEO, then ghostwriting blogs and content around their ideas (and scheduling it for them). As for the other issue, you usually have to point out the value of their thought leadership and assign ROI. – Christina Hager, Ovations Digital

3. Turn To The Written Word

In addition to diversifying your bench of spokespeople, you can scale a company’s media presence through the written word. Bylines, blog posts and social posts from the CEO are effective and often get higher engagement. They can also lead to more direct conversations with your target audiences. – Roohi Saeed, Samsara

4. Use Alternative Forms Of Media

Fortunately, there are ever-growing opportunities to build thought leadership without the pressures of public speaking. Pre-recorded and edited videos and still photos, audio, podcasts, long-form writing, blogging and social media posts are powerful and put less pressure on introverts. The communications team can capture the CEO’s ideas, inspiration and point of view to power a strong PR initiative. – Sarah Falcon, Object Edge


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5. Have Others Act As Spokespeople

This can vary by industry and company, but the CEO doesn’t need to be the face of the company. Depending on the news you are looking to communicate, having senior media-savvy product and business owners can easily take the pressure off the CEO in these cases. In many cases, this is seen as a plus for media and events, as you can utilize a subject matter expert in your organization. – Jonathan Sasse, Metova

6. Work Within The CEO’s Comfort Zone

Find out what they’re comfortable with and lean into that. If a CEO is comfortable with written messages but not on-camera video, lean into emails and blog posts. If they aren’t good with filming but like speaking, try podcasts and audio comms. There’s always a way to work within a leader’s comfort zone, and because it’s authentic to them, it’ll be authentic to those who engage with the messages. – Melissa Kandel, little word studio

7. Diversify The Thought Leadership Team

Diversifying your thought leadership team does two things. First, it protects you in case the CEO or another face of the company leaves the company. Second, having more diverse faces allows you to tap into more social networks when sharing thought leadership, expanding your company’s reach and brand salience. – Robert Neely, Lima One Capital

8. Appoint More Than One Person To Speak

Not every CEO is best suited to be the face of a company. Identify and develop several leaders from throughout the organization who are effective representatives and help each become different faces of the company. This approach also allows you to adapt more easily if people leave the organization for new opportunities. – Tom Wozniak, OPTIZMO Technologies, LLC

9. Start Small

One approach to managing introverted CEOs through PR is to start small. I like to start with written interviews first, and once they’re comfortable, move up to pre-recorded podcasts and audio interviews. Once the CEO gets into a groove and is able to tell their story in lower-risk situations, then you can move them into live events and TV interviews. – Roshni Wijayasinha, Prosh Marketing

10. Rely On Recordings Or Briefing Documents

I have worked with leaders who are more introverted, and I’ve found that there are techniques to make them shine. Find out what works for your CEO. What does he or she like to talk about? Where are their passions? Then, use recordings as much as possible, or make sure to craft briefing documents to help them prepare. Briefing docs include questions that they are likely to be asked and outline what they should respond with and how. – Michelle Bank, Nuspire

11. Implement A Two-Part Strategy

With an introverted CEO, companies can implement a two-part strategy. The first part is doing intensive media training and creating clear messaging that the CEO can use for high-priority interviews. Second, a handful of other spokespeople should be developed to fill in the gaps in the interview calendar. This way, you can have a robust PR strategy and take some pressure off the introverted CEO. – Tom Treanor, Snipp Interactive

12. Focus On Exceptional Products Or Services Instead

The idea that every CEO must be a “personality” has arisen since the 1980s, but the history of commerce is filled with companies that didn’t rely on a figurehead. Instead, they built exceptional products or services and had a mission that the consumer connected with. If a CEO is not a performer, that’s fine. I bet you can name more companies where you don’t know the CEO’s name than ones where you do. – Scott Hitchins, Interact Software

13. Encourage The CEO To Practice

In many ways, there’s no substitute for the CEO as the face of the organization. There are some journalists, some conferences and some opportunities that only focus on highlighting CEOs. Before elevating other members of the executive team, I would urge teams to try every avenue to help the CEO build that muscle, including rigorous practice and speaking coaching. – Radhika Duggal, Super

14. Engage In Constructive Coaching

Building rapport between communications teams and leadership is key. PR professionals are here to make the CEO shine, so constructive coaching can work wonders. The CEO doesn’t need to become an extrovert overnight, but they need quiet confidence to put that best foot forward when opportunities arise. Established trust between PR teams and leadership can secure the most meaningful coverage. – Casey Munck, Act-On Software

15. Manage The CEO’s Online Engagement

Managing a CEO’s social media, either through the company’s scheduling platform or an advocacy tool, is a great way to still showcase an executive’s presence without a lot of effort on their part. Of course, the CEO must trust the marketing team to effectively manage this endeavor, so it can also be a great opportunity for the marketing team to learn how the CEO communicates overall. – Brittany White, Apple Growth Partners



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