It is safe to say that our confidence in political elites has plummeted to an all-time low. After the shock of Brexit, or watching in awe as the US election unfolded, who do we turn to when there is little or no faith in political figures? Increasingly, we are looking to business leaders and brands to take the lead.
Thirty-nine percent of the savviest CEOs now have a social media presence and with it, have recognised that they are sitting on a golden opportunity. It’s the sort of gap in the market they dream about, offering business leaders a chance to step up to the podium to build real trust and engagement with a receptive audience.
You may have doubts that a CEO can garner greater following than a political leader, but research now shows that 82% of consumers are more likely to trust a company or brand whose CEO engages on social media. When times are uncertain, we all crave stability, and, just as heritage brands are often the beneficiaries of uncertain times, we also seek comfort in business leaders that show us the way, inspire and reassure.
When a CEO of a brand reinforces a positive stance on relevant world issues (social, political or market climate), we are more inclined to trust in their guidance – even more so if they are generally in line with public opinion or those of a targeted audience.
Of course, C-level communication also has to set the right tone. Stiff and unemotional communication no longer appeals to consumers, nor does it sate our demand for increased corporate transparency. More than ever, we are looking to corporate leaders that connect with us through relatable material and feeling. We gravitate towards storytelling, and therefore seek out leaders who have an emotional narrative that is accessible and sociable in nature.
Having said that, it is more than just ‘doing social media’. Paul Polman, Unilever CEO, is an excellent example of a global business leader who is actually making a difference. Certainly, CEOs can learn from Polman that, in a world that has developed such a lack of trust in leaders, a responsible and truthful CEO that recognises and engineers their business (and its communication) with empathy for the widest range of society, can contribute to regaining the public confidence.
CEOs that have stepped up their personal communications brand, are reaping instant rewards and creating advantage for the future of the brands they represent.