I’ve had the unique privilege to address two classes of public relations students/executives in the past week. The initial victims attend George Washington University. The second group participates in a master’s program in communications management at the University of Toronto.
In each instance, I found the students/executives hungry for information about CEO advocacy in particular, and best practices for dealing with an unexpected attack from the West Wing.
Happily, and courtesy of The Institute for Public Relations and the Arthur W. Page Society, I was well-equipped to field each, and every question, and cite both proprietary primary research as well as highly relevant secondary research to support my arguments.
I suggested that public relations in general, and the CCO in particular, has never been better positioned to provide counsel to the CEO in the new normal of fake news, hate-mongering and personal attacks. Indeed. I firmly believe the CCO should be carefully advising her CEO in terms of when to advocate and how best to communicate it. As my colleague, Roger Bolton, president of the Page Society mentioned in our recent PRSA-sponsored webinar, an organization should follow its corporate purpose, mission and values statement in positing a POV on everything from Charlottesville and DACA to climate change and women’s rights. And the CCO should always be serving as his organization’s ethical and moral compass.
I recently interviewed Colleen Penhall of Lowes, who provided a best practices roadmap for the path her organization took in determining a corporate purpose that has profoundly impacted every aspect of her organization and equipped the CEO with guidelines should he choose to speak out on an issue of the day. Other CCO’s who have yet to determine their organization’s purpose would be well-advised to follow Colleen’s lead.
CEO advocacy will only become more important in the days, weeks and months to come. The wisest orgazanitons are those who have already taken time to anticipate what cannot be anticipated, and created various responses that have been approved, in advance, by the entire C-Suite.
We live in interesting times. And, neither digital gurus nor advertising copywriters have a clue as to how best to navigate TrumpWorld. These are heady times for the public relations profession, and I’m more convinced than ever that we will rise in stature as employees and stakeholder audiences look for a CEO to provide a voice of reason in a time of turbulence.