The role of the CEO is ever-changing and one of the most notable evolutions is the expectation that a CEO be a visible leader. Some of the world’s best-known brands just wouldn’t be the same without their visible CEOs or founders. Ambitious companies from startup through IPO can take some cues from these leadership examples. With everything that a CEO has on their plate, why would they focus on thought leadership? Thought leadership checks off the optimal business outcomes from PR from increased brand value to easier recruiting, from investor awareness to consumer adoration, the reasons ambitious CEOs stay visible are clear:

  • 60% of decision-makers will pay a premium because thought leadership shows deep thinking and other virtues important to them.

  • People who follow both a company and one or more of its executives are twice as likely to purchase from that company.

  • 71% of decision-makers agree: thought leadership is one of the best ways to get a sense of the type and caliber of an organization’s thinking.

  • 81% of consumers say CEOs should be personally visible.

 

Today, CEOs of public companies and private companies alike are finding creative ways to keep their company in the news and remain the face of the brand. Savvy leaders are looking for ways to weigh in on social or business issues that impact their customers or clients. Leaders are driving purpose and speaking about it openly, they’re weighing in on newsworthy items, and they do it without ever pitching or selling their products or services. The Wall Street Journal won’t be a brand’s shill, but it will cover remarkable ideas and perspectives – and CEOs tend to have those. Dollar for dollar, the time invested in thought leadership PR pays off handsomely.

Steve Jobs: Thought Leadership Pioneer

An early leader in thought leadership strategy was, of course, Steve Jobs. With his signature black turtleneck and visionary ideas, he kept both Apple customers and the media hanging on his every word.

We may never know why Jobs, who was famously persnickety, embraced a more public persona, but the outcomes were undeniable. Because Steve Jobs stood in front of the press, he was instantly more credible when he delivered high-flying ideas about how his newest Apple products would change the world. Jobs’ presentations always had a restrained flair of showmanship, but showmanship nonetheless.

Another advantage for Jobs? After Apple ousted him-HIS OWN COMPANY-being the face of the brand made him indelibly connected to Apple. Firing Jobs would have been much harder to do the second time, but because he embraced thought leadership, there was also less reason to do so – Apple products did very well. To this day, Jobs is inextricably tied to Apple’s brand.

Richard Branson: Innovating with Public Failures

Richard Branson’s key message is crystal clear: innovation. Branson walks the walk. several times, Branson took to the skies in a hot air balloon, risking his own life to set world records and at the same time, creating opportunities for people to talk about Virgin Airlines. This stunt paled in comparison to the ultimate flight into space he took with Virgin Galactic.

According to LinkedIn: [Branson is] popular with everyone from entrepreneurs to HR professionals and in industries ranging from tech to construction. The only continent where he doesn’t have a single follower is Antarctica. This kind of broad-based appeal is almost unheard of, but Branson has pulled it off because he has one other secret to success: authenticity. He is actively involved with his own press.

At one point in his native England, Richard Branson was famous for being famous. The press actually heckled him for his publicity stunts – but they never failed to cover them and Branson took it all in stride, knowing that his stunts appealed to consumers who would appreciate the distinct spin Branson put on the Virgin brand and its products. Branson also weighs in on topics popular with his audience, like income inequality and universal basic income, which he called for in 2018. Should UBI ever come to be, Branson will be able to say he was the first CEO to advocate for it, and if it never does, it’s not his fault. It’s a brilliant PR move.

Thought leadership is more important today than ever before, and yet there are PR landmines for CEOs everyone where. Don’t rush thought leadership, be strategic and purposeful. Positioning yourself as an expert is best done in stages as it takes time to find the right cadence and the right rhythm. Be prepared to spend some time developing your own personal brand in conjunction with your thought leadership PR agency. Taking the time to develop your own brand will create authenticity and trust – both essential elements of a successful thought leadership strategy.

 

For all Branson’s attempts to make history, there is one founder here who did it well before he did.

Sara Blakely: From Scrappy Sales to History Maker

From the start of Spanx, Sara Blakely took complete control of her reputation, and she knew what set her apart could be a differentiator for the brand,brand,brand,brand, too. One of my favorite Blakely stories is when she bought Olivia Newton John’s famous Grease pants at auction. Her target market, feeling slightly nostalgic for the days when they could have rocked those pants, celebrated the move – even as it was an extravagance, it was one that made her relatable to her target market. She got a ton of press on it, and she never even had to talk about Spanx – the press did it for her every time they said “Sara Blakely, CEO of Spanx,” and the purchase was so on brand, it was difficult to ignore the brand.  But that move was only one of a thousand steps Blakely took to control the narrative. She positioned herself as a thought leader by leaning into her differences as a woman CEO. She told, retold, and retold the story of how she founded Spanx without apology for its humble beginnings.

Blakely’s willingness to be the face of Spanx paid off with the ultimate metric: she is the world’s youngest self-made billionaire.

 

Whether your goal is to make history or maximize achievement, thought leadership for CEOs have never been more important than it is now. You’ve already done the hard work of becoming an expert – why not leverage it?

 

What is a Purpose-driven strategy? It’s the natural evolution of four converging cultural changes, the first is when social, cultural, and environmental issues became more visible and urgent, followed by consumers who expect brands to connect with nonprofits or social impact, driven by a lack of confidence in government to solve big problems, and finally, institutional investors evaluating environmental, social governance (ESG). Purpose puts a movement and impact first. Purpose-driven companies understand when society, the environment, and our collective well-being are doing well—businesses do better too.

Purpose-Driven Strategies have Three Key Pillars:

Employee and Systemic Engagement, Externally Virtuous, Meaty Measurable. 

These pillars of purpose require a company to be engaged in a systemic way, are independent of sales, and the impact should be both audacious and measurable. While purpose-driven strategies may give way to recruiting advantages, brand valuation, and competitive advantages, those are not the driving outcomes behind purpose. Purpose-driven PR is not the driving motivation behind purpose-driven implementations. The defining commitment of purpose is when it takes precedence over profitswhen internal culture is SO strong, so empowered, that decisions at all levels are made with a purpose in mind.

These Purpose Driven Strategy distinctions are important—because consumers—AND Investors are savvier than ever: They see through cause marketing campaigns with little authenticity. They’re alert to saying one thing, but doing another -greenwashing is so common it had a name.  Distrust in governments continued to decrease, while expectations of businesses continued to increase.

Purpose-driven strategies differ from the historical ways brands engaged with movements and nonprofits.

The Difference Between Purpose-Driven and Social Impact

Although used interchangeably sometimes, purpose and social impact are different. What exactly is purpose-driven strategy? It’s a deep, sustained engagement for change by which the company recognizes its own impact, including internally, at the corporate level. Social impact is 100% external and very often involves inspiring a stakeholder community, like customers, to work together for a sustained period. For this reason, businesses usually engage in social impact in partnership with nonprofits.

The Difference Between Purpose Driven Strategies and Philanthropy

The difference between purpose-driven strategies and philanthropy is based on the level of engagement the company commits to. Traditionally philanthropy was a broad term used to describe when a business contributed to a cause – anything from a social nonprofit to fundinga building or a program at a college. This type of giving required very little else from the company outside of the donation. Companies often used philanthropy to attract other monied investors or achive other strategic goals, but on the surface, having a philanthropic donation very often align with a marketing campaign or a PR campaign. Philanthropy also usually had very little to do with employees and customer activism or interests.

The Difference Between Purpose Driven Strategies and Corporate Giving

That gave way to CORPORATE GIVING –programs. The United Way is an outstanding example of corporate giving, this is when an organization encourages its employees to unite behind a single cause to create a greater donation scale. At this stage, companies get more involved as multiple departments such as PR, or HR to create systems and messaging around corporate giving. Companies whose employees give a lot receive recognition in the community. Corporate giving gave employees the opportunity to easily give to an organization; some corporate giving programs allow employees to choose a cause that was important to them, but in the most traditional sense, the executive team partnered with a nonprofit to create a corporate giving program.

The Difference Between Purpose Driven Strategies and Cause Marketing

CAUSE MARKETING are initiatives that tied sales to a corporate donation  – started in 1983 when Amex donated a penny to restoring the Statue of Liberty every time someone used their card—cardholders grew 45% and card usage increased by 28%. By 2013, 76% of consumers thought it was OK for brands to support good causes and make money at the same time. Before we knew it, there was a cause marketing campaign everywhere we looked, from pink ribbons to yogurt lids. Enterprises like Hersheys even had internal positions that combined marketing & corporate social responsibility.

If you’re interested in implementing purpose-driven strategies at your company, check out our free guide to implementing purpose. 

Ever notice the best people always seem to go to the best companies? Why is that? Reputation matters and PR improves recruiting outcomes. The magical part is this: it doesn’t matter whether you’re recruiting for executives or recent graduates, a strategic PR plan makes attracting the right talent easier and even keeps your best employees.

  1. Strong Brand Values Attract The Right Candidates

    You want candidates to be a good fit for your company’s culture and values. This is one way PR improves recruiting, especially important for companies in emerging industries and hyper-growth companies who may not have the resources for fancy employment retention programs.  Your PR should underscore your company’s values and contributions to society, your industry, and yes, your employees. And candidates who care about culture are more valuable employees. Brand values are an inside-out job. But you should celebrate those values with purpose-driven activations with recruitment in mind. Not every activation is worthy of the Wall Street Journal, but if that’s a goal, then make it newsworthy. Otherwise, this is where social media can be an outstanding messenger of your PR initiatives. But make no doubt about it, the best candidates do a Google search and check out your social profiles before they accept your job offer.

  2. Give Employees an Opportunity to Brag

    Everyone wants to work in a place where their co-workers are happy to be there. Here, activate your earned media with your employees. Every time you receive coverage, be sure to tell your employees and let them brag about the company to their friends and community. You can encourage sharing with recruitment bonuses, and other internal spotlights on employees who share your good news far and wide. Employee advocacy is a really effective way that PR can improve recruiting. There’s another benefit to encouraging employees to share content:

  3. Reduce Employee Turnover with PR

    Everyone wants to feel proud of where they work, and the more they talk about how proud they are, the more committed they become to that feeling of loyalty and pride. That’s a Captivation Motivation fact, it’s akin to sunk costs. The more we sink into something, the harder it is to walk away. So PR improves recruiting through increased employee pride, and that pride reduces costly turnover. It’s a lot harder to complain about your job on social media if you’re regularly posting about how much you love your company and job.

  4. Reputation Management Matters

    You definitely want someone monitoring your overall reputation. That includes everything a potential candidate might see from Glass Door to news coverage and even reviews. You also want someone to identify how certain audiences perceive your overall communications, and what you can do to improve your communications. For example, if you’re emphasizing diversity, equity, and inclusion in your recruitment, but no one on your website reflects DEI values, it feels very shallow and unwelcoming to those candidates. Do your job descriptions match the education levels and pay ranges you’re hiring for? If you’re hiring for people with college degrees, those job descriptions should look and feel differently than your job descriptions for roles that don’t require a college degree.

  5. Appeal To The Ego

    When high potential or high-level candidates see that news articles and media coverage of company executives, that’s a pretty compelling benefit for ambitious executives. It’s an outstanding way for your company to attract talent, even in the tightest recruitment markets. Plus, your that coverage adds benefits to your company’s brand values as well. Make sure your recruitment pages include executive coverage so potential employees can envision thier own name in the headlines too.

 

Using PR to improve recruiting outcomes is only one of the ways PR supports the most important business strategies, read more about the other 5 ways PR improves business outcomes.

Do We Need PR?

Why do PR? These are the 5 reasons why PR is vital to growth.  Straight up: PR is the only way to differentiate yourself. While it might be tempting for businesses to focus on sales and marketing only and, it’s technically possible to operate a business without PR, it’s virtually impossible to become an industry leader or a household name without PR. Emerging industries, which need to establish credibility to investors and consumers, and hyper-growth companies with very ambitious growth plans need PR.

PR is a vital partner to business goals that have long-term effects on the success of a business. These 5 reasons why PR is vital for the success of growing companies. PR adds credibility and authority to emerging industries and hyper-growth brands.

5 Reasons Why PR is Vital for Emerging Industries and Hyper-Growth Brand Success

At Avaans Media, we specialize in emerging industries and hyper-growth brands, be they B2B or B2C. From raising awareness with consistent media placement to aligning social media with your most important key messaging, to crisis prevention and management, having a cohesive and active PR presence is the secret ingredient to building brand equity and awareness. We’re so committed to helping you get to the next level, we base our PR pricing on your strategic objectives.

 

  1. Increase Revenue: Public relations has very real and exciting implications for revenue growth. More credible than advertising PR contributes to increased sales conversion and deal flow improvement, as well as decreasing churn and increasing customer lifetime value (CLTV). Working with your PR firm to develop baselines and KPIs for your business goals not only allows you to see PR’s impact on your bottom line, but also enables your PR firm to develop a strategy that is effective and long-lasting.
  2. Attract Investors: For many emerging industry companies and hyper-growth brands, attracting investment is a key goal for scale. Investors like to see that your product has legs. There is no better endorsement of your product’s potential than media placement. It might be tempting to only use PR after you’ve secured investment, but PR can increase deal flow, give you more brand equity, and improve the quality of investment.
  3. Competitive Advantages: If you’re in an industry where there are a lot of competitors, then you absolutely need PR. PR will help you clarify your messaging and ensure you know where and when you can stand out. Further, in crowded fields, what do consumers do? They Google brands to find reviews and articles. If your brand has this critical 3rd party social proof, it’s a massive edge for your brand.
  4. Recruitment: The best candidates know their value and want to work for companies that are known entities in their industry, no matter whether the job market is tight. Great candidates are rarely interested in growing a business that hasn’t committed resources to growing the business. No one ever became an industry leader by focusing solely on cutting costs. PR shouts from the rooftops: “we’re serious about our future,” and that’s just the message to appeal to the best and brightest talent at all levels.
  5. Attract Acquisition or an IPO: Sometimes the next stage in a company’s growth is an acquisition or an IPO.  For both scenarios, completely integrated PR and marketing efforts are critical. For emerging industry companies and hyper-growth brands, if you’re serious about being acquired or an IPO, AND you want the best price for your company, now is the time to double down on brand equity investment. These strategic objectives require an aligned PR strategy that may differ from what you’ve done in the past. But since our company has done this many times, we can help you navigate the strategy and implement it flawlessly.

Why is PR your secret weapon? These are only the most critical to business goals, there are hundreds of smaller PR advantages that increase revenue and even save you money. At Avaans Media, we’re exceptionally proud of our A-team, a group of experienced and insightful communication experts who never stop working for our clients.  Get started being the most important brand you can be. Contact us today for a discussion about your business goals.