Social CEOs & Blue Unicorns – the latest CIPR c-suite podcast

Colin Byrne, CEO of Weber Shandwick UK & EMEA, Paul Frampton, CEO of Havas Media and PRMoment’s Ben Smith joined me in the studio last week for the latest, slightly extended (all three like to chat a bit), CIPR Social Media Panel c-suite podcast.  The topic of discussion was The Social CEO.

Colin began by making reference to Weber Shandwick’s own research, which highlights that CEO engagement and visibility is recognised as particularly critical to company reputation, according to 81% of senior executives worldwide.  He highlighted the different benefits from the numerous channels available, but where the CEO focusses their attention is all dependent on what is right for the business objectives.  However, he highlighted the growth of video storytelling as a platform for the most social CEOs – encouraging to hear given I spent 16 years at markettiers4dc evangelising about the benefits of using video content for distribution through social media.  Indeed, whilst there, back in 2010, I produced and presented (alongside Stephen Waddington, Philip Sheldrake and Gemma Griffiths), – we were so ahead of the game!  I’m now considering using Periscope to stream the next c-suite podcast live on Twitter, so should my guests be up for it.

Following on from me mentioning a blog post of Paul’s, where he wrote that ‘brilliant leaders have an omnipresent, consistent voice and share continually and widely’, he raised a good point about his ‘fondness’ for twitter was just as much about using it as an internal communications tool, sharing information with Havas’ own talent, as it was to engage with his external client audience.

However, Ben highlighted that many CEOs may not have the right personality and time to be on Twitter every day and that it needs to be sustainable, as he felt that there is nothing worse than a CEO giving Twitter a quick go and then not tweeting for the best part of a year.  Paul followed this up later in the discussion saying that CEO’s do need to understand and acknowledge the time involved if you do lean into it in this ‘always on’ world, and termed those who are doing it well, acknowledging and responding to messages sent to them personally via social, as ‘Blue Unicorns’, i.e. there isn’t a lot of them, although he said they are increasingly starting to appear.

We’re now getting regular questions in for the show and this month we answered two really good ones.  The first response was to a question from Janet Morgan, Director of Global Content Strategy and Planning at GSK.  Janet asked about the issue of what would happen if, after a company has invested in their CEO’s becoming social, they leave for a rival, as their following stays with the individual, not the company, and so Colin made the point that any CEO should be responsible for succession strategy and developing the next team, although generationally, that next level down will probably be more social anyway, so they should build their team’s sociability and not just their own.

A second question, submitted by Kate Clough of Instinctif Partners, was about the Havas Meaningful Brands report, which, timing wise, tied in nicely to a recent update that Unilever gave on their Sustainable Living Plan in which Paul Polman, the company’s CEO, stated that their ‘brands with purpose’ as they call them, ‘accounted for half the company’s growth in 2014 and grew at twice the rate of the rest of the business.’ This aligned well with a key finding from Havas’ report that said that ‘Meaningful Brands outperform the stock market by 133%.’  Interestingly though, Colin brought the discussion back to the role of the CEO when he pointed out that Polman had been named as the most powerful PR player in the latest PRWeek Power Book and felt that it was because he is one of the CEOs that had put social purpose at the heart of his brands and his organisation.   Colin followed this up by saying that the modern Public Relations industry is no longer about being in the spin business but instead, we are in the authenticity and change business.

Don’t forget you can help this series of podcast climb the itunes charts by subscribing to the feed, and you can keep the conversation going on twitter using #ciprcsuite.  If you would like to help me produce more interviews you can sponsor the show – just drop me a line at if you are interested.

Finally, anyone from Havas reading this blog who is struggling to think of what to buy Paul for his birthday or for Christmas, how about his very own Blue Unicorn onesie from Amazon?!


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