Opening Session: Leadership + Communications: The New Competitive Advantage

Blogger: Susan Verrnon-Devlin (Orlando Area Chapter)

Opening Session: Leadership + Communications: The New Competitive Advantage
Jamey Peters, Partner and Ketchum South Director & CHris Thornton, SVP and Director, Ketchum Change

FPRA is focused on leadership. Ketchum is also focused on leadership. Jamey Peters and Chris Thornton from Ketchum Change shared insights on the new face of leadership, Leading at the Speed of NOW!

After having the audience of conference attendees stand up and a stretch to start the day off right, the discussion on the leadership crisis began. The data that was presented was analyzed for five years. And still the study continues. What makes a leader shine? How do they communicate? All of this is being analyzed on a daily basis, and will continue to be up for discussion as people question leaders and look more to the rank and file for answers and communication. What a leader says, how they shop, what they do is all being analyzed today. Are they Hyper-connected and Hyper-kinetic? Those things make a difference.

Two key questions of effective leadership today are:

  1. Is your leadership balanced?
  2. Does your leadership lead others to seek the roles of leadership?

The research involved conversations with more than 25,000 people on five continents. The results showed there is a low trust level and high expectation gap when it comes to how people perceived their leaders. Who’s leading the pack in high trust and high expectations:?:

  • Brewing and spirits
  • Business technology
  • Hotels, travel and tourism
  • Consumer technology
  • Professional and business services

Who’s struggling?

  • Mining
  • Insurance
  • Oil & gas
  • Banks
  • Utilities

If you’re involved in one of these industries its really up to the leaders to foster good will among their employees and their clients to get back on track.

Across the 22,000 industries that were researched quality of products and services and customer focus were #1 and #2. Trustworthiness is #3 and Customer Service dropped to #4.. Companies today are being punished severely for poor leadership. This hits sales harder than ever. Sixty percent of consumers have either bought less or worked with a company less because of poor leadership. Is your industry feeling the backlash due to poor leadership. According to the Ketchum study communication is critical for getting back on track.

A great individual leader:

  • Leads by example,
  • communicates openly,
  • admits mistakes,
  • handles controversy and makes tough decisions.

What type of communication matters most?:

  • in person communication is tops,
  • formal announcements are next,
  • followed by TV interviews.
  • Earned media trumps pain media.
  • And social media, though it has its skeptics can be a great tool, it allows for an authentic voice.
  • Advertising has fallen to #16 when it comes to communications and radio advertising is #19

Opportunity for communication can arise from crisis. The team from Ketchum used SeaWorld as an example. They took advantage of damaging incidents to communicate their message. Their new leader Joel came to the table with a fresh vision to cut programs to gain back favorable impressions from the company’s detractors. His decision to cut the Orca program illustrates a moment where a CEO admitted mistakes, handled controversy and made a move to make a tough decision to make things right.

As a leader, make certain you look at your own ethics and don’t compromise them when communicating. Jamey personally left business behind that he felt compromised his ethics. Tough decisions but in the end he felt they were the right decisions.

Chris took over the presentation to discuss internal leaders and how they have risen in the ranks over the past years. In a study, respondents felt that leadership should come mainly from the organization and its employees, rather than from the CEO, There has been a rise of the title-less leadership. We trust our friends and neighbors who are doing the work rather than messaging from the C-suite. A whopping 38% preferred to hear what the rank and file thought of a company’s news and were more likely to listen to how it was communicated. The trust factor was high when it came from the title-less leaders.

Organizations need to modify their methods of communication to match what their consumers expect. No longer is the solid state (not adaptable) acceptable. Consumers want a company that is in a liquid state (readily adaptable, open to constant change). Company in gaseous state (those that change too often) could face a loss of trust just like those in a solid state. In the liquid state, you’re agile, dallied-in, transparent, pioneering. It’s essential to make sure your employees accept the liquid state. Employees who act as communicators, ambassadors in fact for their companies, are 10X more trusted than the press release that comes from a sole source of communication within the company.

When employees and your company are dialed-in they:

  • Anticipate and influence the marketplace
  • Dialogue with customers/consumers
  • Develop intimate relationships and influence key stakeholders.

Transparency is also a great tool:

  • It allows for proactive alignment
  • Engages both sides in open conversation
  • Makes things personal and human

And being HUMAN is essential to end the communication crisis when it comes to leaders. Look inside your organizations to see who’s good at holding the attention of others when they tell a story, that person may hold the elements to solving your leadership communication crisis. The Ketchum team left us with these touch-points for establishing and maintaining a leadership advantage:

  • Say what you will do, do what you say, and set realistic expectations
  • Be genuinely willing to listen, uncover audiences’ definition of transparency
  • Deliver in vision, acknowledge mistakes, and commit to continuous improvement
  • Collaborate, celebrate employees and deliver leadership at all levels
  • Advocate and diversify leaders.

Leadership and communication has changed. Will we change with it or be left behind?

PetersJamey Peters, a partner and director of Ketchum South, is an award-winning communications leader, trusted by clients for his strategic and creative counsel since he joined the agency in 2004. In his current role, Peters leverages his 23 years of PR experience to craft and implement communication programming across sectors such as energy, retail and health technology, with an emphasis on corporate and brand issues, communication programming and stakeholder relations. Peters holds six PRSA Silver Anvils, two Silver Cannes Lions and two PRWeek Awards.

 

ThorntonChris Thornton is a SVP, Director in Ketchum Change’s New York office. He has more than 15 years of experience leading change management, engagement, internal branding and communications activities for a variety of organizations. Since joining Ketchum in 2012, Thornton has worked with companies including Michelin, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cox Communications and The Hershey Company to improve employee engagement and successfully execute strategic communication and change programs. In his previous experience, he led the internal communications function at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the global technology communications team at Pfizer. Thornton has served in communication roles at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and Arthur Andersen, and worked as a senior consultant at Right Management. Chris began his career as a high school teacher.

 

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