When was the last time you saw a post from a brand—or an executive of that brand—that really knocked your socks off? Unfortunately, for most, the answer isn’t as recent as it ideally would be.
Brand messaging is as important as it’s ever been, but too commonly, a lot of what companies have to say gets lost in a sea of sales, product pushes, and other old-school marketing tactics.
Now—more than ever—brand messaging isn’t only about what you’re saying. It’s about where you communicate and how you identify with your audience. With 90% of Millennials reporting that authenticity on social media is of high importance to them, it’s time for CEOs and other executives to get active on social platforms.
In a recent Agents of Change episode, Danielle O’Neil sat down with Suzanne Block, Co-Founder of Shape and Scale, to discuss the importance of not only perfecting a company’s message but also getting the entire team involved and active on social media—from sales team reps all the way to the C-Suite.
More Than Just a Brand
In their discussion, Suzanne points out she has noticed a shift in the way we collectively think about social media and thought leadership in general. The rise of the pandemic brought remote work to the forefront of the workforce, and as a result, we’re now experiencing a shift in how company culture is approached and seeing new dynamics within professional relationships.
This—combined with the rise of digital and collaborative tools, social unrest, and concerns surrounding enterprise sustainability and ESG—has resulted in a scenario in which the vast majority of people don’t actually want to hear from brands as organizations anymore.
“Hearing from a blanket brand Twitter account doesn’t hold the same weight as hearing from a company’s CEO,” Suzanne explains.
Now that CEOs and other executives have a platform like LinkedIn to personally interact in, today’s consumers are interested in aligning themselves with the human faces behind the brand, versus the brand itself.
“It’s that informal access to the executive and the way they’re viewing their industry, their company, their personal lives—that’s the new era of thought leadership,” she concludes.
Paradigm Shift: An Emerging Trend
When asked about emerging communications trends for executives, Suzanne shared interesting insight: It’s all about how executives are positioning themselves.
“When I’m having these conversations,” she says, “they mention they don’t have the time to be posting to all of these platforms.”
So the real “emerging trend” should perhaps be in reframing some executive functions so that there is room for them to engage in a new type of communication, conversing with their community—whether that be potential customers, current customers, prospective employees, or future investors—in a way that is relevant in today’s world.
Furthermore, the rising trend is not so much about the introduction of tools or platforms; it’s about changing the way we think about and approach those platforms.
“There is a new art in mastering this,” Suzanne offers. “And that, in and of itself, is an emerging trend.”
Finding Your Voice
When establishing a communication strategy for both a brand and its executive leaders, one of the most important first steps is identifying the brand’s voice—asking the questions, “Who are we? Who is our audience? And what is our voice?”
Suzanne suggests beginning with the core story. “What is your core product, and how does it differentiate from your competitors?”
Once you’ve established true competitive differentiation, you can then begin to hone in and establish the details. She explains that the key questions to ask are:
- What are my target audience’s pain points?
- What is my product?
- How does my product help with the pain points?
These answers must then be mapped into macro and micro trends. “We have to understand what the rest of the world is saying—we can’t be drinking our own Kool-Aid constantly,” Suzanne elaborates.
By mapping these trends, a clear picture of where things sit begins to emerge. You start to see what the wider pain points are, what the trends are, and who the influencers discussing them are.
“That’s where we start to identify our thought leadership platforms. These are the things we want to be talking about when it’s relevant to the specific community.”
Once that step is completed, you can then begin to identify what channel is best—for most B2B businesses, LinkedIn is the one to watch.
Since authenticity is essential to reaching today’s consumers, finding the right channel that allows for that authenticity in your specific message type is important.
“It’s all about the channel, the message, and then distributing it in a way that is authentic to that executive,” Suzanne muses.
Once you have what Danielle refers to as “Series A” in place, what comes next? What does the strategy look like when thinking up to “Series C?”
The answer, Suzanne says, is in finding alignment between communications, sales, and marketing. This collaboration is key to creating a strong communications strategy that breeds actual results. She suggests checking in with the sales team every 2–3 quarters while in the early stages for insights like:
- How are we selling?
- When are we winning?
- When are we losing and why?
- What about the product is moving the sales funnel?
Asking these questions allows you to inform a strategy that hones in on steps of the process that are actually working versus the steps that were projected to work early on but perhaps aren’t breeding the most results.
Suzanne also suggests maintaining close contact with the CEO—meeting quarterly to get their pulse on the types of conversations they’re having about the microclimate their company fits into.
As far as the product marketing team goes, she explains the importance of attaining a roadmap for 12–18 months into the future, as it helps the communications team stay informed of major shifts and change the messaging accordingly.
Ideally, Suzanne points out, a communications program should highlight what is happening with the rest of the organization versus operating as an isolated entity.
Ready to take the plunge into the world of brand messaging? Whether you’re a marketer or an executive—give us a shout and we’ll get you started!