Why you should forget about social media training for your CEO

CEOtraining

(This excellent article was written by Katy Howell, CEO of social media consultancy immediate future. Read the original here).

Yup you read that right. Don’t bother training your CEO, or for that matter, your leadership team, in social media. In our experience, training courses don’t make any tangible difference.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating that business leaders shouldn’t be active in social. In fact, I’m suggesting the complete opposite. If your CEO is not active in social you are taking a risk on reputation as the Tesco boss did last year. They and the business is missing out on an opportunity to connect to consumers, employees and stakeholders. Every CEO should be a good communicator. That means on social too.

But let’s be honest CEOs are smart, clever, busy people. Extraordinarily busy people.  A one day training course isn’t going to cut the mustard. It will barely scratch the surface and certainly won’t motivate a behavioural change. Therein lies the crux of the issue. You are not really training on skills and capabilities, you are inspiring, motivating and changing a mind set to include social communication. And change takes time.

Instead of training sessions, you need to take your leadership team on a journey. It needs to happen over months not days. It needs to follow a step-by-step plan to help them embrace new skills, but more importantly to gradually get buy-in and behavioural change.

In our experience, a typical social development programme for the CEO or leadership team is as follows:

  1. Led by the leader
    You don’t fit the CEO into social. It’s the other way around. You fit social into the CEO. Start by understanding the topics, passions, tone, language, ambitions, goals, personality of your CEO. Let them talk at you and then clarify it all back. Be clear and concise. You are defining the CEO brand.
  2. Proof disrupts thinking
    Before you let a tweet slip from the fingers of an enthused leader, go dig deep into the analytics. Compare peers, look for mentions, identify negativity, and most importantly look at the correlations in press coverage and share price. You need to be armed with plenty of reasons for your CEO to get engaged.
  3. Touch the tech
    Ok, yes. There is some training. Training on how to use the platforms. In my view, don’t bother with desktop. Show them how to make the most of their smartphone. Get them using everything from the Twitter app to buffer.
  4. Positioning and personality
    With the tech under control, the next step is an agreement on a defined public personality. A way to ensure consistency. Developing with your CEO the topics they will talk about, the content they will use and how they will support their business and amplify their voice.
  5. Defending the rep
    CEOs can be remarkably thin skinned. They hate the idea of trolls or of being publically attacked. Much of managing reputation is not the crisis, but ensuring that a leadership response is a little more controlled and has less personal impact.
  6. Play a little game
    The hard work (and behavioural change) comes during the mentoring stage. This is less about being a support and more about cajoling social participation and pointing out opportunities to connect to stakeholders. Week by week, you enable your CEO to be more adventurous and embrace the social conversations. If you are working with a wider leadership team a little gamification and competition works wonders. Leaders are a competitive lot!

The process through to social media activation for a CEO is much more than training. It is development. A journey that ensures buy-in. ultimately it ensures your company leaders buy-in to this form of communication and are motivated. Once they enjoy chatting away, you will find they are bitten with the bug, and never stop!