How to media train CEOs in the age of social media

In the ancient days of PR, when people would fax press releases, media training for CEOs was confined to two channels: broadcast and print. The purpose of media training was to ensure CEOs and those in senior management were capable enough to face the toughest journalist or interviewer.

But fast forward to current times and media training is more multi-faceted and this is because of the rise of social media. Whilst modern media training still encompasses traditional training for broadcast and print channels, there is now a heavy dose of digital training and this blend is a necessity in the age of social media.

Crises start on social

In today’s world, a crisis is just as likely (if not more so) to develop on social media and CEOs who are present on social channels can play a pivotal role in terms of whether a business can put out the flames immediately or if they let it swell into an uncontrollable wildfire. Not a week goes by where a CEO or business leader doesn’t become unstuck on social media and in turn damages their business or reputation (think Elon Musk).

Most common CEO #fails

To avoid some of the common pitfalls that many CEOs fall into when they misuse social media, CEOs need to remember that their social media activity, even on a personal level, can be under greater scrutiny than the wider population - whether they like it or not, audiences view them as representing their company. One poorly expressed view, one accidental ‘like’ of a controversial tweet, or one tone-deaf image or tweet could be the difference between positive and negative perceptions of their company.

Be controlled but natural!

There has been many experiences when CEOs jump the gun and announce campaign launches too early, or reference a yet-to-be-released product, or say something that influencers share price. Whilst you can’t police CEO activity, it is important they understand the impact their social media posts can have on their business.

On the other hand, you don’t want too much regulation of a CEO’s social channels to the point where it is only a sanitised version of them on social media. If every post or comment has to be business-orientated, they risk coming across as robotic or dry which fails to deliver engagements. It’s important that personality comes through within their activity.

Why CEOs must be active online

Although this view is becoming less common, CEOs often see social media as a ‘pointless’ exercise; nothing more than a marketing box ticking. However, social is a lot more than a marketing function but the part and parcel of any strong comms strategy which has a real impact on brand perception and business performance.

But despite whatever objections CEOs might have to social media, the fact remains that CEOs should have a presence on social media. Today’s social media communications strategy relies not just on company profiles to meet its objectives but C-Suite profiling as a whole is becoming a very important pillar.

Working the audience

CEOs often possess large audiences, the majority of whom are active within the wider business industry. With that comes a more personal audience base, which in turn delivers loyalty, respect and a higher willingness to be influenced by viewpoints, commentary and key business messaging. As a result, CEOs’ social media profiles are great places to generate thought leadership, demonstrate expertise, influence opinion and drive the wider business’ objectives. Of all the social media channels, LinkedIn is the natural ‘base’ for CEOs, given its corporate leanings. Twitter is also a useful platform, due to its commentary-based offering.

We are in the era of social media. Most people now consume content and retrieve their news from social channels. But social media is a landmine filled with catastrophes. CEOs who are well trained and well versed in how to navigate social media will avoid the pitfalls that tripped up many CEOs over the last few years.

Written by Joe Toal, social media account director at PR agency PHA Group

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