By Marian Salzman, Friday, July 27, 2012, at 9:00 am.
This is the final post in a series of 10 about different aspects of CEO branding.
As a switched-on CEO, you’ve probably noticed some of the furor about growing inequality. You’ve come across comments about how the wealthy lead their lives detached from the rest of society. It’s easy to see how this sort of perception can gain currency; with generous compensation packages, gated communities and private everything, it’s tempting for many people to think that the wealthy live in a parallel universe where middle- and lower-class Americans are rarely seen.
Among the many senior business executives I’ve met, a few might fit that stereotype, but it isn’t the reality for most. Still, in a face-off between perception and reality, any smart communications professional knows that perception will win out until reality grows strong enough to change it. So if one of the goals of your CEO brand is to take the notion of leadership to the next level (and it should be), then your strategy needs to include a component of community-based leadership.
CEOs can enhance their brands by using their strategic and management chops in their own backyards. Some well-directed activity can lead to a great deal of social, cultural and financial change that you can watch happening.
In an article in the Gallup Business Journal (excerpted from the book The Coming Jobs War), Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, makes a case for good local leadership as the foundation for economic success and job growth: “Fixing America’s biggest problems and re-winning the world can only be accomplished one city at a time. Ultimately, all solutions are local.”
With yet more federal, state and municipal budget cuts being enacted, there are serious risks that the fabric of local communities will become tattered and frayed. This is a daunting prospect for the people who are most vulnerable to the cuts, but it opens up great opportunities for CEOs and their businesses to pitch in and prove their mettle. The scope is huge.
Thanks to the Internet, great local initiatives can now go from idea to critical mass fast. It’s now easier than ever to find ways to get involved with your community as civic leadership gets social in 2012. Thousands of ideas are already up and running that might resonate with you; you just need to find them.
Check out CEOs for Cities, working hard to ensure the future of American cities; the organization hopes that by connecting those in charge, positive changes will be made for future job growth and economic stimulus. For anyone who believes in the importance of local, as I do, CEOs for Cities expresses the need and the sweet spot of opportunity: “[A]t a time when our federal and state governments too often are dysfunctional, cities are the best scale at which to organize to tackle critical issues. Cities are big enough to make a difference but small enough to make things happen quickly and effectively.”
Case in point: Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter launched the Change by Us Philly website, a social media platform that connects Philadelphians with city officials, community-based organizations, and one another to share ideas and create projects to benefit the city. The website is gaining traction as a great way for community members to interact with leadership types.
Getting your staff involved with local projects such as Habitat for Humanity (building houses for the underprivileged) can help your neighborhood, help your employees bond, and help build a corporate culture that is more civic- and socially minded. Starting small by getting local in the office is a great way to build culture and bring the outside in. In Florida, staffing services company Kavaliro provides backpacks to feed 10 to 15 families for a weekend. Among the activities of Santa Cruz (Calif.) County Bank is participating in local versions of national initiatives such as Relay for Life. Food business Ralcorp, based in St. Louis, supports hunger relief efforts by donating food to food banks, community service organizations and youth programs.
Whether or not you live in or near a town that has fallen on hard times, giving money, time, or expertise to local organizations such as school programs, arts organizations or women’s shelters can pay dividends for all concerned. Getting more involved locally will help enhance your personal brand not only in ways you can easily imagine but also in ways that might surprise you. In this era of social media, appreciative comments from a whole range of individuals can build into an impressive body of professional endorsements that will echo across the Internet.
Whatever you decide to do, take special care with how you communicate it. As with environmental responsibility, so with local initiatives: There’s a risk of it coming across as insincere bandwagoning even when the reality is sincere. (As you check out what other companies are doing, you’ll see what I mean.) So make sure that your marcomms and PR people do justice to your good work.
[photo: creativecommons.org/Habitat Toronto]
This entry was posted on Friday, July 27th, 2012 at 9:00 am. It is filed under Brands, CSR, Features, PR, Social Media and tagged with business leaders, CEO, CEO branding, CEOs, CEOs for Cities, Change by Us Philly, civic leadership, community, community-based leadership, food banks, Gallup, good work, Habitat for Humanity, Internet, Jim Clifton, Kavaliro, leadership, local leadership, personal branding, Ralcorp, Relay for Life, Santa Cruz County Bank, sincere. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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