High-Stakes Communication

Article excerpt

What does it take to be a great CEO? The answer to that question is evolving rapidly, and communication professionals are in the thick of it. I recently looked back on a 1988 IABC study, CEOs and Communication, which said that only 17 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs had an active role in day-to-day external communication activities. In general, CEO communication seemed to be relegated to giving speeches at organized events. While some were beginning to recognize the importance of crisis communication, it seems CEOs considered communication to be an organizational "nice to have"--one of those "soft" disciplines that accompanied the real work of leading a business.

Those days are long gone. Advancing technology--and all of the changes that came with it--turned this idea on its head. Those CEOs who recognize the importance of supporting the communication function and who are themselves great communicators create unprecedented opportunities for their organizations. It's no longer enough for CEOs to sit back and let others handle that pesky communication stuff. Like it or not, the CEO is on stage, in front of the lights all the time, and the world is watching--and listening. The lines of internal versus external communication have become blurred, and the CEO must now be adept enough to speak to multiple audiences with one voice. …