How to form a winning chorus from your leadership team.
No matter how charismatic a CEO is, their voice alone can’t carry all of a company’s messages to all of its audiences. I’ve written before about how a leader can make use of digital communications, but increasingly I’m being asked how teams of leaders can do so. And with good reason.
Brunswick’s 2021 Digital Investor Survey found that 48% of investors use digital platforms to hear from members of the C-suite, making a leadership team’s presence on social media essential. The same goes for other stakeholders: hearing from a CEO is necessary, but insufficient. Multiple executive voices can help company messages cut through on different platforms, talk to distinct audiences, amplify key announcements, and show collaboration.
The question is how companies can orchestrate multiple executive voices efficiently and effectively. The answer: think of a choir. Its success depends upon each voice offering its own character and tone—and, just as importantly, for those voices to listen to one another, to harmonize and blend. The same principles hold true for executive teams on social media.
Consider Johnson & Johnson’s C-suite. Members of J&J’s leadership team have clear, dedicated approaches to content that distinguish their posts from their counterparts, yet all underscore the company’s vision and mission. For instance, the company’s CFO, Joe Wolk, shares quarterly earnings updates that harken back to J&J’s credo and lay out forward-looking priorities, while Ashley McEvoy, EVP, Worldwide Chairman of Medical Devices, brings her voice and experience to updates on health tech innovations. For company milestones—like the approval of J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine, for example—these distinct voices assemble in a cohesive and mutually reinforcing way. Multiple executives shared CEO Alex Gorsky’s post announcing the vaccine’s approval with their own commentary.
Similarly, Walmart’s digital leadership program helps members both establish their solo voices and yet come together at key moments. For instance, the company’s U.S. CEO, John Furner, posts personality-filled interviews on YouTube that highlight colleagues, while Global Chief Diversity Officer Ben Hasan takes to Instagram for DE&I updates and personal projects. The team joins up for crucial moments, such as Walmart’s announcement to offer workers free college tuition and books.
Here are seven steps companies looking to build their own “leadership choir” should consider:
1. Identify the first movers. Activating 10 company leaders at once is a daunting task—and can often lead to missed opportunities in the meantime. Consider a smaller cohort to begin, based on their interest in being online and existing digital footprint.
2. Leverage an executive’s success. A Connected Leader’s success can inspire others to join in the action and also sets the tone, in the same way that a choral conductor leads an ensemble. Be it high engagement on a post, a shoutout from peer, or a meaningful offline interaction, share these wins internally to help set the tone and to build support and momentum.
3. Different platforms serve different needs. While LinkedIn is the most common choice for executives, other digital platforms offer opportunities to reach different audiences. Don’t rule out Instagram for your CMO or Twitter for your Sustainability lead.
4. Establish a social media playbook. Individual leadership programs must be effective in their own right and ladder up to a broader corporate strategy to be successful. Successful individual programs are built on things like clear content themes, an editorial calendar, a content generation plan, and a support structure. And it’s upon these foundations that a broader corporate narrative can be communicated most effectively.
5. Use paid amplification. Each platform offers ways to build and target priority audiences. Creating a budget is an important step; balancing it is another. You want to be mindful of any sensitivities as well as your executives’—and the messages’—relative exposure.
6. Measure growth and optimize. The most efficient way to do this is to centralize your measurement. It also reveals insights and connections that might otherwise be missed if each leader’s results are analyzed in isolation.
7. Think globally. To scale this approach across global teams, understand what platforms are appropriate for each market, which executives might be the most relevant regionally, and be sure to post in native languages.
As anyone who’s ever sang in a choir can attest, hitting all the right notes, listening to the other voices and blending with them, following the nuanced lead of the conductor to a larger goal—that all takes patience and practice. But for the teams willing to do the work, the results surely justify such small investments of time. This approach enables C-suite executives to raise their individual profiles and credibility, while at the same time creating new channels for the company to communicate its key messages and reach wider audiences. It’s a journey that can start today, one step—or one note—at a time.
Craig Mullaney, a Brunswick Partner based in Washington, DC, is an experienced advisor and a New York Times best-selling author. His Connected Leadership column and newsletter spotlight how modern executives use digital and social media to communicate and lead organizations.
Illustration by James Yang.