PR During C-Suite Transitions
January 9, 2014
January 9, 2014
Recently, announcements of new CEOs at major companies have speckled the news. From Microsoft to General Motors to Burberry, hiring a new CEO can be an exciting and positive time for a company. However, it can also raise concerns among the people who matter most to the company: its employees, consumers, and investors. Therefore, public relations can play an important role in the shift from one CEO to another, helping to ensure the transition runs smoothly and does not isolate any key constituents.
First, after announcing a new CEO, a comprehensive PR person or team can help manage media requests. A solid public relations effort can ensure the media receives all of the facts and that all of the company’s spokespeople are prepared to speak about the C-suite transition. The key here is to ensure the reporting is as straightforward and accurate as possible. There has been a lot of discussion surrounding Microsoft’s new CEO, with the news focused on the “awkward boardroom dynamics” and challenging nature of the situation. As a consumer or investor, reading such an article could cause you to think negatively about the company, drawing the conclusion that a new CEO equals disarray. The current situation at Microsoft is fragile, and good PR could help keep constituents’ minds at ease by ensuring news stories are not painting the transition as a catastrophe.
Second, strategic PR efforts can ensure employees are comfortable and prepared for the announcement and forthcoming transition. The priority is keeping all employees “in the know”, so they do not hear the news from an outside source (which could potentially represent inaccurate information.) Some employees may be disappointed and sad to see the CEO leave, especially if he/she has been the CEO for several years, like Burberry’s Angela Ahrendts, who will soon be joining Apple.
Explaining the process and decision while quelling concerns can keep all employees on the same page and confirm their trust in the company. In the case of the new CEO appointment at General Motors, Mary Barra, employees may need reassurance that the appointment will grow GM’s sales and help the company “continue its comeback free from the stigma of being known as ‘Government Motors.’”
Any major transition within a company can be interpreted as negative (even if it is actually an incredibly positive change that will reap great returns) and PR can help keep facts straight and minds at ease. From sending out a memo internally to managing external requests, strong PR efforts can ensure that you drive the story, not the media.