Monday, July 15, 2013

When CEOs leave: how to calm the storm

CEO resignations are not new in Minnesota. High-profile changes in company leadership at
ceo responsibilities
Minnesota companies in the last 12 months haven't gone unnoticed. These transitions made national news headlines, sparking conversation among consumers and raising red flags for investors. With such important company news, preparing for a C-level departure before the word gets out could make or break a business.

What can a company do internally and externally to prepare for a CEO transition and avoid potentially damaging messages?
  1. Be transparent. Once a CEO resigns, analysts and investors begin to assume the decision could be based on growing competition or financial distress. Transparency is key in reassuring stakeholders that a CEO's resignation is not related to a company's operations or financial controls. While companies are quick to limit the release of damaging details, telling the truth is often less damaging in the long run than covering it up.
  2. Listen to your stakeholders. Companies don't own brands. Brands are co-owned with customers and advocates. Successful companies give these stakeholders the ability to manage and build the brand together, so it's important to ask your customers for feedback. With an active presence on social media, companies can monitor what customers are saying about their brands online. In times of crisis, monitoring the social chatter can help companies ensure that their messaging isn't confusing stakeholders, leading them to draw inaccurate conclusions. Communities are not a threat to a brand; it's these interactions with a community that define the brand.
  3. Have a plan for the media. The media is looking for a face for the company, so it's essential to centralize a spokesperson for interviews. A spokesperson needs to be credible, believable and authentic. Ideally the best candidate is someone on the executive team. Equally important is notifying employees on how to handle media inquiries in advance. For large corporations, with employees in geographically diverse locations, it is important that everyone is aware of where to send a reporter's call. Finally, be human in your response. Make your messages as transparent and authentic as possible. Don't be afraid to apologize. In the end, equity is built through actions, not words.
  4. Update all online properties with accurate information on the issue. Keep consumers, investors and the media in the loop by providing updates on allegations and plans for the future. By keeping your website and social media channels consistent, updated with recent developments and key messages, you can control the messages put out and keep the facts straight.
  5. Restore confidence by focusing on the future. Reassure employees that even after recent challenges the company is moving forward and will rebound. Demonstrate commitment to the right path. This quick, future-oriented action instills confidence among stakeholders.
Through preparation, companies can preserve, maintain and grow their reputation. It's imperative to have a crisis communications plan that clearly addresses these best practices. In times of crisis, preparing a message of viability through trust and transparency, with feedback from stakeholders, is the best way to mitigate the risk of losing employee engagement, investor trust and customer sales.
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