Meet the New CEO

The role of the CEO cannot be underestimated in place branding. More often than not, the CEO is the primary decision maker when it comes to making a capital investment. Consequently, the CEO should be at the center of efforts to communicate the benefits of your community for business investment. To be most effective, your communication plan should be based on a deep understanding of C-Suite information consumption habits.

I am constantly seeking to improve my knowledge of C-Suite touch points as a way to make better tactical choices when developing a communication plan. One of the more interesting reports I have read is Forbes Insights “The Rise of the Digital C-Suite”. It reports on the results of a survey of 354 top executives at large U.S. companies with annual sales of greater than $1 billion.

Here are a few of the most interesting findings in the study and my thoughts on the practical implications for place branding.

  • CEOs are getting younger. Well, not really from a “mean age” perspective, but certainly younger relative to me. That was frankly a sobering realization. The survey divided respondents into “Generation Wang”. “Generation PC” and “Generation Netscape”. Each segment has unique digital behaviors. For a host of reasons, I am not sure I want to be in the Generation Wang. For perspective, the mean age of the respondents was 46.7 years old. The tipping point between Generation PC and Generation Wang appears to be age 50.7. This suggests there will be a time where you may need to consider a broader range of communication tactics if you want to be certain to reach all three generations in the C-Suite.
  • The majority of CEOs are online even though their frequency varies. C-Suite respondents under 50 (81%) access the internet on a daily basis for business intelligence compared to 62% aged 50-plus. Your place data needs to be readily available and current so CEOs can learn about the benefits of doing business and living in your location. DCI reports 71% of capital investment opportunities get to the short list without the company ever talking to a local economic development professional. The implication is that your place image plays an important role in helping determine if your location is on that list. Combined with the frequency of online behavior in the C-Suite, it isn’t difficult to appreciate why putting your best foot forward online is critical to successful capital attraction.
  • Generation PC are digital thinkers. They have not known a world without computers and are very comfortable with electronic communication as an integral part of their life. They tend to use more internet tools than their Generation Wang counterparts and are willing to access information in different ways (e.g. mobile devices). This begs the question of – Can you afford not to have a strong digital communication strategy for your place? As more and more Generation Wang CEOs retire, Generation PC leaders are back filling the position. If your location does not have a competitive and robust digital communication program, you may have increasing difficulty reaching this target audience with your place story.
  • Executives find the internet more valuable than many other information sources. I found this statement in the report particularly interesting “In fact, the value of the internet outstrips even personal recommendations from colleagues and friends.” Equally impressive is the finding that 53% of the C-Suite executives prefer to gather information from the internet on their own. That means the internet is a direct communication channel to the majority of the decision makers for location choices.

Understanding the information consumption patterns of the C-Suite will help you create an effective media mix to carry the communication of your community message. In my opinion, historical approaches of telling your community story should be revisited to ensure they continue to be effective in reaching Generation PC CEOs versus sticking with a media mix that is optimized for Generation Wang. The pace of change is increasing, so a periodic review (at least annually) would be my recommendation. Practically speaking, if it has been over a year since you have changed anything in your promotional mix, I would worry that it may not be as effective today as it could be.

I would love to hear your ideas, tips and/or experience on effective methods for communicating with the C-Suite. In particular, your opinion on the role of social media to help create a strong image for your community. Please leave a comment. Thank you in advance.

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