CEO Sets Communication Tone, Approach

I’ve had the privilege of working for five CEOs during my career, and each had a distinct approach to his communication style and approach.  One shied away from most external media opportunities and wasn’t fond of internal communications either.  Two others preferred PR attention to be placed on their products and other leaders, not themselves.  The the other two understood the importance of a clear, proactive vision for communications.

What I learned from these experiences is that job seekers and those in new positions can assess the culture of an organization by studying CEO engagement in communications.  Determine what the CEO is saying about the company and what he or she is doing in the community and you’ll get an accurate view into the corporate culture and PR opportunities within the organization.  If you read a lot of “no comments” and the CEO is not visible in the media or community, you can expect a limited role for public relations. 

The New York Times Corner Office column provides weekly insights into the communication mindsets of CEOs and should be must-reading for anyone pursuing corporate PR careers.  The Q&A format of the column covers management and communication styles of corporate leaders, and always ends with clues on questions they’ll ask during the interview process.

F. Mark Gumz, president and CEO of camera and microscope innovator Olympus Corporation of the Americas, is featured in today’s Corner Office column.  Gumz cites the following three lessons he learned from one of his early bosses at GE:

  1. Don’t make any promises you can’t keep.
  2. Keep every promise that you make.
  3. If you don’t know the answer, say you don’t know the answer. People will accept that you don’t know the answer. But what they can’t accept is if you tell them something that’s wrong, because they’re going to act on that. And then if you have to come back later with a different answer, you’ll lose credibility.

Reading this insightful interview will help anyone thinking about landing a job at Olympus or any other corporation.

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