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The Future of Executive Communications Panel

Deanna Pelfrey, lecturer at the College of Journalism and Communications, moderates the panel for the Executive Communications Summit. The event was hosted by Alpha Productions and the Department of Public Relations.

Deanna Pelfrey, lecturer at the College of Journalism and Communications, moderates the panel for the Executive Communications Summit. The event was hosted by Alpha Productions and the Department of Public Relations.

By Brenna McKenna and Kamela Kettles

Alpha Productions and the Department of Public Relations hosted the Executive Communications Summit on Oct. 26. The event was free and open to students, faculty and staff.

Deanna Pelfrey, a lecturer at the College of Journalism and Communications, was the moderator for the panel. Pelfrey interviewed communication executives Steve Bryant, Ron Culp and Ron Sachs to discuss the future of the field.

Pelfrey began the panel discussion by stating that the 2015 Edelman trust barometer shows trust in businesses sits below 50 percent and only 4 out of 10 people trust CEOs.  

Q: With that sort of environment, what do you suggest CEOs and other executives should do to change that perception?”

Sachs, owner of Sachs Media Group, said businesses have betrayed public trust. Executives need to work on building, maintaining and strengthening that issue.

“Twenty percent of CEOs I run into are effective communicators, the rest are mediocre or worse,” Sachs said. “What’s worse is the arrogance of power and the unwillingness to engage in effective candor, transparency and proactive business activities.”

“They need to do a selfie and get themselves in the picture,” Culp added.

It is easier to blame others than to take action for themselves.

Bryant, managing director of MSLGROUP, said there is hope. His company conducted a study on millennials in 17 different countries which revealed that millennials believe businesses can solve the problems of the world.

“Things will never change as slowly as they are today,” Bryant said.

Q: “What do you think is the impact of the social CEO, and do you see this delivery approach in communications evolving for executives overtime?”

Professional director of the PRAD MA program at DePaul University, Culp, said that commitment has to come from the top and include value in it. Media is transforming into digital.

He surveyed the top 100 people in media and results showed how few of them have followers on Twitter.

“We have a long way to go to embrace social,” Culp said.

The substance of shallowness can carry you a long way, but that does not mean it is a good thing, Sachs said. The downside to a social CEO is losing the ability to write and communicate effectively.

The social CEO is the beginning of the end of traditional forms of communications that are more connected on a one-on-one level.

Confrontation can be part of a business strategy and become successful, said Bryant on T-Mobile and AT&T’s approach.

Sachs said people prefer to engage in a company that engages in selfless service.

“The best way to sell is not to sell, but give away knowledge,” Sachs said.

Q: “Do you think we should be asking individuals if we should be encouraging societal focus on issues?”

Today, money has shifted from CEO and spouse desired investments to building a strong brand image, Culp said.

Bryant said giving money away leads institutions to lose sight of its image. They need purpose-driven business.

Q: “Do you think the time has come when the standard apology for doing things you shouldn’t be doing, should go away?”

“Be bold enough to be polite but pushy with a CEO on what should be said and how it should be said,” Sachs said on employee involvement and getting advice.

Sachs explained that a standard practice in crisis management is protecting an individual at the expense of the organization. A company needs to protect an organization by getting the bad news out there.

“Some CEO’s of the future are going to come from the ranks of communicators,” Sachs said.

Technology and social media are changing the way people communicate, but it is important to understand when it is the adequate time to use these tools.

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