The 21st century American CEO has ascended to one of the most influential positions in our culture.
- An eloquent speaker.
- A group leader.
- Skilled in the art of purposeful dialogue.
- Motivated by an underlying goal greater than himself.
The successful CEO — whether head of a 10-person company or a 1,000-person company — is both a believer and a visionary.
He believes in his company’s mission and the greater purpose of that mission. He knows that execution drives profit, yet sees beyond the end of the quarter and the end of the year. He believes in the people of his organization.
The CEO has strong opinions on how his company’s mission merges with the greater direction of the industry in which it operates. He is a big picture thinker. While quarterly goals motivate his employees, the CEO is motivated by the way those quarterly accomplishments position the company for next year and the year after. He recognizes the rate at which technology is changing his industry and has structured the company accordingly.
Finally, and this is the gateway for writers and content creators, the CEO is short on time, yet he recognizes the advantages of sharing his insights with a wider audience.
Writers and content creators are in the opposite position. We have time to create and we know how to format stories through the vehicle of media. What better subject than the CEO? He’s a leader, skilled in purposeful dialogue, and motivated by goals greater than himself.
How to Begin a Relationship with a CEO
Make a list of brands (softwares you use, products you buy, companies who produce media you consume) and research their web presence. Most brands have an empty Medium page or a “Blog” section on their website that was updated three months ago. Send the CEO an email or connect with him on social media. Let him know you are a content creator and want to help tell his brand’s story.
Like with all great relationships, we must cultivate trust. Almost immediately, the CEO must trust that we will at least…
- Portray his perspective accurately.
- Identify which pieces of information are not intended for public consumption.
At the beginning of the partnership, make clear that initial one-on-one conversations are not to be published. Focus on getting to know the CEO as a person. As your relationship deepens, you will connect with his voice and intentions.
Three Practices to Generate Content for the CEO
- Attend company meetings: The CEO may have daily meetings with his team, weekly meetings with other executives in the firm, or quarterly meetings with his advisory board. Listening to these conversations, you will gain a deeper understanding of the company’s mission. How do employees treat one another? What technologies are they using? What time constraints are they working against? How does their work fit into the greater development of the industry in which they operate?
- Catch his highs: You are not going to attend every meeting. It’s not sustainable nor is it necessary. Imagine a New York CEO. He’s in his midtown office for an 8AM meeting, traveling to Brooklyn for a lunch event, leading a phone conference on the ride back to Manhattan, and speaking at an industry event in the evening.
Use the phone.
Imagine speaking with the CEO when he’s fresh out of a meeting in which he just signed a new investor. How does the deal alter his short-term plan? Who in the organization has to shift their role or absorb additional responsibility? How will the CEO help that person prepare? Does the company need to add another part-time employee? What is the revenue structure of the investment? Each of these questions will lead to at least one content piece. Remember, you have the CEO’s trust. It is sacred. By nurturing his trust you are nurturing the company’s content stream.
3. Be an outlet for tough decisions: The CEO job can be unforgiving. Unlike most people in the company, the CEO’s decisions seldom go through a vetting process. Instead, the market evaluates the quality of his decisions. When the CEO is caught between decision A and decision B, be there to listen. These conversations can go deep. Some information may be too revealing and thus unfit for immediate publication. Think of these conversations as breeding ground for future, longer form works. Perhaps a series titled, “Inside the mind of a CEO.”
The CEO is a natural communicator. He understands how to use language to generate desired outcomes. While he is a strong writer, his daily responsibilities prevent him from developing a consistent writing practice. Observe his actions, listen to his voice, and tell his story.