Reaching, educating and influencing C-suite executives – CEOs, CFOs, CMOs, etc. – is a considerable marketing and PR challenge. Here we offer five strategies to help you cut through.
Not only are boardroom decision-makers extremely busy and shielded by gatekeepers, but, just like the rest of us, they are tuning out traditional media channels. They don’t have time to read the dailies each morning, they fast-forward through TV commercials and click past online ads.
The fragmentation of the media landscape, rise of ‘free news’ and the increased competition for executive attention (not least from emails and e-marketing) means executives are very selective about which publications they read. Today, only a handful of trade titles worldwide can be considered must-read publications for leaders in most industries.
With this fragmentation comes change, and it is the role of public relations to capitalise upon the interplay of all forms of promotional channels to reach this target audience.
Board executives will only pay attention to companies and content that are credible. You have to give them information that no-one else can provide. You have to be a thought leader, an innovator and a forecaster. To achieve the desired PR outcomes of increased awareness, understanding and trust in a brand, let’s explore five potential opportunities which cross over between the realms of marketing and PR.
- Data and analysis
Content based on data makes an impression on executives, while your insights and stories add credibility to that data. Invest in research and ensure your data sources are respected and credible. Data can come from opinion polls, a co-sponsored study with a top trade title, your own research or even third-party analysis. Done well, such data can seem expensive to develop and lower-cost options should also be considered. You need to decide how much investment is appropriate based on the commercial opportunity. Your PR team’s challenge is to create the best data-led opportunity from the budget you can afford.
High-quality data can add immense weight to your arguments and can fuel a variety of outputs, from ebooks and white papers to articles, infographics and other social media content.
- Awards sponsorship
The c-suite makes time to attend the key industry awards. There may only be one or two occasions a year, depending on your industry, and you should know or find out which they are. Sponsorship of awards and awards categories can go a long way in reaching these executives, so long as the chosen category is prestigious, relevant and ties in with your messages.
Awards sponsorship often comes with a media partnership, so explore every opportunity to increase editorial coverage in that media channel.
- Conference speaking
Top executives need to understand their wider industries in order to take the right decisions, so industry conferences are a target-rich environment for c-suite hunters. Speaking at a conference offers one of the best opportunities to promote yourself to the boardroom and be perceived as an expert. Research the coming year’s must-attend forums, work out what you could bring to the conference agenda and establish if speaking slots are liked to event sponsorship – real experts in niche areas may get away without having to ‘pay to play’.
Work with your PR team to research the right opportunities and have you pitched to event organisers in a similar way as to journalists.
- Trade show participation
If you’ve committed to exhibiting at a trade show it’s vital that you explore every promotional opportunity the event provides. Ensure you make contact with the show’s press office, who will be able to promote your activity and distribute your news to the attending media before and during the event. Find out if you can lead workshops or join a speakers’ panel at the show, where you may reach not only senior decision-makers but also direct reports involved in shortlisting options for boardroom decisions.
The c-suite will attend your industry’s top trade shows, so develop a multi-faceted engagement plan to capture their attention on-site.
- Get your story into must-read media
C-suite executives may read only one or two trade titles, or possibly none at all if they rely on an internal news cutting service. However, they very likely to follow the international business media, such CNN, the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal. Getting your story into such outlets is naturally a challenge but can often be achieved with the right understanding of makes a story to the readership.
Trade media relations shouldn’t be overlooked in any PR campaign to reach c-suite executives, but if you were the CFO of a company in your industry, which one newspaper would you read over your morning coffee? Select and target.