CEO and Executive Messages: Communication That Builds Trust

Apple Inc.’s market valuation is rapidly approaching $1 trillion, which would make it perhaps the most valuable company on Earth. It’s hard to believe Apple was close to folding not long ago. That was before the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad changed the company’s destiny and ushered in a staggering turnaround. Much of the credit for this was given to the leadership, magnetism and brilliance of its CEO, Steve Jobs.

That this resurgence has flourished under his successor, Tim Cook, is an even greater testament to the importance of a Chief Executive who commands trust, mirrors a company’s values and can marshal the support of a wide range of often-conflicting stakeholders. CEOs like Jobs, Cook, Virgin’s Richard Branson or Tesla’s Elon Musk often become not just corporate leaders but inspirational role models who act as agents of social, economic and at times political change.

As the CEO’s visibility has become more central to a company’s success, they need to communicate as honestly and effectively as possible. That’s particularly true when the memory of government bailouts and corporate misdeeds – such as the scandals this year at VW and United Airlines that forced their CEOs to resign, or the imprisonment in 2014 of Peanut Corp. of America’s CEO for selling tainted products – have caused many to continue to regard the business community with suspicion. Worse, this has damaged the perceived credibility of CEOs and challenged their honesty and ethics.

Today’s leaders and their teams need to guide their corporations as well as their respective industries on a path to renewed integrity. They need to demonstrate the true spirit of American business by forging honest, emotional connections with employees, investors, partners, customers and the media. They have to continue to work to earn trust.

But how do you connect with a jaded public? Instill confidence in investors? Inspire employees to give their best? Quite simply, one way is for leaders to tell them the truth, sharing their stories with warmth and honesty and treating their audiences with respect. Our message for today’s business leader is that the ability to channel your authentic and emotional self on-camera goes a long way in helping achieve this. The more authentic you come across on screen, the greater you’ll be able to transform your audience into believers and followers.

After working with many leaders at companies like AT&T, American Express, Hess, Coty, Stanley Black & Decker and others, we’ve synthesized a few rules for how to tell your story with the sincerity and passion it takes to establish trust. We have compiled our ‘7 Tribal Laws for Building Trust’ into a white paper that can help establish the foundation of a successful, candid and effective executive communications program.

Get our 7 Tribal Laws white paper here.


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