Australian CEOs are negligent in refusing to come to grips with Social Media, and their PR Media trainers are negligent in not training them to understand the impact of their communications in social networks.

WHEN Myer CEO Bernie Brookes said last week that an increased Medicare levy to fund the National Disabilities Insurance Scheme NDIS would be bad for business, it reminded that while public relations professionals have done a good job of training CEOs in some ways, they have done a bad job in others. the-australian-newspaper

There is no doubt PR professionals do a great job of training their CEOs to speak to business, to shareholders, to board members – but they do a lousy job of preparing the boss for social media. The backlash on Myer’s Facebook Page, the tweets from the public and celebrities alike on Twitter, and other social media sites was staggering.

The Myer Facebook Page has 190,000 subscribers. However the Page usually only gains about 23 comments per post. Not now. The comments are in the hundreds and at least one of those comments collected a whopping 200 Likes within 4 hours. On Twitter, the #BoycottMyer hashtag has been used by thousands of people. One tweet sent out at 9pm on Tuesday night had by Wednesday morning been retweeted 260+ times.

It probably won’t surprise you to know that as I write this article, I am watching Myer’s stock, in real time, drop as the social media viral effect takes hold. On the day of the comments alone, it fell about 4 per cent. Can CEOs really afford to be oblivious to social media?

It is no longer enough for a CEO to be the talking head to journalists and shareholders. They must now provide the vision, strategy and values direct to consumers as well. It’s now the CEO’s job to juggle both shareholders’ and customers’ values.

Yet, according to IBM’s 2012 Global CEO Study, only 16 per cent of CEOs are on social media. Given that more and more investors are responding to social media discussions, ignoring a direct-to-market channel is surely negligent? In Japan, CEOs are placing chief public relations officers on their board to manage negative criticism, respond to crisis, protect the brand integrity and help ensure the share price bounces back from negative community feedback. Get ready, Australia.

Social media gives CEOs the opportunity to demonstrate that they have vision, to use low-cost, effective communication tools to bring their passion and commitment for their industry to wider audiences, to prove leadership to their community of staff, clients, peers and other stakeholders and to show courage to lead from the front.

If your CEO does not have great communication skills, lacks vision & passion, couldn’t demonstrate knowledge or leadership if their life depended on it, it’s time to get a new CEO. Or start looking for a new job.

Laurel Papworth is a social media educator and a member of Forbes magazine’s ‘Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers’ list globally. Twitter: @silkcharm

 First published in The Australian May 06 2013 (paywall)


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