The CEOs Making Effective Use of Video

A video posted on Instagram this month by the new Unilever CEO Hein Schumacher indicates a key shift on how CEOs are communicating with stakeholders.  He was talking directly to camera, explaining the company’s latest financial results and growth plans – not the usual Investor Relations channel, I thought, for communicating company financial updates.  But it’s clearly part of a trend, as FTSE company bosses are increasingly engaging with social media in general.  A recent survey by the consultancy FTI suggests that the percentage regularly posting on channels such as LinkedIn has doubled over the past two years.  Apparently 82% of respondents agreed that businesses benefit when their leaders are engaged on social media, with 85% citing enhanced stakeholder interactions.
The Unilever example highlights the fact that the ability to come across effectively on video is now more important than ever before – in this era of shortened attention spans, it’s increasingly the way people want to receive information, whether they be customers or shareholders.
Video can be an extremely effective way of communicating important company information, really focusing on the bits that matter, rather than letting the key messages get lost amongst a lot of other clutter in a written report.  This can also work well on the company’s own channels – for example, after a big strategy update for investors this month, Barclays CEO C.S. Venkatakrishnan, known as Venkat, distilled the bank’s key points in a video on the Barclays website for those who didn’t need the long-form version.  Other companies such as Shell have put full investor updates on YouTube.
It all means that as well as doing the right thing, bosses have to look and sound convincing while they go about it.  The skills of talking directly to camera do not come naturally to most people, and to get it right usually takes practice and training.  This is something we are increasingly being asked by clients for help with alongside our standard media training, as reputations are not improved by an amateurish performance.  Of course, you need to know what to communicate, as well as how and where to do it.  As some business leaders have found out to their cost, virtue signalling on issues such as ESG is not always smart, but for considered thought leadership and key company updates it can be extremely effective – if done well.

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