working with and for ceos that dont get i

There’s a whole world of relationships and contacts and clients that we’ve had over the years that come to us infuriated and frustrated with their CEO because it really doesn’t matter what ideas they’ve got or what plans they put in place or what recommendations or advice they have. This CEO just won’t listen. And it’s frustrating. It’s humiliating. And you know what? It’s often career ending. So here you are highly qualified, you’ve got lots of experience, and you’re really excited about getting this job. But you just had the sense three months in and six months in and now you’re 9 to 12 months in, that it’s just not working.

It’s not working because the CEO doesn’t get PR, they don’t get marketing. The CEO objects to all of your ideas and strategies, and now you’re in trouble because this organisation’s not getting the benefit of any of your insights. But your career is actually in trouble because you’re six, nine, 12 months into a job and you’re not achieving anything. And this is actually the hard part of having your skills and being internal in an organization because you’ve got one client, basically, which is your CEO, and you’ve got one set of stories because you’re in one organisation.

The gift of having an agency or being in an agency is that you’ve got many clients with so many different stories and angles and industries. And with the creative bright mind, you jump across all of these sectors and you have a ball. But there you are, one organisation, one industry, one set of issues, and the CEO just won’t play with you.

I will give you a really strong example in the disability sector; we have a long standing client, a long standing CEO that went on to become an absolute industry leader. Of all the press that we were getting them, she naturally goes on to bigger and greater things with a much bigger not for profit. And the new CEO comes through, and doesn’t want to play the same media strategies. But the new CEO just doesn’t want to play ball. So that is the end of our relationship with our agency in that organization. But it’s the start of a very hard and bad relationship for the existing comms people in that organization.

So here’s some tips. number one, you might have to get out of the job because your career is at risk here, because when you go off to the next organisation, where’s the brag sheet on your resume? So when we’re hiring PR people, for example, we’re looking for incredible achievements that they’ve had in their last role and if you’re not getting that moving because the CEO is stopping you, you might have to move on. But whilst you’re in the organisation, you have to retrieve some things for yourself because your career is on the line.

And now the start of achieving things often is calling in a PR agency or a marketing agency to give you a hand, because a lot of the things that you’ve been passing on to the CEO that they’re ignoring might get picked up and implemented. If a consultant was to be suggesting the same things, we’re parroting everything that you’ve said for the last nine months, but from someone external to the organisation, they get it moving. So that could be a consideration. Now, what you also need to do is, look at how you can influence this CEO to get things up, you might have to present to the board, you might have to create board alliances or chairperson alliances outside of the CEO to get other people supporting your ideas.

Potentially, you might have to bring people like us in to mock up hypothetical PR and marketing plans that are fueled with emotion, fueled with engagement, fueled with case studies to support you in the messages that you’re trying to get across. You need to become much more than the marketing or PR person that you are. You need to become an influencer because some of your ideas have to get up. You might have to benchmark your sector across the industry and highlight where you’re positioned versus everyone else. You might have to get hold of all the different media hits and appearances for others from other CEOs in the same sector and benchmark.

To the CEO, here’s where you are and here’s where everyone else is. There’s a lot of things that you can do but I think but I feel for you because you’re in a corner and you’re in a hole, you feel like your career is going nowhere. And to be honest, the relationship with the CEO is not working. So I just encourage you to think outside the square before you leave the job. You have to achieve something in this organisation. So, you know, you’ve redesigned the website, you’ve created an incredible event. You’ve organized comprehensive national media training for people with lived experience in your sector, for example.

And in a way, if you can be successful, moving an obstinate, fixed mindset CEO into doing something or some things that will be a huge success and it actually becomes the story in the next interview that you’re in. So whether it’s the acceptance of a marketing plan that’s not implemented, but it’s still the marketing is accepted. So that is a success.

If it’s the acceptance of a different way of using influencers or a different way of using your social media platforms, you need to have some wins before you move on to the next job. Now quite often the media people, comms department leaders, etcetera see agencies as the enemy. So you’ll never bring an agency in because we’re competing for your job, but you might want to drop that because often we’re allies and trying to achieve the same things for your organisation. And agencies like us really need the departmental leads, the comms leads and the people internally so we can be successful.

So firstly, I feel for you. We see it all the time. It’s incredibly common. You can’t vibe with everyone. Not all CEOs get PR and marketing, so it’s hard. But if you’re limited in resources, you might want to think about engaging in agency even in a complimentary way to get that influence capacity so you can get some things up.

Tony Nicholls

Tony Nicholls

Founder and Director of Good Talent Media

Tony Nicholls is an accomplished journalist who has held roles for more than ten years with the ABC, SBS and Network Ten, covering thousands of news stories across Victoria, Australia and in the international media.


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