According to a recent ranking of the 100 most influential chief executives on social media by Xinfu and Hootsuite, a Brit, Richard Branson, leads the pack. Interestingly, the researchers also found that 61% of Fortune 500 CEOs still have no social media presence and I’d wager that an even larger percentage of FTSE 250 bosses fall into this category.
Branson has, of course, always been a leading light in showcasing how to use digital media to optimal effect. And he is particularly adept at using video on YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn to communicate to an audience of millions.
Another digital media expert is President Obama, who has used social networks and online video streaming platforms to engage millions of Americans during his two terms in office. As his presidency draws to a close, the general consensus is that of a transparent and highly engaged president who has managed to reach new audiences.
So are there any lessons that Britain’s bosses can learn from these two powerful men?
Our business leaders have similar challenges and goals. They may need to align groups of stakeholders behind a strategy or an initiative, communicate and explain tough decisions, encourage individuals to unite towards common goals or communicate confidently during a crisis. Digital video provides a powerful way to do this.
Here are five ways in which UK business leaders and corporate communications teams can follow Branson’s and Obama’s lead to boost their video communications strategy:
- Assign owners and get buy-in from the boss
Most enterprise customers assign video planning and production to corporate communication departments, but the backing of the Chief Executive is essential. With their backing, the comms teams are more likely to get the nod on budgets - and buy-in from the IT department.
2. Be authentic!
Video works as an effective communications medium for Branson and Obama because they both come across as genuine: what they say does not appear to have been scripted by a third party. We see their personalities shining through.
Take Branson’s myriad videos, which cover anything from entrepreneurship through to non-business topics that help us to understand the man behind the entrepreneur. These include the health of our oceans and his love of kite surfing!
While of course I am not advocating that all UK bosses should start making videos about their love of gardening or cycling to engage staff, there is a middle ground.
Our business leaders might be used to appearing on video for financial results for example, but using video to convey the man behind the polished professional in a less formal setting is rare. By adding these less formal video communications into the mix, those at the top will be better able to convey their personality and authenticity to employees and, in turn, help boost employee engagement
- Use video where it adds value
For chief executive communications, a mix of live and on-demand videos work well. Examples include “video fireside chats” with the boss (similar to Obama’s Google Hangout sessions), and video news-flashes.
Focus on promoting company/community initiatives, celebrating successes, and communicating effectively during crisis situations (e.g. product recalls). Choosing to record video addresses from different offices and locations, mixing up the topics and recognising employees for their achievements all help here.
- Video + social = greater reach
Now that digitally savvy employees are entering the workforce, using social tools to communicate with them makes a lot of sense. And combining them with video content helps to optimise engagement.
We are seeing early adopter and early majority companies deploying an enterprise video portal and then adding video to social business software such as Jive, Yammer and Facebook at Work. These tools are ideal because they offer knowledge sharing capabilities but keep sensitive corporate content on the right side of the firewall.
- Sprinkle in a few influencers
In Obama’s case, in 2014 he invited some of YouTube’s major celebrities – with a combined following of 35 million subscribers - to meet him at the White House to discuss ways to engage with the YouTube generation on topics such as healthcare and the economy. After the meeting, many of them uploaded videos talking about the experience, which helped the President to convey his messages to these important audiences.
Britain’s bosses can adopt a similar approach by encouraging well-known influencers to talk on video about a new product, service or strategy announcement, helping to ensure the core messages are reinforced.
In summary, although Obama and Branson are very different personalities, both have harnessed the power of digital media to better engage with their target publics. It will be interesting to see how many UK chief executives at the helm of large organisations choose to do the same and embrace video tools and technologies to achieve their internal communication and engagement goals.
Increasingly it’s becoming clear that they must engage quickly and at scale – or risk becoming irrelevant.
And that the medium of video might just make the difference between success and failure.
By Mike Copinger, Director UK and Ireland, Kaltura