A change in leadership can be either an opportunity or an obstacle, depending on how you and your B2B PR team approach it.
If it’s approached as an opportunity, the leadership change can offer a chance to enhance your brand, reaffirm your values, and boost your reputation.
If it’s seen as an obstacle, you’ll be spending most of your time in crisis mode—you’ll be playing defense, instead of being proactive and owning the narrative.
This is why the B2B PR team or agency you use is so important during a transition of this magnitude. You need PR professionals who are able to maximize the press opportunities available, tell the story of this new chapter for your brand in a compelling way, and address any wrongdoing or negative aspects of the change in an honest and tactful manner.
So what are some PR guidelines to follow during a change in leadership? Here’s our breakdown.
Make sure your first B2B PR announcements are directed toward your employees
In today’s 24/7 digital world, your employees are some of your most important advocates and ambassadors.
One of the biggest mistakes many companies make when they face a change in leadership, whether it’s sudden or expected, is neglecting to inform their employees in a thoughtful and comprehensive manner. In the worst cases, employees are actually the last to know, which can leave them feeling unsupported and uncertain of the company’s future.
Your PR agency should address their first announcements to employees, ensuring that everyone is aware of the changes taking place, and communicating certainty wherever possible.
Sometimes, especially if the departing executive is being accused of a crime or has committed some kind of malfeasance, it’s unrealistic to be certain about much of anything. In cases like these, be honest about what’s known and what isn’t, and let employees know whom they can go to with questions (because there will definitely be questions).
Ensure all messaging is in line with your brand values
As challenging as a change in leadership can be for a brand, especially if it’s due to a crisis or an unexpected event, it does provide a real opportunity to get your brand out in the press and in people’s minds.
Considering Forrester’s finding that it now takes an average of 21 interactions with a brand for a prospect to become a customer, you need to take advantage of any and every potential press opp.
When crafting messaging for your transition announcement, pay special attention to how it matches your brand’s overall voice, tone, and values. If you need to express accountability for anything, do so humbly and honestly, and express what’s being done to remedy any wrongs.
Many companies still hold press conferences in order to announce major transitions, but that may not be appropriate for every brand. Instead, consider a Facebook or Instagram Live stream to make your announcement, which is almost guaranteed to reach more people and allows you to speak directly to your customers and colleagues, rather than reach them through the press.
Related post: How B2B Companies Can Sell via Livestream
Whatever your initial vehicle for making the announcement, you’ve also got to be ready to announce across social media, on your website, and anywhere else you have an online presence.
You may also want to schedule a live stream or Clubhouse announcement to further discuss what’s next for your company, as your new leader settles into their role.
Focus on what’s next, rather than what’s past
It’s critical to craft your messaging with a focus on the future, rather than the past.
If there’s wrongdoing, or if there are clearly questions about the transition that the public will ask, address those honestly and succinctly; then, move on to discussing the new leader or interim leader, what he or she will bring to their tenure as leader, and the brand’s goals for the next several months or year.
By keeping the conversation around all the positive developments that the transition is part of, you’ll support your employees, increase your B2B brand’s reputation, and focus attention on what’s next for your company.
Whether that’s a product launch, an expansion into a new area, or even a restructuring or cultural transformation, it’s important to convey that your company is still proactively working toward goals and objectives.
Develop messages for multiple audiences
Just as you’ll need to develop messaging for employees—including instructions on whom to refer press requests to, and official statements the company is making publicly—you’ll also need messaging geared toward investors, shareholders, vendors, the general public, etc.
The goal with these statements should be to offer as much information as practical and to answer the most pressing questions that each audience will have. Investors will want to know the financial and legal impacts of the transition—obviously, information that should not be shared with any of your other audiences.
The public will want to know what your brand is doing to take accountability for any transgressions or indelicacies, what they can expect in terms of continued quality, and whether there will be any service interruptions or downtime.
Once you’ve developed the right messages for each audience, be sure you’re communicating through the right channels. That could be anything from an encrypted messaging app, to Twitter, to an internal all-hands video meeting.
Establish a timeline and strategy for the first three to four months of the new leader’s tenure
As you’re managing the digital PR aspect of this transition, work closely with your remaining leadership to develop a PR timeline for the next 3-4 months.
- Learning when the incoming executive will be ready to speak to the press or to the public
- Scheduling appearances or interviews with relevant press outlets
- Brainstorming and developing the new leader’s social media voice and presence
- Developing social media, ad, and digital marketing campaigns to amplify the positive attention the brand receives during the transition period.
Your B2B PR strategy for the new executive’s first several months should be designed around telling the executive’s own story, and showing what goals he or she is working toward for the company in the next few months. It’s also important to include information on culture—is the leader coming in to transform the existing culture, or simply improve it? Does he or she have any training or experience in addressing things like discrimination, diversity, and equity?
In general, it’s important to give enough information on your executive that your audiences feel comfortable with him or her leading your brand. However, you don’t want to go too far in that direction and marry the brand too closely to a single person. As we’ve seen plenty of times, with people from former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to Elon Musk, this can lead to plenty of problems down the line.
Managing B2B PR during a change in leadership involves many moving parts, a tight focus on core messaging, and the ability to adapt that messaging to every audience. If you need some help managing your B2B PR, let us know!