Sunday, January 30, 2011

Reaching beyond the CEO

Building thought leadership with your expert employees

The CEO remains a trusted source, but employees with a technical background are even more credible according to the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer. For PR and marketing professionals that are looking to engage with customers and external publics, this finding opens the door to a new group of ambassadors that can help engage with influencers.

The annual study presented this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos gauges attitudes about the state of trust in business, government, NGOs and media. The study found an interesting shift in who people trust. People who are likely to believe CEOs climbed to 50 percent from 31 percent last year. That means it may be time for CEOs to poke their head from out from under their shell.

Another development comes in the area of employees as a trusted source. For the first time the survey asked respondents about the credibility of technical experts within the company. A strong 53 percent report that they are likely to trust what comes from these informed experts. For PR people looking to build the depth of their thought leadership program it means that there is a new roster of credible spokespeople such as engineers and analysts. Because they are well-informed, they can be a strong source of authentic communication with reporters and community forums.

In my own PR and marketing work, I've found that technical experts are often more available and eager to speak to the media, write a blog post or speak at a conference. They may need a bit of training, but their energy helps overcome the lack of experience. Especially when I'm working on day-to-day community management that requires a quick and accurate response to a developing issue, internal technical experts are an effective source. I'm excited to see some evidence that these informed employees are also credible to external audiences.

PR teams can now confidently reach beyond the CEO when they need to develop spokespeople for corporate communications.

The short video below highlights some of the points made in the survey on this topic.

Disclosure: Edelman is my employer.


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