Why CEO Passion Matters for B2B Public Relations Programs

The idea for this post struck me as I was reading the back of a frozen fish sticks bag. I’m sure it sounds odd, but so was the fact that the messaging stuck with me. I was first drawn in by the description – that they add only 35% breading vs. 50% of most national brands. But what really caught my attention, surprisingly, was the picture of the founder and chairman of the company (Trident Seafoods) on the bag, followed by a message describing the fish they catch, the preparation process and his commitment and confidence in their products. The note ends with an email address and invitation for customers to provide feedback.

I know it’s just marketing language, but somehow it grabbed me. And sold me. On fish sticks of all things?

It started me down a path of thinking about how my own clients’ leadership teams demonstrate their commitment to and passion about their firms to the external world. Most B2B companies don’t sell products and services that are as simple or tangible as fish sticks, so how can leaders effectively showcase their zeal?

Enter the thought leadership PR campaign. Think about 1 or 2 critical issues facing the firm’s customers to which the CEO can bring personality and a point of view. Then, address those issues forcefully. This can provide several benefits:

  • Rally Employees: Leaders set the tone for an organization. If they demonstrate passion and commitment on a particular point, it can quickly energize others. Whatever the topic, the messaging should also help to underscore the mission or purpose of the organization. What makes the company and its employees tick? Think about IBM and its “smarter planet” platform. Leadership expert John Baldoni offers some good insights about why it’s important for leaders to define a clear purpose for their organization and its trickle-down effect on achieving results.
  • Prompt Customer Conversations: If the head of the organization is visible in the marketplace talking about the challenges and trends affecting its customers, that’s an excellent prompt for connecting with clients and prospects. Take one or two of the articles in which the CEO appears and have the sales force use it as an excuse for an email marketing or calling campaign around the issue. We often have clients tell us about being in a new business meeting where a contact in the room brings out an article in which a senior leader was quoted. Did that seal the deal? Maybe not. But, it sure helps to warm the room.
  • Humanize the Brand: It’s easy for B2B brands to lack personality. Personality gets shaped through a combination of content, (the aforementioned) purpose and visibility in the marketplace. And social media has helped bring a more direct connection to an organization’s leaders. There are a host of hospital CEOs who are blogging to help demonstrate their hospital’s commitment to the community, tell its stories, and discuss challenges/solicit improvements. The number of socially engaged CEOs is only expected to rise – check out this infographic on the future of C-suite social engagement from Social Times. Think about the statement you make by having a CEO directly engaged with customers and prospects online, even if it’s in a limited way, like a weekly chat on a general social platform for the company.


What outcome can a good thought leadership campaign produce?  Craig Badings recently compiled thoughts from a variety of leading experts on this very issue, which is worth checking out. Or maybe you’ll just end up buying fish sticks?

What thoughts do you have to share about the impact of CEO passion on PR programs?

(Note: I have no affiliation with Trident Seafoods; just a big fan – as is my 2-year old)


Photo by eschipul


Connect with Kellie:

Email: kellie@blisspr.com
Twitter: @kshe
LinkedIn: Kellie Sheehan