Monday, April 18, 2011

The Reluctant CEO

All company CEOs are expected to communicate to their constituencies, but even more pressure is put on the public company’s CEO, where there is a partnership with the shareholder and investment community.

Of course, there are CEOs of public companies who will do the “obligatory” earning call, but have no interest in — even fears of — facing the media. And if things are going badly in the company, these CEOs go dark. I call them “the reluctant CEOs.”

Can these CEO get away with it? Maybe for the short-term. But is it wise? No! CEOs need to cultivate their target media, a critical constituency that can make or break a company, in the same way they build relations with security analysts. If the CEO is a fair-weather -- rather than welcoming — friend to the media, when things go bad, the press will be all over them.

Bottom line -- you can’t hide from the media. I like what Dick Parsons chairman of Citigroup said at a meeting I attended at the Arthur W. Page Society: “Talking to the media is part of the job” he stated. “Ducking or avoiding them will not make the problem go away. They will see you, whether you want them to or not. It’s like my grandchild putting his hands over his eyes, in front of me, and saying ’Grandpa, you can’t see me!’”

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