7 Great Ways to Screw Up Your Executive Communications Program

June 22, 2017

By Paul Carlstrom, VP of content services, TDA Group



Need to add a little extra "oomph" to your content marketing? Incorporating an executive voice can make your assets more compelling and persuasive. But while you may garner more interest this way, there are a number of routes toward making your executive communications program go sideways fast. Here are seven ways we've seen people screw up their executive programs, and they're good ways to wound a career, too:

  1. Don't create a timeline for the presentation, speech, article, or blog well in advance. Behaving as if your executive has unlimited time for the project is a superb way to spread goodwill. And whatever you do, don't list specific milestones or share them with the executive and the people who will be working on the project. There will be always enough time to get things into shape before the due date.
  2. Don't be clear about the structure of the final deliverable with the executive. Say your executive has a half-hour spot for a speech or a presentation. Use your instincts. Guesstimating the number of slides or pages is usually sufficient. What could possibly go wrong with a 40-slide deck or a 30-page speech?
  3. Don't work with a team of experienced, professional content creators. Sure, professional writers and seasoned designers efficiently translate an executive's ideas into compelling content that appears genuine. But who needs that? Just throw something together and forget that the end result will represent the company and the executive's own personal brand.
  4. Don't conduct an interview — ask executives to create the first draft. These guys are supposed to be smart, right? Then put 'em to work, particularly if they claim to have a vision for the way a product, service, or industry development should be described. Sure, hours and hours are required to assemble a decent first draft, but details such as key messages, structure, and storyline need to work with the executive's communication style — and who are you to say what that is?
  5. Don't worry about letting content creators follow up with subject-matter experts. Writers will often claim that focusing on higher-level ideas is a good use of an executive interview — and subsequent meetings with SMEs can help fill in the blanks. Really? Surely writers will find the right product specifications, proof points, and other more detailed information that might be required to support the asset on their own.
  6. Don't budget extra time for reviews. Admittedly, executive communications often require more reviewers than other assets. In addition to the executives who are lending their voices to the asset, you've got a whole cast of people who end up keeping you from getting the asset out the door in a way that requires little thinking. There are the SMEs who have contributed, and your regular marketing team members. Hopefully you'll be able to avoid reviewers from public relations, investor relations, and — gasp — your legal department. All of these professionals are likely to have busy and conflicting schedules, but you'll figure out approvals and comments later. It should all work out fine.
  7. Don't prepare for last-minute changes. Just because every executive speech, presentation, blog post, and article you've ever worked on has required last minute-revisions doesn't mean that things might change. Surely an executive won't ask to add a few slides the day before a conference presentation — or revise several paragraphs just hours before a speech. What are the odds?

But if you don't follow these poor practices, you'll often find that your company and its products and services are likely to be taken more seriously. For example, adding an executive endorsement to a case study video can help underscore the value of a solution. Weaving an executive quote into a press release that announces a corporate acquisition can help explain the strategic thinking behind the move.

Paul Carlstrom is the VP of content services at TDA Group, where he manages and oversees multiple writing and strategic engagements. Prior to joining TDA, Carlstrom was the principal of Carlstrom Corporate Communications, where he provided media and marketing strategy for product launches and branding campaigns for companies as diverse as ACSIA, Alcatel, Informix, Meredith Corporation, Verio, and Wells Fargo Bank Merchant Banking Division. Follow him on Twitter at @Paul_Carlstrom.


The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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