Executive Communication: Three Elements for Establishing Influence

Facing the public is no longer optional for executives today. As culture and content continue to evolve digitally, external presence is linked to business success more directly than ever before.

In the inaugural Resonance Report from KWT Global and HarrisX, we found that nine in 10 executives believe that having a strong and visible leader is important for a company’s success, with 84% agreeing that customers are more likely to buy a company’s product or service if they can relate to its leader.

Most executives aspire to be influential in their industry; however, 61% say it can be difficult for leaders to appear relatable.

So, how exactly should executives embrace their roles as influencers to create maximum impact? First, it’s important to understand the shifts that are changing expectations for executive communication.

The Shifting Landscape

To say it’s harder to cut through the noise today would be an understatement. There’s an endless barrage of content across channels, and consumers—growing weary of traditional brand communications—demand more authenticity and transparency.

Influencers have become prevalent across social media, garnering trust and goodwill with their audiences through personalized content that breaks the mold of traditional marketing. We’re seeing more brands leverage leaders as messengers for storytelling.

Executives becoming “influencers” doesn’t mean they’re sharing promo codes and ‘Get Ready with Me’ videos; it means they’re bolstering their credibility to compel audiences to think or act in a specific way on behalf of their organization.

Yet this influence must be earned, and wielding it bears responsibility. Executives’ roles require that they earn influence with employees, partners, customers, investors, industry peers and other stakeholders.

Rising to the Occasion

While leaders must still cultivate a confident, decisive and polished presence, earning influence means that they must meet new expectations across channels as new audiences are found to value different qualities.

Superior speaking skills are still important, but comfort on camera and a “listen to learn” approach are skills on the rise. New importance is being given to inclusiveness and respect for others; empathy, authenticity and humility—characteristics once derided as soft skills—are now seen as essential leadership tenets.

Authentic representation coupled with a distinct voice and perspective helps executives stay resonant and deliver on business objectives. When leaders understand themselves personally and professionally, they’re better able to intentionally capitalize on their unique qualities.

Establishing a Unique Perspective

To establish a presence that earns influence and creates resonance, executives must pinpoint their perspective. Three elements, in particular, must be considered: self, brand and audience.

  • Self: What are your core values? What are your passion points and sources of inspiration? Do you have any unique mantras, processes or approaches?
  • Brand: How aligned are you—and how aligned do you want to be—to your brand as an individual? How does your external presence support you in your role? What constitutes success for you?
  • Audience: What do you have to offer each of your stakeholders? How are you and your brand driving impact on your audiences? What do you wish more people knew about your work?

Through evolving expectations and the ebbs and flows of the business landscape, the only variable business leaders can wholly control is their own presence. Whether seeking out to forge new business relationships, recruit and retain employees, build name recognition or even find a new role, influence is only earned by committing to a platform and honing a persona.

Dara Cothran is Executive Vice President, Global Strategy + Insights, KWT Global