The transition from one CEO to another is a difficult feat for both internal an external publics, as everyone stands on edge hoping for a smooth transition from one leader to another. Many questions arise during the succession of a CEO or other leader of a company. How will the company change under the new leadership? Will this CEO be as good as our last one? Will staff or customers abandon the company if they don’t like our new CEO?
As the public relations practitioner, we need to ensure that all leaders stay on the same page throughout the transition and convey this message to employees and customers. There also needs to be a consensus among these stakeholders that the choice and process of coming to a decision for the new leader is fair and fits the company’s needs and vision. Risks need to be minimal and precautions need to be in place to handle these risks.
So, how can social media alleviate these leadership shifts? In an age where stakeholders expect information quickly and efficiently during a time of change, social media acts as that hand to hold and exchange information with key publics. If customers have questions, this is the perfect place to answer them. This two-way communication is essential during a CEO succession, as it shows the company is transparent and cares about the feelings and needs of its stakeholders; that these stakeholders can trust the company has his or her best interests in mind.
Recently, Yahoo has experienced the process of CEO succession with bumps and bruises along the way. With the quickly changing hands of power in the CEO process, many have been left to question the stability of the company. Despite the lack of accountability, the company has not used their social media outlets, such as Twitter and Facebook. Unfortunately, this has left Yahoo users unsure of the company’s stability and seem to lack clear goals as an organization. By neglecting to use these outlets, they cut off the hand that social media offers: opportunity to make direct connections and build trust they need during a CEO succession.
For companies like Yahoo, social media can be intimidating because it leaves the gates open to questioning and speculation. However, as PR practitioners, it is our job to use this vulnerability as an opportunity to build relationships with our publics and show that we are willing to answer the difficult questions to make our stakeholders feel comfortable and safe about the transition. By taking stakeholders through the process of a CEO succession, we ensure they know about all changes made within the company and feel safe and secure about the change. Sharing the changes and improvements made by the CEO change also make great content during a CEO succesion. Ultimately, in a time of instability, social media is that shoulder to lean on and provide a sense of peace for stakeholders.