Edelman debuts CEO transition offering

NEW YORK: Edelman's corporate practice has launched a CEO transition offering to emphasize the importance of communications in the process of changing executives.

NEW YORK: Edelman's corporate practice has launched a CEO transition offering to emphasize the importance of communications in the process of changing executives.

Owen Rankin, EVP of corporate and financial communications at Edelman, will manage the service, which is tailored for both C-suite advisors and board members.

Fifteen to 20 employees specialize in CEO transition at the agency. The firm has identified senior staffers in its Chicago, San Francisco, and Atlanta offices as its “on-the-ground” staff to support the launch. Edelman has begun preliminary discussions with undisclosed clients about using the offering, which launches today.

Rankin noted that the average tenure of a CEO has shortened, increasing the risk of impact on a company's stock valuation.

“We think that it gives communications folks and CCOs a tool to have a conversation with the board about the role of clear and well-thought-out communications,” he said. “At the end of the day, if it's not handled well, the CCOs are going to have to deal with the collateral damage in terms of chasing down incorrect stories or social media [posts] that are commenting on the choice.”

A number of notable CEO transitions have taken place this year, including at HP and American Airlines. Executive transitions saw an uptick in frequency in 2010, according to recruitment consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Fifty percent of a company's stakeholders trust the CEO as a lead spokesperson for the company, according to the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Most corporate boards are “more focused on the selection process and communications internally” than messaging strategy, but communications must play a critical role in the transition process from the beginning, Rankin added. This includes developing a narrative based on the CEO-elect's strengths tied to the company's market proposition and goals, as well as the implementation of a 100-day plan, he added.

"The way we are going to attack it is to take some of the work that we've already done and be more rigorous about the communications with early engagement with the boards and the people who are making the CEO choice to make sure they've thought early on about the role of communications," said Rankin.

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