Brand's fate should not rest solely on CEO's shoulders

Apple's September 9 news conference to reveal its new line of Apple iPod Nanos and iTunes software was "eclipsed" by the appearance of a very thin Steve Jobs, in the words of The New York Times.

Apple's September 9 news conference to reveal its new line of Apple iPod Nanos and iTunes software was “eclipsed” by the appearance of a very thin Steve Jobs, in the words of The New York Times.

The Apple CEO had been out of the public eye for some time after taking a leave of absence to receive a liver transplant. In this week's appearance he made a point of addressing his health, which has been a topic of interest to the media and company stakeholders, including Apple devotees and investors who link the company's success to the fate of its chief executive.

Across the board, the CEO is looked upon as the figurehead for his or her company.

And while few CEOs have achieved the level of celebrity Jobs has, there are a number whose names have become synonymous with the brands they lead, the personal and the corporate intrinsically tied.

Communicators handling such leaders and companies must be sure to take the CEO brand into account throughout the planning and execution of communications for their corporate client. Managing these dual brands requires syncing messaging and presenting the company's publics with a unified picture.

When a strong CEO personality benefits a brand, PR pros shouldn't be shy to leverage that opportunity. Yet, as with the example of Apple, communicators must remain wary of pushing an executive ahead of a brand. This is particularly true in this recession-fueled era of corporate upheaval. Instead, brand communicators should be preparing to explain how a company will be just fine the day when a CEO must step down or temporarily walk away from his or her post.

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