CHICAGO: A corporate PR person's major duty to a CEO is to serve as the link between the chief executive and the realities of the marketplace and the organization, said Mark Schumann, global communications practice leader with Towers Perrin.
CEOs are often surrounded by executives who simply mouth back whatever they think the CEO wants to hear. As a result, "CEOs are disconnected - everyone sucks up to and lies to them, Schumann told attendees at the IABC international conference. "A leader is easy to spoil. It's one of the things we need to be concerned about."
Corporate PR pros "are the playwright and the director, but we also need to be the toughest critics when crafting a CEO's public persona, he added.
Shaping a strong image for a CEO involves finding scenarios in which he or she can come across as concerned and involved with employees and customers. A successful CEO must also articulate a company's mission.
"The leader's role is to help people get it, believe it, and do it," Schumann said.
PR people can help craft the messages a CEO delivers, but must also ensure a CEO comes across as genuine, and doesn't do things with which he or she just isn't comfortable.
"If we don't protect the authenticity of the CEO, it will not be there," Schumann said. "We are more apt to sit at the table when we bring something no one else in the company brings."