Executive Communications - How to Create an Effective Strategy







Lisa Fratzke

Partner & Executive Strategist,

Head of Client Strategy



In a world where trust in our institutions is at an all-time low, executive communications has become an increasingly important part of earning and sustaining credibility and connection with your brand. 

According to Edelman’s 2023 Global Trust Barometer, business tops the list in terms of institutional trust. But, that doesn’t mean business and communications leaders can sit on their laurels. 

Building and maintaining stakeholder trust is a full-time job that requires a more personable approach. Consumers don’t want to hear from brands alone - they want to hear from the people behind those brands. 

That’s where the C-suite executive comes in. 

CEOs are now expected to be the face of change and play a critical role in building trust among their internal and external audiences.

With a growing demand for transparency and accountability, communications leaders are rapidly adapting their executive communications strategies to leverage new technologies and authentic executive voices to create a more meaningful connection with their audience. 

Before we dig into the latest executive communications strategies, we need to first answer the question: What exactly is executive communications? 

What is Executive Communications?

Executive communications include any communication from the C-suite or executive leadership team of a company. It is not limited to the CEO alone, and can include other members of the leadership team.

Internally, executive communications can take the form of emails, informal coffee chats, town hall meetings, and connecting on communication platforms such as Slack. Externally, executive communications often include social media interactions, podcasts, speaking events, investor calls, and more.

Why Should You Have an Executive Communications Strategy?

How your executive leadership chooses to communicate can significantly impact how your audience perceives, trusts and engages with your brand. Without a clear executive communications strategy to guide your efforts, communications leaders are flying blind.

Executive Communications Stat - People Expect CEOs to Provide Industry Thought Leadership Through Their Social Media

An effective executive communications strategy can help:

  • Shape Brand Perception
    By effectively crafting and delivering messages, executives can influence how audiences perceive and engage with a company. Transparent and authentic communication from the C-suite increases credibility, and a positive image for your brand.
  • Grow Thought Leadership
    Research shows that 82% of people expect CEOs to provide industry thought leadership through their social media posts. An effective executive communications strategy empowers executives to share valuable insights, expertise, and forward-thinking perspectives across platforms that help build your industry leadership. 
  • Amplify Core Values
    Identifying a clear strategy for how executives will amplify your brand’s core values internally and externally should be a key pillar of your brand’s culture building strategy. When executives lead by example and authentically communicate your core values, it creates a ripple effect with employees and consumers that helps build credibility and loyalty. 
  • Support Key Messages
    Having a strategy in place for how, when and where executives will amplify key messages helps provide a clear framework for everyday sharing and in times of crisis. When executives and communications leaders have a pre-approved roadmap to follow, it helps brands deliver messages with clarity, consistency, and impact. 
  • Increase Transparency and Authenticity
    Through genuine and authentic communication, executives can humanize the brand and establish a stronger connection with employees and customers. In fact, 38% of consumers say they would show more loyalty to a brand if its CEO demonstrates transparency on social media. Executives that practice transparency helps increase trust and connection with your brand. 

And, these are just a few of the benefits to your brand! 

From a workflow perspective, an executive communications strategy provides a clear blueprint that executives and communications leaders can follow to remove barriers, increase efficiency in the decision making process and enable executives to maintain a consistent presence online and in-person.

The Rise of the Social CEO

Creating and maintaining a presence on social media is a key pillar of executive communications today - especially for the C-suite. In fact, the majority of Fortune 500 CEOs have at least one social media account.

Social media allows executives, and CEOs specifically, to create more authentic and personal connections with consumers, which translates into how they feel and think about your brand. 

According to Sprout Social, 32% of consumers are inspired to buy from a business if the CEO is transparent on social media, and 63% of people believe that CEOs who have social profiles are better representatives of their companies

The posts that are shared on their accounts should be a mix of brand-forward messaging, personal posts and thought leadership. And, it’s not just important to your external audience -  an authentic social media presence can help build your employer brand. 

2 out of every three employees prefer to work for a company where the CEO has a social media presence and 65% say it's important for CEOs to actively communicate about their company online. 

Custom Web Design Stat - 94 Percent Of First Website First Impressions Are Based on Design

How to Create an Effective Executive Communications Strategy

Now that you know why having an executive communications strategy is important, it’s time to build your own. But, where do you start? 

At Fratzke, we recommend taking a human-centered approach to developing your strategy that starts with the end user in mind: your audience. 

1. Seek to Understand Your Audience 

In order to craft meaningful executive communication that connects with your audience, you need to first understand who they are, what they care about and how they like to receive information. That’s where data and research comes in. 

Before crafting your strategy, conduct surveys, research industry trends, and gather insights to identify the preferences, expectations, and needs of your audience. This knowledge will guide you in identifying key topics, tailoring your messaging and selecting the appropriate communication channels for your executive team.

2. Define your Objectives and Key Results

Clearly define your objectives and key results (OKRs) for your executive communications strategy. Your objectives are the goals you want to achieve and your key results are metrics that measure your progress toward meeting your objectives. 

Communications leaders should work with executive leadership to define if you are aiming to improve brand perception, drive thought leadership, increase customer loyalty or more. Once you’ve established measurable goals that align with your organization's overall strategy and define the metrics to track your progress, you’re ready for the next step. 

3. Create your Executive Communications Strategy

Whether you are supporting the CEO - or multiple senior level executives, it’s important to develop a comprehensive executive communications strategy. 

This includes developing a clear and compelling executive voice, defining how you will amplify thought leadership and creating a social media strategy that will increase brand awareness and engagement. 

  • Define your executive voice + positioning
    Your executive voice and positioning will act as a guiding light and involves defining the unique tone, messaging style, topics and positioning that executives adopt when speaking on behalf of the company or sharing their personal insights.

    An effective executive voice and positioning strategy should create a distinct and authentic persona for each executive, enabling them to effectively represent the organization and connect with their intended audience. Below are three key steps to take when defining your executive voice:

    - Company Culture  - Identify the initiatives and topics that your CEO and his executive team will focus on to support and reinforce your brand's culture.

    - Tone & Personality - Gain insights into each executive's preferences, passions, and speech patterns. These should be used to define the tone and messaging style that will resonate with their unique personality and connect with their audience effectively.

    - Topics & Channels - Define the key topic areas each executive will champion within their messaging, along with the different distribution channels that will reach your defined audiences.

  • Define Your Thought Leadership Plan
    Develop a plan to position your executive team as industry thought leaders, including recommended speaking events, publications, podcasts, and other opportunities to showcase their expertise and insights.

  • Define Your Executive Social Media Strategy
    Craft a social media strategy for executives across platforms, including publishing cadence, content recommendations, and profile optimizations. Leverage social media to amplify their voices and engage with a wider audience.

4. Create Your Executive Communications Action Plan

Translate your executive communications strategy into a detailed action plan. Outline specific initiatives, timelines, and responsibilities. Identify the key communication touch points, such as internal memos, town hall meetings, media appearances, and social media posts, and determine how each element contributes to your overall strategy.

5. Socialize Internally to Get Executive Buy-in and Approval

The best executive communications strategies are the result of a fruitful collaboration between executives and communications leaders. It’s crucial to invite input and feedback throughout the process to ensure buy-in. It’s also helpful to establish why having an executive communications strategy is so important for driving brand growth. When it’s time to get approval, there should be very few surprises. 

Executive Communications Best Practices

To optimize the impact of executive communications, it is important to follow best practices to ensure content is easily accessible, consistently shared, creatively presented, and continuously improved.

These four key best practices will help elevate engagement and maximize the effectiveness of your communication efforts.

  • Make Content Easy - Executive communications doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, if you are putting any responsibility in the hands of executives to create content for social media, then it definitely shouldn’t be. It’s important to make the strategy as clear as possible and the process as simple as it can be in order to encourage executive participation.
  • Share Consistently - Consistency is key when it comes to executive communications. Regularly sharing updates, insights, and thought leadership content helps build trust, maintain engagement, and keep stakeholders informed.
  • Be Creative - Gone are the days of the buttoned up executive with a tie and a suitcase behind a desk. Find new and authentic ways to present your executive internal and externally that fit your brand’s culture and your executive’s personality. 
  • Test and Adjust - Regularly evaluate the impact of your communication efforts and make necessary adjustments based on audience feedback and data insights. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and continuously improve your efforts. 

These are just a few of the best practices to follow when implementing your executive communications strategy. 

Cultivate a Human-Centered Approach

As businesses work within a trust vacuum to establish credibility, transparency and authenticity, it’s important to take a human-centered approach that sees consumers, employees and stakeholders for what they are: human. 

Cultivating a human-centered approach has three core components that act as a guiding light and can help inform how your approach your executive communications strategy. 

  • Data-driven - Gather data via surveys, focus groups, and interviews to understand your audience, including what matters to them and how they prefer to communicate.
  • Empathetic - Put yourselves in your audience’s shoes, whether that is employees, customers, community members or shareholders. 
  • Authentic - Make sure that you identify the right executive to share the right message. They should be educated about it, care about the topic, and be willing to take action.

Executive Communications Examples 

In order to understand how impactful executive communications can be, let's take a look at a few examples from brand leaders. From inspiring social media posts to transparent communication about leadership changes, these examples showcase the power executives can have in driving meaningful connections and building your brand. 

McDonalds - Chris Kempczinski, CEO

Since becoming CEO in 2019, Chris Kempczinski has built an engaging presence on LinkedIn (65k followers) and Instagram (8k followers). While his LinkedIn profile is focused on business and thought leadership, Kempczinski’s instagram is a mix of personal and brand-building posts that are highly visual and engaging. 

The best part of his Instagram is the spotlight he puts on a number of team members at McDonalds through engaging one-on-one interviews and videos sharing his first time trying local and international McDonald’s menu items. 

Do yourself a favor, and check out both of his profiles. Below are just some examples of the engaging content you will find that help drive Mcdonald’s brand reputation and build a more personal connection with the customers and employees that follow him.

Mcdonald’s Executive Communications Example
View original post on Instagram
Mcdonald’s Executive Communications Example - CEO Social Media Post
View original post on Instagram

Starbucks - Laxman Narasimhan, CEO

Starbucks has been in the public eye for the past couple of years due in part to a union wave that continues to sweep across their stores, unionizing 300+ locations. The national conversation about Starbucks, a historically progressive and forward leaning brand when it comes to employee benefits, has affected public perception of their brand and founder Howard Schultz.

After stepping in as temporary CEO, Howard Schultz transitioned the role to Laxman Narasimhan in March 2023. Narasimhan is now tasked with charting a new course for the company during this unprecedented time. 

Before assuming the position, he spent six months being mentored by Howard Schultz, meeting hundreds of partners around the world, obtaining barista certification, and immersing himself in the world of coffee.

Starbucks shared a recap of his time on their website that is visually engaging, candid and an authentic introduction to what appears to be a very personable leader. 

Starbucks Executive Communications Example
View full article on Starbucks Stories & News

To further build on the importance of connection, Narasimhan shared in a letter to employees shortly after starting his role that he would spend one half-day shift working at a Starbucks location once a month to sustain his connection to employees and the brand. Starbucks then leveraged his social presence on LinkedIn (114k followers) to share his experience working his first shift. 

Starbucks Executive Communications Example - CEO Social Media Post
View original post on LinkedIn

Disney Parks, Experiences and Products - Josh D’Amaro

When you think “Disney executive” you may think of CEO Bob Iger, but Disney fans who love the theme parks also know Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks Experiences and Products. 

D’Amaro is very active on social media with a highly visual and engaging Instagram (151k followers) that highlights and celebrates Cast Members and park offerings, along with posts that feature the work that Disney is doing in the community. He also has a LinkedIn account (36k followers) that he uses to build brand awareness and thought leadership. 

D’Amaro has taken his social media presence to the next level with branded Instagram story highlights, helping new users easily browse previous content. These branded highlights also help spotlight some of the topics that are most important to him. 

Disney Parks Executive Communications Example
View on Instagram

D’Amaro’s instagram does a great job of highlighting Josh in candid, authentic moments - while also building Disney’s brand and reputation.

Disney Parks Executive Communications Example - Chairman Social Media Post
View original posts on Instagram



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The Takeaway

In a world where trust is scarce and brand loyalty comes at a premium, CEOs and executives are playing an increasingly important role in helping to create authentic, transparent and meaningful connections with consumers and employees. 

Having a clear strategy is the key to unlocking the power of your executive team. If you need help with an executive communications audit, audience surveys or crafting your executive communications strategy, we’d love to talk! Contact Fratzke Consulting to get started.

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