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Limelight to Backstage: 4 Levels of CEO Storytelling
Campfire – Employer Branding Tools 12 August 2022

Limelight to Backstage: 4 Levels of CEO Storytelling

CEO Storytelling - Limelight to Backstage: 4 Levels of CEO Storytelling

CEOs are not only the face of a company. They are also the voice. A voice that is called to, or should be trained to, tell stories. Authentic CEO storytelling from the heart of an organization:

  • builds trust with employees, customers and partners
  • and thereby: sells more and better products
  • motivates talented people to start or continue their careers here
  • consolidates the corporate culture
  • gets stakeholder support even in volatile stock market phases
  • so overall: builds a strong brand.

From the big stage in front of thousands of shareholders or employees to an almost casual exchange with a customer or an apprentice, CEOs’ narrative responsibilities span these four levels:

1. Wow the Crowd as the Headliner

A foreword or video interview in the digital annual report,a product announcement at the company’s own conference, a speech at the opening of a new manufacturing facility – These are probably the occasions most of us associate with CEO storytelling.

Here, media moments are created or staged that are to remain in the collective memory for a long time. The perfect appearance, but one that can quickly fizzle out with too much self-congratulation, bragging about success, or monotony of facts.

Whether written or oral, live or on tape – what unites these moments is the ability to prepare them thoroughly well in advance. From the CEO’s point of view, however, the planning should be devoted less to the show around it and more to the content.

There is no shame in enlisting the help of ghostwriters, speechwriters, professional brand storytellers or other rhetoric experts. The same tests of courage apply to those who write their speeches themselves as well as those who seek assistance:

  • To turn even the more vulnerable parts of one’s own hero’s journey outward in CEO storytelling. To use setbacks, fears, crises or mistakes, but also simply personal memories, emotional or funny moments to illustrate the origin story or future vision.
  • And/or not talk about yourself so much in the first place, but tell the stories of other heroes in the context of your own company.

2. Get to the Point in the Press

When it comes to working with the media, there are scenarios in which CEOs are given a benevolent stage for self-promotion. And those where they have to sit in the hot seat. In both situations, the audience of millions must be convinced quickly.

Whether it’s in the newspaper, online, on TV or on the radio (although there can certainly be significant differences), there’s little room for verbosity in CEO storytelling in the press. Every sentence must be catchy, short and meaningful. Absolute no-go zone for phrases, platitudes or buzzword bingo.

You can learn more about this in our article about the SUCCESs formula.


3. Build your own Fan Base with CEO Storytelling

Regardless of the company whose brand the CEO wants to strengthen, storytelling can also be used to build a personal brand. Thanks to the combined power of content marketing, social media and PR, CEOs have the opportunity to position themselves on their expertise and on topics that are important to them.

In personal branding, the one big moment is replaced by many small chapters and content that form an overall narrative in the long term. Anyone who pursues a clear thematic strategy and engages in close interaction and dialog with the audience can also clearly distinguish themselves from those who shine on large stages with little tangibility for their audience.

In addition, the playground on one’s own channels makes it possible to give a look behind the scenes and thus also present the corporate culture in terms of employer branding, as in the example of Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors.


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4. Mentor for the Smallest Live Audience

As a CEO, you are not just a figurehead in the direction of the public. The part of the most important role model of corporate culture and values ​​is just as important. Here, too, CEO storytelling can be packaged with internal media. But above all, we appeal to the power of personal interaction.

Every handshake in the hallway, every feedback session, and every time you greet a new trainee has the potential to become a credible mentor, listener, and value communicator through storytelling.

Of course, as a CEO, you hardly have the opportunity to build a bond with every employee. But we must not underestimate how quickly such moments spread – as with any good story – and how sustainably they can be remembered as leadership role models even years later.

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