Yesterday I gave a talk at an entrepreneurs lunch hosted by Smith & Williamson in London EC1. These are my notes (sorry, unedited and pretty much without links, but thought they might be of interest)…

Title of this talk: Why every CEO needs a social media presence/ subtitle: Twitter, tea and sympathy. A lot of CEOs have been in the firing line over the past 18 months: Tony Hayward, Akio Toyoda, Kenneth Cole. Some use social media, some don’t.


Luke asked me for some war stories and I’ve got three for you. Hopefully they’ll all illustrate in different ways why a social media presence (most specifically, a Twitter profile) is important. 


The time when I came closest to war – ie: effectively stuck in a bunker with the UK press camping outside – was when the Daily Mirror broke the Vanessa/ Trisha hoax guests scandal in 1999. I was Deputy Editor on Trisha at the time. 


If Vanessa and Trisha, or even Anglia’s Head of Programmes, had had Twitter, it would have all been so different: they could have put their own view across to a sympathetic audience of followers who would then have amplified their story; they would have had dialogue with the UK public, instead of no voice.


Trisha/ ITV came out better from the scandal party because they took a “tea and sympathy” approach to staff, while the BBC sacked people working on Vanessa. Twitter is a bit like that: you get a very special intimacy with your audience: if you do it right, you get to speak to them on an up close and personal ‘tea and sympathy’ level.


Funnily enough, 10 years later, tea and biscuits (well, a cup of coffee) saved me again. And this time Twitter was involved. [Craig Newmark story – we fell out over an errant tweet, but ended up sharing coffee in Haight Ashbury].


Craig Newmark has 40.5K followers – he’s a pretty good CEO on Twitter. Other good C-level tweeters include: Scott Monty, Lord_Sugar, Tony Hsieh. You can find a full list @AAB Engage.


Examples of bad Twitter include: former BP CEO Tony Hayward Apr 2010 (instead of a Twitter account BP spent £93m on ads – @BPGlobalPR stole their limelight – currently has 165K followers). Akio Toyoda, CEO of Toyota doesn’t have a Twitter account either. But when 7m vehicles were recalled in Jan 2010, he saved the day somewhat by quickly posting an apology on YouTube. And American Clothing Designer Kenneth Cole, who used the #Cairo to promote a spring sale, forcing a public apology minutes later. 


My final war story is all about Easyjet. They owed me money and I tried to contact CEO Stelios Haji-Ioannou via Twitter, but found only an egg. Their @Easyjetcares account didn’t respond either. Eventually I went to Luton to get my money – I got plenty of tea and sympathy – but virtual tea and sympathy would have been so much better!


And Vanessa and Trisha? Still no official Twitter – maybe I should give them a call?

Photo thanks: Su-lin

Jemima Gibbons

Social media consultant and author of Monkeys with Typewriters (featured by BBC Radio 5 and the London Evening Standard). Get your social marketing up and running with my Social Media Launch Pack!

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