The real estate industry is undergoing a massive transition in leadership. Top executives who have run major real estate brokerages, Associations and MLSs for decades are heading for retirement. Moreover, at the beginning of any new year comes a flurry of new leadership announcements.
What’s the best way, from a Public Relations perspective, to announce a major leadership change?
Over the last three decades, I’ve helped dozens of organizations manage leadership transitions announcements, from the elections of new board members to the hiring of new CEOs. There are a few basic principles that need to be followed by every organization, regardless of size or type, to help insure your announcement is a success both internally and externally.
Announce it Externally All at Once, From a Single Source
The best practice is to make a formal announcement – typically within a news release sent simultaneously to all your key external media (as well as via a paid news wire) – with all the information you have from a single source. Remember the old World War II saying: “Loose lips sink ships.”
Leaks are bad for everyone, particularly for announcements of new leadership. They can do a lot of damage and that’s why it’s vital to keep major leadership announcements close to the vest. If an NDA is necessary to remind people not to talk about a confidential announcement, even internally – use it.
Because once news of a new appointment leaks to a news outlet and they report it, all of your audiences, internal and external, feel cheated. Those internally rightly feel they should have been told before they read about it online from a news source and other external news media are likely to feel they were cheated out of having the same access to a news story as a competitor.
That’s why the best practice is to announce it to everyone at once, especially externally. In many cases, it’s also fine to simultaneously release to all of your key internal audiences as well, as it will take some time for most media to post a story online. Regardless, by announcing all the information you have at the same time to everyone, you minimize your chances of disappointing someone.
Don’t Forget Your Internal Audiences
One of the biggest mistakes that many firms make is that many of their own folks learn about a major personnel change by reading it in the news media. That’s a huge mistake.
You need to make a list of all your audiences, internal and external, who you need to know, or who you want to inform about the leadership change. Your internal audiences must receive the information either simultaneously with your external message distribution or just before you release it externally.
Obviously, there will be some internal folks who already know about the news because they were part of the decision-making process. But you need to make sure those folks don’t share the information with others, as long as you make sure you keep all your internal folks in the loop, and they are not finding out about what’s happening from a public source.
Timing Really is Everything
Sometimes CEO announcements are treated as an afterthought. They need to be a treated as priority – planned and timed – as any major announcement. And that means avoiding Fridays, holidays and times when folks in your industry are not going to be paying attention.
One example of poor timing for an announcement is when the majority of the folks you want to pay attention to your news are all attending a major convention. It’s not likely they are reading their daily news feed if it hits during a travel day – or if they are at a conference and you know most folks attending that they want to reach are in meetings all day.
Plan your announcement a week or two before that key conference. Schedule the news for a Tuesday or Wednesday and call key reporters to let them know an announcement is coming.
Another big miss: Make sure your new leader is available the day the announcement is scheduled for interviews. Nothing will tick off a reporter faster than sending out a news release, they call for a quote, only to find your new leader is on a plane or in an all-day training session.
Make the timing of your new leadership announcement work in your favor, not against you.
Stay Away From Cliché Quotes
If you want the news about your leader to become news, make it a news story. Focus on the “why” of the announcement and let this drive your quotes.
This will help you stay away from cliché quotes. Because cliché quotes are one of the biggest blunders that I find almost everybody makes. I’ll confess that I have even made this mistake too.
What’s an example of a cliché quote? When you state the absolute obvious that gives the reader absolutely no information or news. Such as: “We are thrilled to have John join us as our new CEO,” said Sally Smith, head of the Executive Search team. Or, “We are excited that June is bringing her skills and experience to our firm,” said…you get the point. Of course you are “thrilled” and “excited.” But that’s not news!
You need quotes that help tell the story of what your new leader is going to do for your firm or why you hired her or him. For me, I get a little ill every time I read a “thrilled” or “excited” in a quote in leadership announcement. To me, it’s an indication of being lazy.
But it you take time and think through each new leader announcement – get organized and know who you want to reach internally and externally, centralize your messages through a single source, figure out the right timing and explain the news behind your announcement, you should have a highly successful news announcement.
If WAV Group Communications can help you with a leadership announcement or other PR needs, let us know.