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27 March 2018

Why UAE CEOs Should be Thinking Beyond Business

Written by: Tod Donhauser, CEO at Edelman Middle East

Trust

Around the world, business leaders are in the spotlight. The rise of fake news and misinformation has blurred the lines between fact and fiction, and CEOs are now expected to play a far more prominent role in navigating this paradigm.

According to the “2018 Edelman Trust Barometer”, 84 per cent expect CEOs to inform and shape ongoing conversations and policy and debates on one or more issues. Or in other words, the perception of disengagement or apathy on the part of business executives is no longer accepted. Simply put, silence has become a tax on truth.

And while the UAE government has excelled in developing the nation and creating opportunities for its citizens, the time has come for business leaders to make greater contributions to the UAE’s journey. For those looking to succeed in this new environment, there are three areas of focus:

 

Go beyond the business and speak up on key issues

Credibility of a CEO as a spokesperson rose in the UAE, with two-thirds of the general population saying business leaders should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to drive it. So, how can executives play a bigger part in this realm?

The Edelman Trust Barometer identifies five key trust-building mandates for business in countries that saw extreme trust gains this year; including the UAE. These are: consumer safety, investing in jobs, improving quality of life, ensuring a competitive workforce and innovation.

It is no surprise that crucial matters such as job creation and employee development are potential areas to make an impact. Business leaders can contribute by upskilling current employees for the job demands of the future, for instance.

 

Drive engagement through earned media and owned content

The study showed that when describing their favourite media sources, two-thirds of the general population globally said that it is important for content to be accessible, rigorous and easy-to-understand. At the same time, a company’s customers trust its content twice as much as non-customers.

And when asked which channel they thought was most believable about a company, 63 per cent chose a company’s social media channels. Combined, these factors suggest that delivering clear, high-quality information through proprietary channels can pay off.

With one of the highest video consumption rates globally, CEOs in the UAE would be wise to invest in video content that can be disseminated through their companies’ internal and external channels and amplified on social media.

 

Communicate through trusted voices and activate the entire organisation

There is no denying the power of advocacy and direct communication in strengthening trust and credibility. Fifty-two per cent agreed that CEOs should regularly communicate directly to the public using social media, while 64 per cent agreed employees should participate in their company’s social media activities. Advocates and employees are trusted voices who can amplify your messages, enabling you to connect with your audiences and contribute to key conversations through various channels.

The communications landscape is becoming more dynamic every day. Individuals that effectively navigate this new reality can profoundly impact how their organisations are viewed. For business leaders, it provides numerous opportunities and avenues to stand out. This can be achieved by going beyond business, engaging with audiences through quality content and leveraging advocates to boost credibility.

If there was ever a time of business as usual, it is rapidly disappearing. Today, CEOs have an opportunity to harness this new energy or let it pass over them to their detriment.

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