How to Sell PR to Your CEO

March 20, 2019
By iQ Staff
Two business figures on a flashlight beam pointing towards a bullseye target.

It’s tempting to think that a strong communications department can overcome all odds and raise a company’s profile, even when the higher-ups are lukewarm about PR. Unfortunately, working in a communications silo is rarely effective, and can end up being counterproductive to your organization’s goals.

Getting buy-in from your CEO is essential to the success of any communications effort. Below, find some tips for winning over your disengaged CEO.


Make your case with data

CEOs like numbers, particularly when preceded by a dollar sign. Leverage data analytics to demonstrate how PR successes have attracted positive attention, won customers, retained employees, and elevated the brand.


Get to the point

A 15-minute meeting might sound ridiculously short, but 15 minutes is better than zero minutes. Getting a few moments of face time with your CEO can make all the difference in building rapport and discussing the value of various PR initiatives.

A skeptical CEO is not likely to volunteer four hours of her time for media training, but she may have 15 minutes to spare on her way to the airport. Use that time to show her what your competitors are doing on the PR front and how their efforts are attracting more customers or generating greater brand awareness. Be explicit about what you want to do and what you need from her to take the next step.


Get involved in regular meetings

If senior management holds standing meetings to discuss business development plans, product roadmaps or customer events, ask to be involved. Attend these meetings to learn more about newsworthy topics your team can leverage and bring high-level ideas to the table on how to engage with your stakeholders. Instead of waiting to be told what to promote, your presence will help create efficiencies for the other departments and execs.


Know the business strategy

If you know your CEO’s goals, you can tailor the PR strategy accordingly, reach the right audiences and ultimately be more effective. Take proactive steps to improve your PR strategy — something as simple as adding important industry trade publications to your media list, or more nuanced such as mapping out a thought leadership plan could garner results that help gain your CEO’s support.


Make it easy

Don’t just put together a plan and expect your CEO to execute it. Do the heavy lifting and make it easy for her to say yes. Draft a thought leadership piece for LinkedIn she can review in less than five minutes. If she’ll be in Chicago for a conference, see if she’d be willing to sit down with a reporter who will be covering the event. Schedule a softball interview with a journalist you have a solid relationship with. Try the path of least resistance to start, and once you have a few wins under your belt, build from there.


If all else fails, find another champion

If your CEO just doesn’t have the time or interest to engage in your PR initiative, don’t give up. There may be someone in the CEO’s orbit who is willing and motivated to step up as a spokesperson. A knowledgeable and authorized senior spokesperson could help fill the void and prevent your organization from missing out on media opportunities.


Is your CEO on board with PR or are you struggling to engage? How do you sell PR to your CEO?