When companies scale, they quickly learn that their technology isn’t the only factor to their success.
Winning over consumers takes an amazing brand story. One that inspires an emotional connection with its audience. With social media playing a key role in corporate communications, brands find that their employees, not the company, carry more weight in driving the narrative – with the CEO as storyteller in chief.
According to research by PR company Burson-Marsteller, more than 50% of a company’s reputation is based on the reputation of the CEO. When polled by PR firm Weber Shandwick and KRC Research, global executives estimate 44 percent of their company’s market value is attributable to the CEO’s reputation. Seventy seven percent of respondents believe that reputation plays an important role in attracting employees to a company and 70 percent think it’s key to retaining those employees. For today’s CEO, the study concluded, “Keeping a very low profile is no longer an option in our increasingly connected and transparent world.”
We’re seeing more of these high-profile CEOs who are more informal and connected. They spend less of their time in board meetings and more of it motivating employees, hosting TED Talks, and tweeting customers. Their presentations inspire, using movies rather than charts to touch on the emotional motivators that drive consumer choice. They put their company’s vision and values, rather than statistics, front and center.
Steve Jobs. Elon Musk. Jeff Bezos. I don’t even need to mention their respective companies because of the enormous impact these CEOs had on evangelizing their brand story. Part of their appeal was rooted in transparency. They told their brand story by opening a window into their company’s decision-making and long-term vision, and motivated people to come along for the ride.
When Musk wanted to launch one of the industry’s first attempts at self-driving cars, he went directly to Twitter to recruit engineers.
Engineers interested in working on autonomous driving, pls email email@example.com. Team will report directly to me.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 18, 2013
That tweet didn’t just directly target Twitter’s audience of savvy professionals, but said so much about Musk, and, by extension, Tesla Motors. It showed an appreciation for authenticity over formality and the kind of dynamic approach that supports disruptive technology.
Today’s CEO is markedly more informal, approachable, and connected than the CEOs of corporate past, all of which makes their brand story more authentic.
General Electric’s legendary former CEO Jack Welch was the archetype of his day – a seasoned executive with the gravitas, formality, and intensity to command respect. Sure, he spent countless hours coaching employees and handwriting them letters, but you didn’t see him out there trying to win over customers with GE’s mission (which could have simply been summarized as “winning”).In the early 1980s, Welch earned the nickname “Neutron Jack” for culling 100,000 jobs in a sector of the company that was underperforming, and he wasn’t concerned with mitigating his public image when faced with backlash.
Compare that with Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s public apology, which he posted on his Twitter feed, after the city of London last September decided not to renew Uber’s license to operate in the city, stating they were “not fit or proper to hold a private hire operator license.”
You have my commitment that @Uber will work with #London to make things right and keep this great global city moving safely. pic.twitter.com/MZbDS6fYQL
— dara khosrowshahi (@dkhos) September 25, 2017
It restored some of the transparency lost by former CEO Travis Kalanick’s defiant and delayed handling of sexual harassment claims within the company.
Today’s CEO takes an active role in their company’s PR and in shaping public perception. And when things go south, the CEO acknowledges there’s a problem, communicates what steps he’s going to take to fix it, and follows through quickly. The Storyteller CEO who can motivate stands to win so much for their company: customers, employees, and investors. And you can find superb Storyteller CEOs right here in the Israeli ecosystem.
There’s Adam Neumann of WeWork, who talks about creating communities, rather than shared office space, and refers back to his roots in the kibbutz as an inspiration.
When Founder and CEO Adam Singolda talks about his company’s start he tells of his experience as a soldier, fresh out of a long stint in the military, sitting at home and trying to find something good to watch on TV. He found it frustrating that, with all the programming, he still couldn’t find anything he liked, and cites this as an inspiration to launch the content recommendation and discovery behemoth now known as Taboola.
Micha Kaufmann, Founder and CEO of Qumra’s portfolio company Fiverr, rather than talk about the freelance marketplace that drives the business, focuses on the empowering concept at the heart of the brand. As more millennials shift to a new world of employment, he describes theirs as a culture of “doing”, even embracing that credo in their company slogan, “In doers we trust.”
These are some examples of the great storytellers in our own ecosystem. They all have the talent and vision to transcend beyond the day-to-day of the company and product, and present a grand vision, which in many cases could be years away, but is the guiding light of their company culture. It is no accident that these CEOs are leading some of the most successful companies ever to come out of Israel.
In my own experience, when deciding whether to invest in a rising startup you don’t need to look much farther than their leadership and the story they tell. The companies that have joined Qumra Capital’s portfolio, in addition to showing market dominance, have a CEO who inspired us with their brand’s story.