Why CEOs Communicate More Like Politicians

I’ve always found business communications to be a little boring. It’s wrought with ridiculous corporate speak and many times feels like a report card of numbers and ‘facts’. What’s even worse is that every company and industry has its own language with what seems like an endless amount of abbreviations and completely made-up phrases like ‘touch base offline’, ‘synergistic approach’, and my personal favorite ‘put a record on and see who dances’.  In a way, it makes sense because CEOs and executives spend most of their time communicating with the people who know them—investors, employees, suppliers, and customers—and this kind of internal language is natural.

But where company executives can take a page out of the book of politicians is the idea of influencing the swing voter—someone who either doesn’t know them or is on the fence about their opinion. If a candidate only ever tried to reach those people or groups that already know them, they’d never get elected. The name of the game to win an election is persuading the people who don’t know you that you’re the better choice. Period.

While a CEO is obviously different than a candidate seeking public office, the strategy should be the same:  reach different audiences and persuade them that their company’s product, culture, future is better. When a CEO takes valuable time to focus on this very simple concept it forces him or her to think bigger than the report card of facts and requires more simple and natural language.

Think about it. Speaking to people who don’t know you changes the way we talk about ourselves. We focus on the ‘why’—“why we’re here and why the company exists’’ instead of the ‘the what’. When we do that, our tone shifts and our language becomes more inspiring and persuasive. Every CEO wants to be a thought leader, and if they don’t, they’re probably in the wrong job. Thought leadership is about inspiring others to be better and think differently than everyone else and what every successful politician does well. And while there are many traits of a business person I believe politicians should emulate, this is the one that I think makes a CEO memorable, inspiring, and unstoppable. To run a business is hard enough, but when a company’s leader can run it well and inspire everyone around him, there’s nothing that company can’t accomplish.