BC tip: Goldman Sachs – strident tweets from the top

The chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs uses his personal Twitter account to convey the firm's position on contentious sociopolitical issues in a way that is high profile yet at 'arm's length' from official channels. 

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The Feature

Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of US investment bank Goldman Sachs, created a Twitter account in June 2011 but did not start tweeting from it until June 2017. Since then, he has tweeted sparingly (28 times) but stridently on contentious social, environmental and political issues, from Brexit to US participation in the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change.  

The Takeaway

Mr Blankfein makes what appears to be carefully calibrated use of Twitter to convey Goldman Sachs' position on big global issues in a way that is high profile and 'straight from the top' – Mr Blankein’s Twitter biography says simply 'CEO @GoldmanSachs' – yet also at ‘arm’s length’ from the firm’s official corporate communications channels. For example, Goldman Sachs signposts four Twitter accounts from the footer of its website (including the 'Official Goldman Sachs Twitter account') but Mr Blankfein's is not one of them. The points made in his tweets are reaching far beyond the confines of Twitter: news outlets from the Financial Times, via the BBC, to Reuters, have extensively covered them in recent months.

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BC tip: Home Depot - Leadership extras

The US retailer’s online leadership biographies have a number of useful related links.

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The Feature

Leadership biographies on Home Depot’s corporate website have several links to related resources: articles in the media and the Home Depot web estate, pull quotes, embedded videos and a choice of downloadable images.

For example, the page for chief executive Craig Menear, has a pull quote, links to a story on the Fox Business website, interviews on CNBC, articles in the Home Depot website newsroom, and a choice of three images. The page for Matt Carey, executive vice president and chief information officer, has an embedded video of a conference interview, ‘3 Minutes with Matt Carey’, in addition to article links and a choice of images.

The Takeaway

The array of supporting materials helps to humanise the leadership team and provides journalists with interesting background for stories and talking points for interviews – eg, more than one member of the senior team has been on Forbes’ annual list of Most Powerful Women. Picture editors will appreciate the range of styles and angles of the downloadable images.

A lack of dates on articles is a weakness, and we could not see why the image galleries in desktop view have arrow icons even when there are no more pictures to scroll through. However, the related links on Home Depot’s biography pages are a good model for other companies whose executives feature elsewhere on the corporate website and the wider media.

https://corporate.homedepot.com/leadership

CEOs should tweet - if they know how to

Lucy Kellaway writes one of her usual engaging columns in the FT today. In case you can't read it (it's for subscribers, though there is limited free access),  I'll summarise what she says. She starts by referring to an Insead ranking of the CEOs who use Twitter most effectively, combining a score for quality and quantity. Insead runs a piece on this that claims that '82 per cent of consumers are more likely to trust a company whose CEO engages on social media' and '78 per cent of professionals prefer working for a company who leadership is active on social media channels'. I wonder where those percentages come from?

Anyway, Ms Kellaway concentrates on the leaders in the #Twitterinfluence list, and has fun with them. Tim Cook of Apple writes the blandest tweets and still manages thousands of 'likes'. Why, she asks? She points out that he tweets only rarely - 40 times this year: which makes me wonder what the 'quantity' part of Insead's research consists of. Richard Branson manages to outbland Mr Cook: 'Talk less - smile more', while Rupert Murdoch ('who used to make the elementary mistake of tweeting his opinions about things') got married and stopped tweeting. 

These, Ms Kellaway says, 'are rotten role models for regular executives', because others are not as they are. The only 'regular' CEO in the top 10 is Microsoft's Satya Nadella, who tweets in tedious marketing speak. Marissa Mayer of Yahoo tweeted the company results along with a picture of her baby girls, and got lots of likes for that. From all these examples Ms Kellaway concludes that for all but business superstars, 'there's no point in tweeting unless you are prepared to pimp your kids'.

Although this is all good fun, I think she is wrong - and an example she gives that I haven't mentioned says why. Elon Musk tweets and 'is rather good at it'. She is right: he posts pictures of rockets taking off with 'Woohoo!' as the only comment, and links to bits and pieces he finds intriguing. Ms Kellaway says he can do this because he does exciting things like launch rockets. I disagree - he can do it because he knows what will get people's attention. You don't need rockets to do that.

Bob Lutz used to be vice chairman of General Motors. He's retired now, but used to write on GM's Fastlane blog. A fond obituary for the blog quotes some of his pith: 'I guess it depends whether your have your own personality or whether you are a lemming-like follower of current trends'. 'People will exercise the freedom to buy the vehicle they want, V8 engine and all'. 'Do the best product you can do, and it if it looks better and drives better than the other guy's, you win'.

You don't have to count the characters to see that Mr Lutz was born for Twitter, just born a bit too early. He was boss at a thoroughly mainstream company, so he wasn't Rupert Murdoch, yet like Mr Murdoch he said what he thought. Punchy language, strong views and being prepared to broadcast them to the world would have made him a tweeter as powerful as Mr Musk or Mr Murdoch. There must, surely, be other bosses who can do the same. 

David Bowen