Presenting Your Social Media Strategy To The C-Suite

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MarketingProfs ran an article highlighting tips for presenting a social media strategy to senior executives. Tips included advice like “be authentic, not just memorable,” “don’t monologue it,” “deliver each line with mastery,” and “be quietly confident.”

While these are useful tips for presenting in general, they’re not particularly helpful for presenting a strategy — especially one for an area the audience is likely to have little experience with — to the C-suite.

Here’s what you need to know and do to present a social media strategy to the C-suite:

1. Solving a problem or capitalizing on an opportunity? Figure out long before you walk into the conference room if your presentation is about how your social media strategy will solve a problem (or problems) that your firm has, or if it’s about capitalizing on an untapped opportunity.

I would strongly encourage you to focus on the former, and not the latter. Why? You’ll find it easier to get agreement from the folks in the room on what the problems are (they might not agree on the priority of those problems, but that’s OK). Untapped opportunities are generally harder to pin down, and subject to more disagreement. You don’t want disagreements in this area in the meeting.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Ron, the beauty of my social media strategy is that it addresses both existing problems and untapped opportunities!”

Yeah, sure. Good for you. It’s nice that your mouthwash is environmentally safe and promotes healthy gums, but I’ve got bad breath. This is a “sales” meeting — you are selling your strategy to your prospects. Do what it takes to make the sale, and nothing else.

Senior execs have problems and they love people who solve (or eliminate) those problems for them. Be one of those people. Senior execs also love people who make money for the company. But you better be DAMN SURE your social media strategy is going to do that if that’s the path you’re going to go down.

2. Balance the dollars and the sense. The quantitative/qualitative mix in your presentation is a fine line. The presentation can’t just be some litany of statistics on social media use and trends. No one (in the C-suite) cares that 93% of people are on Facebook, and blah blah blah blah. And for god’s sake, don’t mention that if Facebook were a country, it would be the 7th largest country on the planet, or whatever.

Talk about your customers, your prospects — and even your competitors. The statistics you use should be internal statistics — metrics that help establish that there’s a problem to be solved. (Be careful, though — if your stats are all focused on the quality problems that manufacturing is experiencing, and the head of manufacturing is in the room, then don’t send me your resume when you’re on the streets).

You do need to talk dollars. But — believe it or not — not necessarily ROI.

You need to talk about cost — what is your strategy going to cost in terms of dollars and resources.

The return on that investment does not have to be out to two decimal places, nor — I would argue — does it even have to be quantified at all.

If the rationale for why you’re proposing to make this level of investment is sound — i.e., it solves problems and/or capitalizes on untapped opportunities — the C-suite will get it intuitively. They won’t need to know that you’ve calculated it out to be a 1,200% return, because, quite frankly, they won’t believe it.

Presenting a strategy — any proposed strategy — to the senior executive team is about establishing credibility for that strategy. Having a handle on the investments required builds credibility. And describing why you’re proposing what to do will go further than describing what you’re proposing to do.

3. Don’t be a piddlyshit. Piddlyshits are the folks who occupy the lowest rungs of the organizational ladder — and are destined to stay there.  Just because you’re at — or towards — the lower rungs does not make you a piddlyshit. What makes you a piddlyshit is your inability to understand the bigger picture, and your inability to demonstrate potential for moving beyond those lower rungs of the ladder. (Remember Milton Waddams from Office Space? He’s a piddlyshit).

You might be passionate about social media. That’s nice. But if you come across sounding like you’re preaching social media — which oh so many social media bloggers do — then you’ll be pegged as a piddlyshit.

Good senior execs are always (usually subconsciously) on the look-out for the future leaders of their organization. They’re attuned to finding people with that indescribable “it” factor.

“It” doesn’t come from “delivering every line with mastery” (whatever that means).

“It” comes from showing that you understand what impact the strategy is going to have beyond the three walls of your piddlyshit little cubicle, and demonstrating that the folks in other departments and functions who are impacted by the strategy buy into it.

Bottom line: Successfully “presenting” a social media to the C-suite has more to do with selling organizational change than it does good presentation skills. Good luck with your social media strategy, you little piddlyshit, you.

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