Are Leaders Expected to take a FEEL First Approach to Social Media?

EthicsLeadershipPR 2.0PRStudChatSocial media

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On June 13th, the #PRStudChat community gathered for a discussion on “Learning Leadership Skills.” Leading our discussion was Ken Jacobs, CEO of Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching. Ken and our community of PR students, educators and pros shared their knowledge on how leadership is more than a fancy title, big office or a large salary. With leadership comes the responsibility to inspire and influence others to achieve their goals. Of course, communication plays a large part in a leaders’ success.

With a passion for communication that builds bridges and genuine relationships, one question during the chat session stood out in my mind. How can leaders communicate more effectively through social media?” 

The answer to the question, from Ken and our community members, varied. However, the overall sentiment reflected a tremendous opportunity for leaders, if they use social media the right way and they take a human approach.

Here are a few of the tweets reminding us that leaders can use social media for open and authentic conversations and to show that they care about the people they serve:

It’s clear from the #PRStudChat tweets to the many studies shared on social media about building loyalty among audiences (especially Millennials) that social community participation is important; it’s a way for leaders to engage and be more approachable and to help people and forge deeper connections with them.

Now, let’s take a more narrow focus on the Millennial generation. With respect to “what leaders should do” and what “Millennials require” my research and passion project reveals that leaders are falling short with their knowledge and use of social media. They are not fully taking advantage of the helpful and beneficial communications, in many cases.

For several months, I’ve been interviewing Millennials (born between the years of 1981 and 1996), for a passion project called FEEL First Before You Communicate. I wanted to uncover how Millennials were feeling about their leaders (at their companies, in business, religious and political leaders too) and the way they interacted with them, especially on social media. The responses were candid and had a surprising level of detail I didn’t anticipate regarding what Millennials required from these leaders on social media, as well as how they wanted to express themselves.

The preliminary results showed that Millennial expectations are not matching the real world scenario that is currently playing out in different social media communities, from business to politics. More than two-thirds of the Millennials interviewed stated that the levels of leadership sharing they’ve experienced are lacking authenticity, understanding, and what they would call “open perspectives,” which bring people together and build the bonds that last.

Now, take a look at some of the responses from the Millennials about expectations vs. what they are experiencing from the leaders in their lives.

  • I would expect a leader’s communication to be informed and not share their own personal views or biases.
  • I would expect leaders to understand how their audience likes to be communicated with and to strike the right general tone.
  • Sometimes leaders don’t come across as genuine … at least, I haven’t seen any consistent characteristics across fields.
  • Leaders should be relatable and I don’t think leaders come across as relatable today.
  • I expect their EQ to come through loud and clear … this resonates. In order to project genuine emotion … you can’t just regurgitate information.
  • I would expect leaders to be calm and knowledgeable. They should also be engaged with their work and their teams.
  • I would expect leaders to be strong and to lead by example, especially in a world where people post on social media. If you’re not leading by example then you are not a true leader.
  • Leaders should be “that every man” and go about change on behalf of others even if it’s not for their own benefit.

Here is the text analytics of all of the different responses clearly depicting how interview subjects were feeling about the following question:

What do you expect from your leaders on social media?

It’s fairly clear … Millennials want leaders who are more social (that is, who understand social media) and who engage with their audience, show emotion, connect with the community, have a positive demeanor, know it’s about their people, are genuine and who lead by example and with confidence.

Whether it’s Millennials or any group, what happens when expectations are not met? There is a disconnect and people are less inclined to be open or take the time to listen and understand. If they do engage, then communication is guarded and not on a level of real interest or from a place of genuine care.

Falling short of expectations on social media can also mean frustration and often results in tuning out the noise. Building genuine relationships takes emotional intelligence. Of course, when it comes to leadership skills, the Emotional Quotient or EQ, such as care, kindness, empathy, understanding, and compassion, has to meet the IQ side of the equation, with knowledge, vision, innovation, professionalism, and confidence, all working in harmony.

The balance between the EQ and IQ and a communication approach that fills the gap for leaders to connect to build genuine relationships is the FEEL First model. It’s an approach that helps you to Face Fears by being more open, engage with Empathy and true understanding, use Ethics and good judgment in communication and to unleash the Love to match the enthusiasm shared by Millennials and younger generations who are devoted and deeply passionate about their causes.

The ability to FEEL First before you communicate is the difference between social media that resonates and creates energy and action, and the kind of communication noise that is quickly disregarded, addressed with anger or often blocked in social communities.

As a leader, are you meeting Millennial expectations and do you FEEL First before you communicate? You can take the FEEL First Test to score yourself … coming soon to the PR Expanded!!

Featured Image Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

3 Responses to " Are Leaders Expected to take a FEEL First Approach to Social Media? "

  1. Wendy Glavin says:

    Another issue is the inherent assumption that the C-Suite and other professionals understand all the new technologies. People can’t connect with industry jargon and tech-speak. To encourage collaboration, use human-speak instead of creating silos of marketing, sales, development, operations, public relations, and other departmental teams. An outsider can challenge underlying assumptions and initiate more creative problem-solving. Everyone’s voice matters. We all can learn from one another. Incentive people to speak out by helping them to feel valued and safe to do so.

  2. Great point, Wendy, about the assumption that C-Suite and other professionals understand different technologies. They’re learning (sometimes through experience which can be rough) and often they need the training to put their best foot forward. Having an outside expert map an approach for you can be very helpful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Wendy Glavin says:

    Thanks, Deirdre. Great topic! Your article highlights some of the core issues companies and brands face in terms of engaging with their employees, prospects, customers, stakeholders, and the media. Your FEEL model is important as we’re facing a talent shortage; which is the need for hard and soft skills. In fact, many CEO’s cite soft skills as being more important.

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