Simplicity Poses a Greater Task then Complexity Timeless Wisdom for Today’s CEO

Take heed of wisdom conveyed by 18th Century scientist and theologian, Joseph Priestley, whose foresight eerily resonates with challenges faced by today’s CEO and corporate counsel: “The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.”

In this era of intricate communication channels, these leaders risk neglecting a fundamental powerful tool that amplifies their messages and voice: a simple news release.

Darwinian journey from ink to inbox

Traditional "press releases” disseminated company information to newspapers and journals. If the information was not used, it was tossed into the round file that day.

These releases were exclusively dispatched to “press.” Journalists were gatekeepers, filtering information between companies and their stakeholders. Press wielded authority to determine dissemination and be the first to comment on announcements.

Commentary could be skewed … and imposed upon essential constituents - investors, customers, employees, regulators, vendors and others.

In the wake of fake news and technological decentralization this landscape has undergone profound transformation where democratization of information proves both a boom and a bane.

Press evolved into “media” with these organizations deploying a spectrum of digital communication: alerts, blogs, podcasts, journals, social platforms, radio and television broadcasts, videos, websites and other contemporary methods.

Crucially, our digital realm ensures that now "news releases" or public statements become instantly accessible globally, preserved indefinitely, retrievable 24/7—even in far-flung Timbuktu, Mali, where service might be intermittent, yet information endures, heralding a fundamental shift in dynamics.

News release readership is noticeably enhanced when strategically shared as links in social postings.

While Gen Xers and Zeers seem indifferent to news releases as a tool for clients and companies, their preference for real time updates on social media prompts a crucial question: do they truly grasp the intricacies of business?

While quick iPhone videos or political comments have a vast presence in social media, these channels lack the depth needed to effectively market intricate products, adhere to regulatory standards, meet shareholder expectations for compliance and simultaneously convey information to all stakeholders.

Actually, today’snews release is more important than ever.

They have an eternal place in databases with potential to include multiple links to information or other documents when distributed over a newswire.

Contrary to the misconception that simplicity implies skimming details, the “ keep it simple stupid” (KISS) principal champions clear communication, not scant information.

In an unfiltered CEO or company voice, news releases emerge as robust tools, reinforcing messages, articulating vision, explaining or signaling shifts in strategy and define significance of new products for users and stakeholders.

News releases can delve into specifics, providing clarity on earnings, addressing financial issues, disseminating critical information and navigating communication complexities in a crisis. They also serve as a platform to showcase achievements and milestones.

Given this multifaceted role, it's surprising companies aren't investing more in crafting impactful news release content.

Are company chiefs truly harnessing the full potential of this essential communications tool?

Unmasking CEO secret sauce

One Fortune 100 CEO recognized the importance of precise oversight of positioning and messaging. In a discussion with me and several board members, he revealed why he scrutinizes and refines significant company news releases.

I experienced this firsthand through his feedback on pivotal announcements, and notably, engaging in discussions about edits. However, some board members questioned, “Isn't that a waste of your time?”

After all, there are legal advisers, communications experts, investor and financial executives who manage such responsibilities.

Simple strategies to lead and transform communications from mundane to memorable.

Ask fundamental questions. Is a public announcement, statement or news release necessary … as the optical vehicle to distribute this information, or are there more effective channels?

Does this release contain genuine news for stakeholders contributing to positioning and share value -- or will it just be another notice that only the product manager and his mother care about?

Consider your audience(s) and have you included information they need, not necessarily what you want to convey.

One writer, one message. Many different, somewhat unconnected people in organizations write various public documents. All have different disciplines, points of view and writing styles.

The key lies in creating a process to include identical language, descriptions and key messages.

This coordination safeguards against potential contradictions and discrepancies that diligent investors and others many unearth over time.

Messages drive connections and success. One quick and simple test for any document - is to ask an entry level employee to read it and then tell you the two things they remember about it. If their response is not the two messages you aim for stakeholders to remember, consider rewriting.

Headlines capture editors first, then readers. Create two crisp, clear short sentences that is the headline, not three or more.

In the fast-paced world of news, headlines are concierges—capturing newswire editors and what AI technologies pick up to send as instant news flashes about the news release. These alerts are what investors and important stakeholders see first.

“ABC Company announced today...” or “Workers safeguarded by new technology which protect ... was developed by ABC company.”

Which headline captures your attention?

Content is king and is no longer just about you or your company. Write for the reader, not yourself or the person down the hall. Content quickly engages readers if information is new and helpful. Otherwise, the delete button is hit instantly.

Write in simple English and embrace simplicity. In the world of legal, regulatory and information documents, news releases take center stage and provide an opportunity to communicate without complexity.

Write as if you're speaking to freshman college students as these documents are spotlight opportunities to reenforce messages or strategy.

No Greek, gibberish or industry acronyms. In Twitter (X) brevity rules with 280 characters. Unfortunately, many executives, lawyers or scientists are not versed to think or write in our digital realm.

United Airlines communications blunders is a playbook on what not to do.

United Airlines faced a colossal operational blunder coupled with disastrous communications in 2017. The infamous incident on UA flight #3411 was a passenger injured while forcibly removed from a fully boarded aircraft. Most still remember those videos. It all went terribly wrong rapidly.

United had to distribute several statements over a few days, as management and attorneys received enormous pushback because they did not understand how to communicate in simple English and deliver consoling messages. Additionally, eyewitness and videos contradicted UA’s accounts.

Another example of UA’s poor judgement is "United Breaks Guitars" a song by Canadian musician Dave Carroll. It chronicles a real-life experience of how his guitar was broken during a UA trip in 2008 and the obstructively uncooperative reaction from the airline.

The song became a YouTube sensation, public embarrassment, as well as loss of equity value for the airline.

Moral of these stories: do a much better job dealing with customer issues … but also, follow the simple steps to issue statements or news releases.

CEO as chief word wizard crafts narrative for success

The Fortune 100 CEO grasped a concept that eludes others: news releases resonate in the company's voice unfiltered by pundits, reaching stakeholders directly and quickly, serve as enduring records in databases and searchable instantly.

Should CEO's personally review news releases? While most may not require scrutiny, astute executives recognize the profound impact of unfiltered information reaching thousands without intermediaries.

Even Warren Buffett, a non tech titan, recognized the worth of news releases in the digital era. The foresight led Berkshire Hathaway to acquire Business Wire in 2006, a global distributor of corporate news. Later, NASDAQ launched a competitive news wire, eventually partnering with MT in 2020.

Did Warren Buffett possess foresight that others missed?

Fusion of timeless wisdom and cutting-edge digital strategies underscores the CEO role as chief word wizard, and advise of corporate counsel, to strategically deploy “news releases” that share and shape positioning and messaging with lasting impact.