Polish CEOs are falling behind the digital curve
We asked ourselves a pretty simple question: are Polish companies truly digital?
How many of the top Polish businesses and CEOs are at the top of their game with digital communications? We were intrigued by this question, and when we did the homework the results surprised us. It seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? Any top company needs to be able to communicate with a huge number of people at any one time. Reaching out to customers, stakeholders, journalists or politicians to influence and engage with them is the bread and butter of any business today. It matters all the time, but especially when there’s a crisis or situation in which you need to connect with your clients, fans and followers, rather than try and reach them through someone else’s media channels.
But what we found showed that many companies are now way behind the digital curve. Not only that, but many CEOs – the public faces of their organisations – are faceless, from a communications perspective. We looked at the social media presence of the Warsaw Stock Exchange WIG30 – the top 30 businesses in Poland – and examined whether they were on the top social media channels, and if so, how active they were.
The Polish ‘Digital Prezes’ has a long way to go
Our research shows that just 40 percent of Polish CEOs have a LinkedIn account and of those, most have just a few hundred connections. Only five out of the 30 have a Twitter account, but of those, only two have been recently updated. And just one CEO, Energa’s Daniel Obajtek, has a public Facebook page (as opposed to a private profile) although it hasn’t been updated since his last role as a politician, suggesting it’s not active. Together, these social platforms now have almost 20 million users in Poland according to Social Press, yet the top Polish CEOs are almost universally absent.
Perhaps CEOs think that it’s enough to leave their public engagement up to traditional media channels like print, TV or radio? That would be true if their audience was anyone over 35. A recent report by the Reuters Institute of Journalism showed that on average 56 percent of under 35 year olds use social media as their main source of news. This means that with every passing year these CEOs are losing the ability to reach people with their story – and that of their company.
So should CEOs be concerned about whether or not they have a social reach? We think yes. Let’s imagine a situation in which a crisis hits a big business or organisation. At that point, it’s critical to come to a corporate position and quickly get the message out there. A truly ‘digital Prezes’ with a big following on core channels has a much better chance of influencing the people that matter, when it matters most, rather than waiting to secure a TV appearance over which he or she has no editorial control (unlike on owned social media channels). When things are going well and you want to tell the world about your success, the same rule applies. And when you’re looking to attract the best possible young employees, showing your human side through social media can make a big difference. One US study showed that 61 percent of millennials though a social CEO came across as more trustworthy.
‘At the top level, the need to influence and engage is absolutely crucial, especially in the digital era.’
Perhaps there’s a more painful fact to admit. That in the race to become reach the top of his/her games, communicating has never been a CEO’s primary focus. But at the top level the need to influence and engage is absolutely crucial, especially in the digital era.
Perhaps we’re being unfair. A similar 2016 survey of top Canadian CEOs found that just 45 percent have a LinkedIn account and seven percent are on Twitter. And a 2015 survey of Fortune 500 CEOs found that only 32 percent use LinkedIn and 10 percent are on Twitter.
Hmm. Ask my PR manager…
How are the top Polish businesses doing with their online communications? We rate Polish companies as “average” in terms of their online engagement. Our research shows that 27 percent of companies don’t have a corporate Facebook page. As many as 15 percent don’t use LinkedIn, and most of those do not regularly update their profile. Less than half use Twitter, and a full quarter have yet to set up a YouTube account. So there is clearly much to do. For Polish CEOs looking to gain an edge over the competition and lead the pack, putting together a social-first strategy in their companies from top to bottom should be an urgent priority.
Hanna Dymek-Jara is a pioneer of public relations in Poland having been involved in the setting up of Burson-Marsteller in the beginning of 1990s, Hanna is CEO and founder of Questia, a leading PR consultancy in Poland working with a wide range of brands and businesses.
75.8 percent of Poles had access to the Internet at home by 2016.
12 hours a week was the time spent online by an average Pole in 2016.