The role of PR in leadership change

Whether you’re the leader of the ruling political party or the CEO of a technology business, a change in leadership can make or break your organisation – and PR has a big influence on which way it goes. 

We’re guessing you’re as tired of politics as we are at this point, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that England will have, or already has (depending on when you’re reading this) a new prime minister on the 24th of July 2019.  This changing of the guard made us think about the importance of public relations when businesses go through a change in leadership.       

A new chief can be a fantastic opportunity to “wipe the slate clean” and set an organisation up for success, but the departure of a senior figure can also be seen as a sign that all is not well within a business.  Regardless of what has actually motivated the change, it’s critical to have a communication strategy in place that will present the news in a favourable light and allow you to get as much positive PR as possible.

PR leadership change following

companies should avoid centring the business around one person. 

If the whole business is based around the founder, as is often the case in technology start-ups, a change in leadership can be devastating as there isn’t any separation between the brand’s and the founder’s personality.  If possible, ensure that there is more than one company spokesperson and that different members of the leadership team are exposed to your customers and the press to minimise the perceived impact when a key member steps down.          

Changes in leadership don’t always involve a departure

In technology companies especially it’s not unusual for founders to step down as CEO but to remain in a technical lead or other senior role and, in buyouts, exiting leaders often remain in the company for extended periods to ensure a smooth handover.  Both these situations make it easy for your PR team to allay any concerns there might be about the transition as long as all parties have consistent messaging and can get along.

Internal communication about leadership change is as important as external public relations. 

Once the news is released, your staff will be the first point of contact for most of your prospects, clients and competitors and what they say has the potential to shape the industry’s opinion.  If staff are informed about the leadership changes, what the future plans involve and the affect it may have on their role in the company then they are more likely to project a positive outlook. 

leadership change PR communication

Whether the new leadership is a precursor to big business changes or not, it’s important to share regular updates with the industry in the wake of a significant shakeup.  These updates can either reassure the market that it’s “business as usual” or demonstrate how the changes are yielding good results. 

A change in leadership is a fantastic opportunity for positive PR, make the most of it! 

Get in touch if you’d like to find out more about managing PR around changes in leadership.