How to turn your new CEO into a megastar

Help employees get to know a new leader with a comprehensive change communication plan

Alison Davis
5 min readNov 14, 2018

Congratulations! Your organization just appointed a new CEO. Of course, you’ll send out an organizational change announcement to introduce the new boss. But you need to do a lot more to communicate, especially since employees are anxious about what changes the new CEO will make.

Every new leader develops a 100-day plan. When you’re asked to communicate about a change in the C-suite, take a page out of the CEO playbook and create a focused plan of your own.

Sending out an email organizational announcement is not enough. Yes, you have to do it, but helping employees through a change at the top requires ongoing communication. To ensure that happens, create a communication plan for a new CEO just as you would for any big change.

To help you jump-start the process, here are the seven key components you’ll want to include in your CEO communication plan:

· Situation analysis. A summary of a situation — a snapshot that conveys the change in leadership, why it happened, how it will benefit the organization

· Audience. Individuals or groups of employees you want to reach — including leaders, managers, remote workers, production employees, etc.

· Objectives. Specific outcomes you want to achieve by the audience. What do you want individuals and the groups of employees you identified to know, believe or do to support your new leader?

· Strategies. Methods or approaches for achieving your objectives.

· Tactics/timeline. Tools you’ll use or actions you’ll take and specific times/dates for completing tasks during those first 100 days.

· Key messages. The compelling story your CEO wants to tell.

· Measurement. A description of how metrics will be used to demonstrate effectiveness. For example, after the CEO meets with a particular group of employees, you can conduct a short survey to gather feedback. Was the meeting a good use of your time? Are you confident in the company’s direction?

While creating a communication plan takes time, it’s well spent. A well-defined plan will help you gain buy-in and ensure you stay on track during this important time for your CEO and rank-and-file employees.

Now that you’ve done all that upfront strategic planning, you can turn to tactics. What specific tools will you use to deliver on your strategy? Here are some ways to make the tactics in your plan memorable.

Make email work harder. Yes, you have to do the obligatory organizational announcement, but you can beef it up with a few simple tricks. Craft your email to be:

· Short. Include the essential information; no more. Remember, this email doesn’t have to be comprehensive. You’ve developed a plan that includes other tactics.

· Scannable. Structure copy for easy reading on any device with subheads, callouts, sidebars, and bulleted or number lists.

· Visual. Include a photo so employees can begin to recognize your new CEO. Use an org. chart to quickly show how the leadership team is structured.

While email is a quick way to get the word out, it’s impersonal and one-way. Include information in the announcement about how and when employees can expect to hear from the CEO.

Hit the road. Your new CEO is likely to be visiting your organization’s facilities as part of his or her onboarding. Maximize that time by arranging town hall, or all-hands, meetings. Consider it a listening tour and incorporate these suggestions to encourage employee participation:

· Find out what employees need. Prior to the town hall, ask employees to submit topics they’d like to hear about.

· Engage employees. Flip the traditional Q&A session on its head. Instead of asking for questions, have the CEO pose a question to the audience. Employees can respond with a show of hands or via a polling tool like Poll Everywhere.

· Create breakouts. Ask employees to work in groups to respond to this question: “What is the number-one challenge that we face?” A representative from each group can share the team’s answer.

Give employees an active role in the meeting and they’ll leave feeling energized. Plus, your CEO will gain insight into the organization and the workforce.

Make the most of peer influencers. Engage your internal influencers just as marketers tap into external influencers. Invite select employees — those others gravitate toward in the break room — to informal, small-group sessions with the CEO. Think coffee talk or fireside chat. Here are some tips to get the party started:

· Ditch the podium. Arrange the room so the CEO is sitting with employees, putting him literally on an equal level with them.

· Get personal. Your CEO could begin by sharing his or her early observations about the organization. Or talk about what is most exciting about his or her new position.

· Ask an open-ended question. “Is there something we haven’t talked about that you want to know more about?” “What’s happening in your part of the organization?” “What are you hearing from customers?”

Your CEO’s investment in time will pay off. The influencers who participated in the session will tell others about it and word will spread that the new leader is interested in hearing employees’ perspectives.

Be social. Employees want to hear from the CEO. Knowing how busy a CEO is, the trick is to make communicating to employees quick and easy.

· Keep it short and sweet. Encourage your CEO to write a microblog. In about 50 words, he or she can post a quick update, responding to the latest industry news or talking about the best dessert in the cafeteria.

· Hold a 30-minute “Live Chat.” Have the CEO introduce the topic, then invite comments or questions from employees.

· Share short videos. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Schedule a one-hour video shoot and ask the CEO lots of questions on several topics. Then edit responses down to short segments of 60 seconds of less. You’ll have enough to run a series of authentic videos that will keep your CEO visible.

When you’re faced with introducing a new CEO to employees, be sure to create a comprehensive change communication plan. And be sure to include lots of opportunities for discussion. Your CEO will learn about the organization and employees will be ready to support their new leader.



Alison Davis

In Dec 2021, we lost Alison to a five-year battle with cancer. Alison Davis led Davis & Company for over 35 years setting strategic direction for the firm.