1. Serve as a CEO’s confident confidant.
Sitting in meetings at major Silicon Valley companies such as Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco, I’m often the only person in the room who doesn’t have a few thousand people reporting to me, or a multi-billion-dollar target to meet. This can be an incredibly useful role that a CEO will come to value.
As the speechwriter, I’m the one person in the room without an agenda. A CEO once told me, “Ian, it’s lonely at the top. I’ve seen every scam that managers can pull to cover their rear ends. I need someone like you who can tell it like it is.”
Key lesson: Speechwriters with the confidence to speak up will become the confidant and trusted adviser of senior executives.
2. Be an impartial observer.
I was once brought in to edit an annual report for a European client with four divisions. My role was to resolve the different viewpoints of each group. The vice president of communications needed an outside consultant with the independence required to write a cohesive document.
Executive communications professionals are in a unique position to be impartial observers in large organizations with multiple departments and competing interests.