How Goldman Sachs showcases its leaders in authentic messaging

Glean tips from the finance giant’s savvy approach toward amplifying, humanizing and harmonizing its execs’ voices online.

Goldman Sachs executive comms tips

What image does “bank executive” conjure?

You might envision a stodgy, scowling, besuited old man—possibly wearing a monocle—but how about an Instagram-savvy DJ?

The latter is true for Kaydee Bridges, Goldman Sachs’ VP of digital and social media strategy, who spoke at Ragan’s 2019 Leadership and Executive Communications Conference in Washington, D.C.

Bridges shed light on Goldman Sachs’ strategy for making its execs shine online, offering these tips, tactics and takeaways to the packed house of nearly 100 communicators in attendance:

Use social media to tell your own story. Bridges opened with a concession that Goldman Sachs’ reputation suffered as a result of the 2008 financial meltdown. There was plenty of content about the bank (and its executives) online—not much of it flattering. Her team has set out to counter the negative perceptions of bankers as a homogenous gang of aloof, wealthy fat cats.

“Social media is the best channel for being approachable, authentic and transparent,” she says. “It’s a great way to increase trust, take a stand, respond to critics, and speak directly to the public.”

As traditional news outlets wither and fade, there’s a huge opportunity for companies to tell their own stories, she says. Social media platforms enable you to bypass traditional publications, but success requires commitment, investment and lots of planning.

Choose platforms that play to your execs’ (and employees’) strengths. Goldman Sachs focuses on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, though the bank does advertise on Reddit and Snapchat. Bridges touted the strengths and weaknesses of each platform, and she suggested strategically selecting channels based on your execs’ strengths. Thin-skinned leaders probably shouldn’t be on Twitter, for example, and don’t bother with Instagram (which she described as a “place of joy”) unless you have a plan to consistently deliver compelling visuals.

Bridges also recommended finding your internal social media “power users”—those already with established followings online. She cited LinkedIn research that found employees, on average, have online networks 10 times larger than a corporate brand, and that workers tend to get twice as many content click-throughs.

So, don’t feel obligated to be on every channel. Invest in platforms that enhance your execs’ finer qualities.

Plan your content, and invest accordingly. What’s your goal? Whom are you trying to reach? What’s your budget? What will these social media efforts accomplish for the organization? Make sure your execs answer these questions before committing to anything.

“Every platform now is visual,” Bridges warns, so they require plenty of planning and prep. However, that doesn’t mean doing everything from scratch. Don’t lose news you can use. Amplify events, media appearances and other existing content, and repurpose pieces across different platforms.

Don’t just toot your own horn, either. Share helpful news about colleagues, peers and industry trends. Participate in other people’s content as well.

Bridges shared an anecdote about Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, who went on NBA player JJ Redick’s podcast. The appearance led to huge spike in Solomon’s Wikipedia entry, Business Insider eventually wrote about the two, and Redick agreed to participate in Goldman Sachs’ “Talks at GS” TV program.

You might not have the capacity to produce 135+ videos or nearly 50 podcast episodes a year, as the Goldman Sachs team does—and your boss might not crank out “EDM bangers” on the weekends—but you can certainly be more strategic about your output.

Bridges advises holding leaders accountable online by encouraging them to “reply, acknowledge comments and reciprocate,” she says. Bridges also offers this framework for getting an executive social media program off the ground:

  • Crawl: Staff up, establish a team, and make sure everyone understands the commitment requirements.
  • Walk: Establish a balanced posting cadence, maintain an authentic voice, and tag other event participants or relevant people online.
  • Run: Offer utility and advice to followers, genuinely engage with followers, reciprocate, and activate on all relevant channels. Also, be proactive about commenting on other influencers’ posts.

As for measurement, that depends on your goals—but you can start by monitoring mentions, brand sentiment, reach and overall engagement.

Of course, some benefits can’t be measured. “Even skeptical people can warm to a personable presence,” Bridges says. “Social media breaks down barriers and builds understanding. It’s a great way to engage employees—and influence the organization.”

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