How can we get our chief executive and board to engage with digital?

Evangelical digital people often make the same mistakes all experts make – talking too much jargon and not tailoring the conversation to the audience. For retail bosses dealing with a falling share price, unhappy investors or rent reviews, the last thing they want to hear is how social media can transform the business.

The best way to get chiefs and directors engaged is to focus on their main interests – investors, consumers and competitive advantage. Lucy Mann, business development director at digital consultancy Reform, says: “The questions they want answered are ‘how can I ensure my investors are happy’, ‘what are my customers doing, thinking and saying?’ and ‘how can I enhance my competitive advantage?’”

With investment strategies changing to meet evolving business models, many investors are looking more closely at companies’ digital plans. Mann says it is worth pointing out that digital is a survival issue for the entire business.

Bosses are also interested in what customers think, and digital offers an unprecedented level of insight into customer behaviour. Online data informs buying decisions, new product development and market analysis, so revelations and some pointed competitor benchmarking may well provide the entry point to a broader digital conversation.

Mann says: “With such a fast-changing market, senior executives must make quick decisions to respond effectively; engaging them to do so means answering the questions they’re asking.”