We often hear talk about this topic: many companies, particularly larger corporations, seem to have trouble connecting with their target audience. This can be attributed to a variety of factors, but one recurring theme remains. In many industries, there is a large disconnect and gap between the senior executives and the end consumer.

While this may not seem like the end of the world — after all, the company isn’t selling or promoting its executive team — this perception can still have a bearing effect on the reputation of the company among consumers.

Consider this. The CEO of a pharmaceutical company has been embroiled in controversy over recent litigation surrounding the promotion of opioids to doctors. The CEO repeatedly goes on public record to renounce the shady practices of alleged bribery by representatives that push doctors to prescribe medications and painkillers that can be highly addictive.

However, while the CEO is on the podium committing to stopping these practices, the pharmaceutical reps on the ground continue to act in the exact opposite manner. They do whatever it takes to make the sale, even at the risk of the health of thousands of patients.

This conflicting behavior, unfortunately, reflects the most on the executives of the company. The fact that the CEO either refuses to acknowledge or does not know about the alleged malpractice shows a distinct lack of touch and connection to the issue. In turn, this causes consumers to lose trust in the company — an uphill battle to begin with for big corporations in industries such as big pharma.

So how could the executive team have handled the issue better?

First, taking proper ownership of an issue can go a long way to restoring damaged trust. Humility is a personality trait sadly lacking among the executive ranks. Rather, it seems to more often be focused on appearances, public relations, and avoidance of “trouble”.

In order to bridge this gap, an executive must exhibit genuine humility. Of course, in the landscape we exemplify here, there are many factors that play into how an executive team handles an issue. However, at its core, a display of humility and ownership of fault or wrongdoing is not outside of the realm of reason.

Using the example of the pharmaceutical corporation, of course, many other layers to the debate exist. However, the conduct of the executive team reflects on the overall image of the brand. This image is monitored by the public, who already have a sense of mistrust in large companies.

At any rate, executives or owners of any business of any size should make efforts to bridge that gap. Many consumers have a mistrust of those in higher positions due to previous experience with ingenuine interactions. A transparent, authentic leader will forge an easier connection with the end consumer, easing the tension and mistrust and leading to a more profitable relationship on both ends of the spectrum.

 

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.

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