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 & Chairman of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently owned PR firms in the United States. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth and vision, with the agency earning accolades including being named a Top 50 Global PR Agency by PRovoke Media, a top three NYC PR agency by O'Dwyers, one of Inc. Magazine's Best Workplaces and being awarded multiple American Business Awards, including a Stevie Award for PR Agency of the Year. With over 25 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected public relations executives. Throughout his career he has advised leading and high-growth businesses, organizations, leaders and boards across corporate, technology and consumer industries. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications. He has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly in the media and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. Torossian's strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, a Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a recipient of Crain's New York Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Outside of 5W, Torossian serves as a business advisor to and investor in multiple early stage businesses across the media, B2B and B2C landscape. Torossian is the proud father of two daughters. He is an active member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of multiple not for profit organizations.