BCW president, North America Chris Foster talks with Doug Simon about what CEOs need to do to be effective communicators in an era of change on the latest “PR’s Top Pros Talk” video interview.

In the early days of the pandemic, Foster says, “employers were a real source of information,” but as the pandemic progressed and the national dialogue on race took center stage, “there was an expectation that CEOs would communicate empathetically with staff, they’d communicate even when they didn't have answers, they’d give staff and customers a lens into their thinking.”

While he tells Simon that the change “has been great for all of us,” he adds that “it's also put a lot of pressure on CEOs and c-suite executives to communicate in ways that we may not have had to two or three years ago.”

His advice for CEO’s who aren’t all that comfortable communicating on a public stage? “Prepare, prepare, prepare.” Brands are expected to have a point of view, and “even if we don't want to take a hard stand, we are oftentimes being asked to explain why.”

Foster also says that at BCW, “we caution our clients to be authentic, incredibly authentic, and really think about the role that their organizations can play in societal issues so that we don't overstep.”

As a person of color leading an agency, Foster says he finally has “a seat at the table where I could affect real change,” and he discusses the responsibilities that come with that. “I lead all the people in North America of BCW Group,” he says, “but I do want to use my voice. I want to use whatever influence I have to lean in to diverse staff, to developing our staff and being very sensitive to the challenges around working in advisory services.”

While Foster says that the PR industry has “a lot of work to do” to step up its performance on DE&I, he remains optimistic. “We're not where we want to be by any stretch. But I do continue to see a relentless focus on trying to get it right. No one's perfect, no organization is perfect, no agency is perfect. But I think we're learning, I think we continue to take on difficult issues, I think that forums like this to bring race and equality into a regular course of conversation are important.”

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