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Getting in the Ear of your CEO (or organisational lead)

This article has been written for those in organisations who are improving things , changing culture, embedding sustainability etc.

This article is to help you get senior commitment to your next project by getting the support of the lead of the organisation (CEO or equivalent). 

We are all about identifying the most effective actions you can take towards your objectives. One action which takes the least time but has the most impact is to get yor CEO on board for your project. 


I know what you are thinking...

"They will never want to listen to me they are way too busy!"

it's funny...everyone else is thinking the same thing too... so your message does not actually have to compete with other staff members.



This is a great example from Royal Free NHS of how getting the CEO on board for your project can maximise the impact! 

How to reach out to powerful people via phone

  • Call when the gatekeeper is not in

Your CEO is probably going to be into work late and early. Call before the PA turns up.


  • Be concise and have a call to action

You need to be able to explain what you want in 30 seconds. What is in it for them or the organisations. And you need a simple call to action that they can say yes to. This might be a meeting request for example. 


How to reach out to powerful people via email


  • Aim for the right people

Your CEO probably won’t respond to an email you’ve sent and you know that they are incredibly busy, instead, send an email to their assistant.  Build rapport with their PA. Get to know them and listen to their issues. This is going to give you a much better chance that your email is forwarded on. 


  • Be clear, direct, and well-researched

Find a common interest, don’t waffle, share the most relevant stats in a concise way, and explain succinctly what you are trying to achieve and what you need from them. Get straight to the point, make your request politely, then sign off.


  • Be respectful and give them an easy way out

Don’t say ‘I look forward to speaking with you’, as it assumes that they will give you their time when it’s possible that they won’t. Instead, say something along the lines of ‘I respect that you are incredibly busy and have many other priorities. If you’re not able to speak with me, I understand, but even 10 minutes would be a huge help’.


  • Meet them on their terms

Their schedule is likely to be way less flexible than yours, so fit yourself around their needs- even if that means a 7am start.


Here is another great example of getting a CEO onboard!

Nurturing that professional relationship


  • Follow up in a powerful way

If you have spoken to your CEO in the past or your email was successful and you got a meeting, be sure to follow that up with a polite message a week or two later. If they mentioned something about their interests (eg golf or robotics!), do a bit of research and add to the conversation about robotics. Do not follow up with another request. That’s something to do later. If you can’t add more value to the dialogue, don’t follow up yet. Wait until you have something powerful and relevant to add.


  • Don’t keep in touch just for the sake of it!

Ask whomever you are emailing, be it the CEO or someone else, for insight on the things they are qualified to do or answer. Ask for approval on the things they can approve, like budgets, purchases, promotions, etc. Don’t just check in and say hi, that’s not useful to anyone.


  • ‘No’ can mean many things

No can mean that you didn’t ask correctly. No can mean that they are too busy. No can mean they don’t think you’re ready. No can mean that you maybe need to get more creative about your approach, or you need to try again from a different angle. No can mean that you should try to get their attention in some other form, but don’t ever be argumentative, stubborn, or harassing.



Self-belief and perseverance

Have you ever heard of Tim Ferriss? Tim is an American author, investor, entrepreneur, and public speaker. He is also an angel investor and advisor to Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Evernote, and Uber. He is one of most well-respected and admired entrepreneurial minds in the world, and when he talks, people listen.

However, Tim has the same problem as you. He doesn’t always get responses to his emails, he also struggles to find the personal email or the people he wants to contact, and he isn’t always recognised and given the respect he deserves. Tim does not give up, he is relentless. Not taking ‘no’ for an answer is something he challenges students and guests of his public speeches to do in pursuit of contacting important people.


You should read this article for some healthy inspiration...



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Joseph Kennedy

Joseph Kennedy

My journey is education, communication and innovation. My destination is a world free from environmental collapse, ecological ruin and unbreathable air.


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