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South African CEOs and MDs can no longer get away with not being digitally savvy: a
new survey shows more than 90% of companies expect their head honchos to be up to
date with the latest advances in the digital and social media space, as the online
environment becomes more critical to sustaining a successful business.

According to Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters, which polled firms in the
traditionally conservative financial services, engineering, FMCG and manufacturing
sectors, nearly all assume that the Head of the organisation will at least have an
understanding of the importance of digital technology for the company, even if they
personally do not engage in online or social media.

“Your CEO might not tweet or even have a Facebook account,” says Debbie
Goodman-Bhyat of Jack Hammer, “but he or she must be far-sighted enough to see the
potential benefit of these channels for the business. Obviously some industries are
more likely to engage with such media but the days of ignoring the online space as
‘irrelevant to our core business and customers’ or ‘for the youngsters’ are over. As
more and more South Africans get connected to the Internet and share information, so
there are more and more chances for a company’s reputation and market share to be
made – or broken.”

She strongly cautions against handing over your company’s digital presence to “a
junior who seems to know they’re doing because they spend all day on their iPhone.
“You wouldn’t make someone straight out of school with Matric maths your CFO, so
don’t fall into the same trap when it comes to your social media. There are numerous
brands which had to put expensive PR campaigns in place to win back customers
because an inexperienced person was at the helm of their social media accounts.
There are seasoned professionals who are intimately familiar with the opportunities
and challenges of the online environment – and they should be recruited into your
strategic communications mix.

“Before hiring someone to drive your social media strategy (either internally or as
an outsourced agency partner), make sure you’ve cut through the digital jargon, and
have fully understood the individual’s background, their track record with similar
initiatives in the past, and the impact, scope and cost of the project or strategy
they are recommending – the same fundamentals you would use for any other strategic
hire”, cautions Goodman-Bhyat.

“It’s quite easy to get swept up with the hype of new media and to feel compelled to
participate in costly digital campaigns purely because ‘everyone else is doing it’.
Just as a traditional Marketing Executive is expected to demonstrate a business case
and tracking measures for marketing expenditure, so too the Online Strategist should
have the skills and experience to do the same.”

Goodman-Bhyat says executives need to see digital media as “word of mouth… on
steroids. News of great customer service or a poor product can spread within seconds
and reach some of your most desirable clients and consumers. Many local companies
have been burnt because they underestimated the power of social media. What you and
your team took years to build up could be harmed within minutes if you don’t have a
comprehensive digital media strategy and competent manager in place.”

And while reducing their business insights into 140 characters may be intimidating
to some MBA graduates who run million-dollar multinationals, she points out that
more and more CEOs and MDs are taking the plunge – and building up loyal followings
at the same time.
“Visionaries like Bill Gates (Microsoft), Richard Branson (Virgin), Jack Welch
(General Electric) and Martha Stewart (Martha Stewart Living) all maintain lively
Twitter profiles. Even Zwelinzima Vavi, the secretary-general of Cosatu, has taken
to the twittersphere.

“Modern consumers expect to have two-way conversations with brands via Facebook,
blogs, forums, Twitter and even YouTube. As the head of the brand, you need to
ensure that your team is empowered to harness these channels. With CEOs and MDs
getting younger – the Jack Hammer Executive Report for 2012/13 shows that the
youngest South African Top40 company CEO is only 41 – the time when PAs printed out
emails and took down dictated responses to them is truly past!”

International surveys show that consumers who engage with brands digitally spend
more than those who don’t. Research by The Economist Intelligence Unit shows that at
least two-thirds of the organisations achieving the highest returns reported that
their C-suites are “active advocates” of social media.
“Think of it as another way of getting more people to be loyal to your brand – the
more loyalty, the better your bottom line,” says Goodman-Bhyat.

ISSUED BY: Lange 360

For more information contact:
Debbie Goodman-Bhyat at Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters on 021 425 6677
( or Mervyn Dziva at Lange 360 on 021
448 7407

About Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters
Jack Hammer provides a fresh approach to executive headhunting by cutting through
the ordinary. They have achieved this over the last decade by using strategic
research to drill down and expand their market intelligence beyond the obvious and
source the real gems of talent. The knowledge gained in the process enables them to
give clients a competitive edge by ensuring they find the right executive talent –
in a manner that is both responsible and ethical.

Debbie Goodman-Bhyat
Debbie is the founder and Managing Director of Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters –
rated by the Business Day as one of SA’s leading executive search firms.

Jack Hammer, with Debbie at its helm, has become a cornerstone of the South African
headhunting sector, continually and vocally aiming to raise the bar in the local
executive search industry. As a result, in 2011 Jack Hammer was selected as the
exclusive South African partner of IRC Global Executive Search Partners, a top 10
global search firm, and has now extended its global footprint to more than 70 cities

Debbie is a founding member of the Cape Town Chapter of EO – a global
Entrepreneurship Organisation with more than 8500 members worldwide.

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