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We are seeing the green shoots of a new style of executive communications. 

A growing number of CEOs are posting Instagram-style videos on social media aimed at connecting with a younger, larger group of stakeholders.

Blackstone President Jonathan Gray, a pioneer in the genre, recently posted a video of himself explaining the company’s earnings as he strolled down a long corridor at headquarters.

The casual walk-and-talk, which appeared on LinkedIn, attracted more than 4,400 likes and 134 comments.  It should be required viewing for anyone in PR, IR or executive comms.

It’s a strategy I call DTS, or “direct to stakeholder.” Like its better-known cousin, direct to consumer, it bypasses the traditional avenues of promotion: advertising and public relations. 

Gray’s video, while obviously not unplanned, still has the feel of one-take spontaneity. At one point a woman appears in the background and, realizing she’s in the shot, ducks out. 

The hallmark of the new style is being casual and seemingly not professionally produced. Videos are shot on an iPhone by a colleague or the person themselves. Written posts use informal language. 

The most publicized example was a pair of videos Mark Zuckerberg posted about Meta. One announced a new operating system and the other focused on their AR/VR headsets

The response to Zuckerberg was enthusiastic. Brett Dashevsky pointed out: “Zuck has gone full influencer. Mini mic and everything. Raw, authentic with minimal editing. This is the way.” 

Last week, Shopify President Harley Finkelstein shot his own up-close video on earnings.

“Harley is bringing company presidenting into the 21st century,” tweeted PR guru Lulu Cheng Meservey, who recently wrote a “manifesto” urging companies to “go direct” with communications.

The comments on Gray’s post were similar. One person wrote that the video showcases “the critical role of having an accessible leader/mentor.” Another said: “Public relations 301…graduate level communications with stakeholders.”

Part of the reason the videos are so notable is they are so rare. 

Most executives opt for the traditional route of hiring PR agencies to secure coverage on CNBC or Bloomberg TV. But not everyone can get booked. 

Also, the reality is that those avenues are not as effective as they were. Younger people don’t watch as much TV or read newspapers and the majority of mainstream media is behind paywalls.

There is a huge advantage to producing your own content: You can tell your own story to a wider array of stakeholders, including employees. You can also interact with the people who comment. 

There are executives who leverage DTS-style communications. The majority are West Coast tech executives, such as venture capitalists Marc Andreessen and Paul Graham or the head of OpenAI, Sam Altman. 

Some CEOs say they don’t have the time to post online. 

That will likely change as more of their peers get in the game.

Like Jon Gray, they just need to walk and talk at the same time. 

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