‘I am surprised that CEOs are reluctant to speak boldly’

UPS executive communications pro William Rawson Smith wrote me yesterday wondering why there are only two corporate speeches in the latest issue of Vital Speeches. “Are you running more elected official speeches vs. fewer corporate speeches? Are decent CEO speeches harder to come by these days? Just wondering about the trends in thought leadership given my unscientific sample and bias toward private sector points of view.”

Here’s my response to Bill:

Thanks for the note. It caused me to go back over the last year’s issues and note that we usually have about three pieces by corporate CEOs and/or heads of corporate lobbies, industry associations, etc.

The others (roughly) are split between elected officials and heads of nonprofits, universities, and lots of “others.”

I look for the most compelling 10 speeches I can find every month, no matter where they come from. My test of “compelling” is a mix of,

Does it interest me? Will it interest many of my readers? Do I consider the question it is considering to be one of historical and social importance? Is it an honest attempt to communicate? (And more!)

I don’t try to get more corporate speeches in there (though I think it’s important that corporate CEOs be represented, and I probably favor a pungent corporate speech over a pungent speech from a university professor, just because it’s more rare).

Private sector speeches are typically less bold, less far-reaching, less broadly relevant than political speeches, which do (at least) directly address the issues of the day.

Which is, after all, what Vital Speeches of the Day is all about.

And always has been.

I’m looking at the Aug. 1, 1945 issue, which happens to be in front of me. Ten speeches, and only one corporate speech—by the aptly named chairman of United States Steel Corp., Irving S. Olds.

All the above said: What this means is good news for the corporate scribe who can pull off something really good. Near-guaranteed publication in Vital Speeches.

Bill replied:

With the role of business at the center of the debate on our economy (the nation’s top issue), I am surprised that CEOs are reluctant to speak boldly on taxes, regulation, global trade, economic growth, and the dysfunctional environment in Washington that is strangling our economy. I know these issues are on their minds. And I think people want to hear from business thought leaders because they bring a practical experience solving problems.

My response to CEOs now is the same as my response to CEOs always: Put your mouth where your money is.

I’m always here: [email protected].

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