Hitting the C-suite spot: How to reach decision makers on social

January 23, 2018

Written by Benedict Nicholson

Knowing how to reach the C-suite on social can be a tricky proposition. We take a look at the top content getting in front of decision makers, and what makes it successful.

Reaching the C-suite and making sure your content is read by decision-makers is a key objective in a number of industries these days. It’s all about getting your content in front of the right eyes at the right time. One way to do that is by making sure your stories stand out on social.

This is a space where not all publishers are created equal, so we took a look back over the last year to see which of the publications targeted at business leaders and political influencers garnered the most attention. 

What are the top publications read by the C-Suite?

We looked at the entirety of 2017 to see how ten of the biggest publications read by CEOs fared in terms of social engagements, across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

These publications were the New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Fortune, The Economist, The Harvard Business Review, and the Financial Times.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the New York Times and the Washington Post were well ahead of all of their peers, with the Times even being in a class of its own.

C-suite publications

These two publishing behemoths had nearly 600 million engagements on their content in 2017, more than two times the rest of the top ten put together.

Forbes, Bloomberg, and the Wall Street Journal are the closest competitors, but they don’t really come close to the big two.

This is mainly due to the sheer ubiquitousness of the Post and the Times as journalistic institutions; they don’t publish orders of magnitude more than their closest rivals, but they do engage a minimum of five times more than anyone else on the list.

HBR actually edges out the New York Times in terms of average engagements on their articles, at just over 4,500, more than two times that of any other publisher. The Economist also performs very well in comparison to its circulation, garnering slightly more engagements than the Washington Post does on an average article.

Average C-suite

In terms of reaching the C-suite specifically, it’s important to look a little deeper than just across all of social, as that can be a rather broad stroke.

Many in the business sphere get their daily reading directly from LinkedIn, so it is important to analyze which publishers perform particularly well on that platform, as the picture is somewhat different to that than on social generally.

Pubs by LinkedIn share

Forbes and CNBC were the big winners on LinkedIn, with Forbes well ahead of the rest with over 20 million engagements on its content on the platform, representing over one-third of its total engagements across all of social. HBR was also especially successful on LinkedIn, with over 45 percent of its total engagements coming on the platform.

The New York Times still had a reasonably high number of engagements, but the proportion was very low, at only 2.2 percent, reflecting the fact that the business sphere is not necessarily their central focus. The same can be said of the Washington Post, only 1.2 percent of whose engagements came on LinkedIn.

The names we associate with business news; Forbes, CNBC, Bloomberg, The Economist, and the Financial Times all had proportionally much greater success on LinkedIn, which reinforces the type of content and indeed publication that tends to be successful on the platform.

But what content was most successful, both on social generally and on LinkedIn specifically?

What is the top content read by the C-Suite? 

Politics dominated the conversation across the year, and unsurprisingly the New York Times and the Washington Post were the leaders in terms of content.

What was perhaps surprising was the fact that the Post, which had the most engaging story of the year amongst these publishers, about a list of banned words presented to the CDC by the government, only had one story in the top ten. The rest were rounded out by six stories from the New York Times, one from Bloomberg, one from CNBC, and one from Fortune.

C-suite articles

The non-political stories included obituaries of Hugh Hefner, an excoriating op-ed article on Harvey Weinstein from Salma Hayek, and a piece about a couple whose names matched those of the hurricanes that devastated the US last year.

If we break it down by publication, the story changes a little. There is still a political slant, and it’s still almost exclusively hard news, but stories with a business focus also come in, along with more general interest pieces such as a travel advice piece from Forbes. 

c-suite article by publication

On LinkedIn, the focus was very different. The vast majority of the top content came from CNBC, and no articles came from the New York Times or the Washington Post, again emphasizing the success to be had with business-focused content on the platform.

The most popular article by a considerable margin was one from The Economist exploring the value data now has in our society and how society might need to change to accommodate that fact.

Most of the top content on LinkedIn was a series of video explainers with commentator and public speaker Suzy Welch, with headlines such as “What to say when a job interviewer asks, what’s your current salary?’” or “The surprising trait Jeff Bezos looks for in successful employees.”


While this may not be content specifically aimed at the C-suite, it shows you what type of article does well on the platform, and what the LinkedIn algorithm likes, so that you can plan your content strategy accordingly. We can see that snappy, easy to digest video content was a real success story on LinkedIn.

Despite CNBC’s relative domination of the top ten, it was Forbes that appeared the most frequently in the top 100, which goes some way to explaining their overall success. CNBC had great success on its Suzy Welch videos, but beyond that Forbes was the more engaged brand on LinkedIn.

Who are the top authors read by the C-Suite? 

Given the political nature of most of the top content, it is hardly surprising that most of the top authors covered specifically the White House beat or the politics beat.


There were a few authors who are generalists, as well as one blogger, but the majority were reporters on a beat (normally politics) writing stories on a regular basis.

How can you reach the C-Suite? 

Know your publishers: The New York Times and the Washington Post performed best overall, but if we vary the framework slightly this changes. Harvard Business Review had the highest average engagements per article, and Forbes and CNBC did best on LinkedIn.

Know your platform: What platform content was posted on played a huge part in its success. There was no crossover between the top stories overall and the top stories on LinkedIn, so a tailored strategy works best.

Content: A good deal of the top content was political, and almost all of it in these publications was hard news. C-suite workers are unlikely to be reading listicles, after all.

Authors: The top authors were mostly dedicated reporters in the political sphere, though some general assignment reporters also drove considerable engagement.

Want to see which video trends are perfect for your audience? Check NewsWhip Spike to drill down into any industry or topic.

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