Messaging Up: The 4 Cs of Pitching to the C-suite

With the right approach to “messaging up,” you can get your creative project past the next level.

abstract photo of lights and building architecture

You’re a senior marketing leader, and you’re ready to launch a big creative project. You’ve mapped out the need, approach, timeline and budget. The last hurdle to clear is CEO or board approval. It’s time to message up.

Messaging up is a distinct sales approach. Do it right and your audience not only believes in your idea but also feels empowered by it. Do it wrong and the work you have poured into a project is halted and dismissed.

To make sure you get it right, remember these four Cs for pitching to the C-suite.

1. Clarity

CEOs and board members are strapped for time. They depend on you to have researched, contemplated, analyzed and ultimately recommended the right solution for the issue at hand. That said, the biggest mistake people make when messaging up is overstuffing statistics and complicating the story. Approach your presentation with clarity. Ensure your story, down to each data point, is crafted to the needs of your audience. Remember, one or two on-target statistics beat 10 scattered stats.

2. Concise

A CEO has perfected the art of raw decision-making on the fly. To support this style, distill your full presentation into the top 10 percent of information you simply must share. For example, if you have a 40-slide PowerPoint, cut it at least in half, if not to only 10 slides. One day before the meeting, ensure that you are level-setting and prepared by sharing a brief of what you will present. Upon entering the room, outline what the next 30 to 60 minutes will look like for your audience. A concise plan allows your message to shine clearly.

3. Connection

Connect your idea to the overall brand objectives or direction of the company. Clearly demonstrate alignment and show how your concept supports the company’s goals broadly, but also the specific, nuanced goals of the individuals in the room. Listen and tailor throughout the presentation. If your CEO homes in on one area or key point in the presentation, go deep in that area and skip material that may not resonate as strongly. It’s all about listening in the moment and being willing to improvise.

4. Completion

What separates an idea from innovation is implementation. Show a clear path for completion of the project. Leaders are going to think about what resources are needed, what timelines are realistic and, ultimately, what results are going to come from a project or program. Step back and demonstrate how your creative concept will both meet logistical needs and, in the bigger sense, position your organization as a thought leader.

Last, do not be afraid to show your passion for the project. In any sales effort, genuine passion can invigorate the room.

Other Insights


Man practicing parkour and hanging from the side of tall structure looking out at the city
Man practicing parkour and hanging from the side of tall structure looking out at the city

How A.I. Could Make Your Content Strategy Irrelevant in 5 Years (and How You Can Prepare)

If you believe Elon Musk, A.I. is a bigger threat to the human race than nuclear weapons. But before the machines gather the self-awareness and gumption to chuck us into the trash bin of time, it will first come for the SEOs.  For years, I’ve convinced myself that the technology might displace the jobs of […]


Book open on side with pages fanned out
Book open on side with pages fanned out

Book Review of “Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen” by Dan Heath

Full disclosure: Reviewers of business books do not read every word of every book. The stack of books never seems to get any smaller. Deadlines loom. And to be honest, business books are usually pretty formulaic: anecdote masquerading as meaningful example, what I see that no one else in history has ever seen, revolutionary methodology […]


Receive Content Marketing Smarts

Get our complimentary, award-winning orange magazine, full of creative insights on content marketing and industry trends.

Send me orange

Stay Connected With Us

Subscribe to our newsletter to get your monthly dose of content directly in your inbox.

Sign me up