Philly's third annual CEO and Leadership Symposium

What do Philly executives talk about when they get together?

On Wednesday, the third annual CEO and Leadership Symposium hosted a panel featuring some of Philly’s biggest names: Comcast Senior Executive Vice President David Cohen, Visit Philadelphia President and CEO Meryl Levitz and Dranoff Properties President and Founder Carl Dranoff.

The three execs presented some of the biggest lessons they’ve learned about how to build a successful business and stay relevant in Philly.

The panel was invite-only, and it was mostly other CEOs who got the opportunity to attend. Didn’t get an invitation? No worries. We scored a seat and evesdropped. Here are three key takeaways.

Dranoff: Capitalize on change

Hot take: Change doesn’t have to be an enemy of business.

If you can use it to get people what they want, Dranoff said, you’ve found the sweet spot.

That’s how Dranoff made his early profits. In the 1980s, he noticed an uptick in people who wanted to rent, alongside a drop in traditional factory and warehouse jobs. He scooped up several emptying warehouses in the area around Second and Market streets, then rehabbed them into apartment complexes. And that was the start of Old City as we know it.

“The apartment market has changed, the product has changed somewhat,” Dranoff said, relating his M.O. 30 years ago to what he does today. “But it’s basically more of the same. People want great spaces, and they want them for an affordable price.”

Levitz: Presentation is everything

It’s not enough to make great stuff. How you show it off — particularly in the age of social media — is just as important.

“When we think about Philly’s attributes,” Levitz said, “we now think, ‘How can we present this on Facebook?’”

Levitz offered a couple best practices for maintaining your social media presence.

1) Photos, photos and more photos. Visit Philly keeps a database of compelling images to use on social. Yeah, this one might sound simple, but you’d be surprised how many more views your content will get with professional-quality pics, she said.

2) Blogs. No, they’re not dead. Visit Philly’s events blog uwishunu has been around since 2006, and it still has a huge following. Posting regular content on a blog can give people consistent information in a more personal way, Levitz said, which helps them stay engaged with your social presence.

Cohen: Meet people where they are

Cohen confesses this is something he learned recently, over the course of the past decade. With new technology, he noted, there have been tremendous changes in the way people consume video content.

“All you have to do is think about the way you consume media compared to 10 years ago,” Cohen said. “You’re often not consuming media in your living room anymore.”

Comcast Corporation is working to change its public perception from a cable company to a media company. For Cohen, this meant making sure Comcast content was accessible on demand — from your iPad, or in the car.

But the lesson is relevant for all Philly leaders, Cohen said.

When’s the last time you took a step back and considered: Am I giving people what they actually want, where they want and how they want it?

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...