Personal branding and profile raising is a key tactic for CEOs and executive teams looking to succeed in business today. So what’s it all about, why do you need it and how do you go about it?
Research published by global PR firm Weber Shandwick in 2015 found 81 percent of senior executives worldwide perceived CEO engagement and visibility as critical to company reputation and success.
44 per cent attributed CEO reputation as contributing to a company’s market value, while over 70 per cent believed it also played a role in attracting investors, generating positive media attention, affording crisis protection, retaining current employees and attracting new talent.
Half of executives interviewed for this survey also believed that a CEO’s reputation would become increasingly important to company reputation in coming years.
Which brings us to today, where CEOs and executive teams are increasingly allocating budget for their personal brands. John Hall, CEO of Influence & Co. noted this in an article for Forbes titled ‘7 Personal Brand Trends And The Needed Investment In Yourself In 2018,’ saying:
“It’s becoming rare for me to talk to a CEO of a company who doesn’t have personal branding or thought leadership as a line on his or her budget. It wasn’t always this way, but now it’s becoming its own line item on individual budgets.”
As the old adage goes ‘people buy from people’ and increasingly consumers are looking to do business with companies that are aligned with their own personal values. There’s no better way to communicate the vision and values of your company, and build trust with your customers and the wider target market, than through your leaders.
A strong and respected personal brand helps to -
● Win more business. Hall says “sales teams often select key sales leaders, and invest in their personal brands, because of the trust those brands can foster between the sales leaders and potential clients.”
● Attract and retain the best talent for your team. In his post ‘Why social media is becoming an integral part of successful business leadership’ David Pawsey draws on Ruder Finn research that found “companies led by Social CEOs (CEOs using one or more social channels) are more than twice as likely to appear on The Fortune or GlassDoor 100 Best Places to Work lists.”
● Secure investment for your business. Ryan Erskine, Manager of VIP Client Services at BrandYourself polled dozens of top investors on their research methods and concluded “entrepreneurs and founders with authentic and impressive online presences will find it much easier to land investor meetings than those without.”
● Gain media coverage and reach a wider audience. Establishing credibility and respect as a thought leader in your arena means your opinion will be sought out by the media and industry event organisers, helping to expand your company’s reach.
Not unlike a company brand, your personal brand is made up of what you stand for and the value you bring to the world through skills, knowledge and experiences that are unique to you. Central to this is how your personal brand is perceived by others, through their interactions with you, be it in person, online or in the media.
In her TedX talk on ‘Powerful Personal Branding’ university professor and marketing expert Ann Bastianelli, who’s marketing campaign work included McDonalds Happy Meals, cites a Forbes study that reported while 70% of professionals believed they had defined their personal brand and had a good understanding of how their public reputation was perceived, only 15% were right.
Before embarking on personal branding work it can be useful to get a sense of how others already perceive you. Ask colleagues, friends and family what it’s like interacting with you, what they believe your unique skills to be and where they see you delivering the most value.
Start by building a brand blueprint for yourself. In creating this blueprint you will explore your values, passions, skills and expertise as well as the audience you intend to serve, where and how you will reach them. We have a questionnaire we use for this with our clients and would be happy to share it, just reach out here.
Next you will define some short and long term goals to work toward. For example, if you’re focused on building credibility through thought leadership a short term goal might be “to share my ideas on topic X with my industry in a weekly LinkedIn post’ and a longer term objective might be ‘to speak on topic X on a TedX stage.’
From here you build a plan on how you will achieve your goals. This could be as simple as updating your professional biography across all your online networks and blogging once a week, through to researching and approaching industry events with a speaking pitch. Then you kick off, making sure you engage with your audience and get as much feedback as possible along the way.
As with any good plan, regular review and measurement against your goals is important to keep you on track. See what is working and what is not and adjust your effort accordingly. While it takes time and effort your personal branding work should always come easily to you and feel worthwhile.
Unlike most marketing and PR services personal branding can’t be outsourced entirely. It needs your care and attention because it must be authentic to you. But that doesn’t mean you’re on your own. Having a team to support you is a sure fire way to get results. A team can provide inspiration, support and feedback, helping you stay true to your brand values and working with you to achieve your goals.
A good team will take on the time consuming tasks, such as sifting through news alerts, to bring only the most relevant to your attention. They will manage a content calendar and understand the best way to get your message out, staying true to your natural style.
They will build processes and hold you to task so that your branding work becomes part of your everyday, just like checking your email. Over time this will become more efficient and effective as your team learns your style, gains a deeper understanding of your expertise and the messages that engage your audience best.
Take some time now to reflect on your personal brand. How is it contributing to your company’s success? What more could you do to elevate your profile and what benefits would this bring to your company?