Did you know you’re already a brand? By default we all have a reputation, so our personal brand is what people think of us. It’s what we’re known for. Jeff Bezos calls it ‘what people say about you when you’re not in the room’.
But creating a brand by design is different. Executive branding uses marketing techniques to strengthen and give credibility to your personal brand; that is, your attributes, passions and vision that add value to your professional activities.
Executive branding is portable and personal, meaning it isn’t attached to a certain organization. It is a separate, differentiated identity that follows you wherever you go. However, it is significantly related to the company you lend your name to; whether you’re the CEO or another C-suite employee. Consider this: In a global survey on reputation risk by Deloitte, 87 percent of all executives polled rated reputation risk as more important than other risks faced by their companies.
Done correctly, executive branding allows clients to form a human connection with the people behind an organization, creating a familiarity that enhances trust even before the first point of contact. As the old adage says, people buy from people. They want to know that when considering a company, the people behind the products and services are experts in the industry.
‘We’ve heard so much about you’
Executive branding is important to both company leaders and those in the job market for a C-level position, where your reputation may, and hopefully will, precede you.
In today’s day and age executives face fierce competition for high-level positions, and when you add digital presence to the mix, companies can easily find out who you are before even glancing at your CV, let alone before asking you to talk through your CV at an interview. It’s important to understand your personal brand and how to not only manage your reputation correctly but differentiate yourself from competitors.
Establishing visibility and getting your message across allows you to resonate with your target audience, which if you’re in the market for a job, is your potential employer.
The more buzz and excitement you can create, the more you can present yourself as an industry thought leader and therefore become a more attractive potential hire (with a justified higher salary requirement).
Here, it’s important to point out that executive branding is actually less about you than people’s perception of you and what you bring to the table. Branding involves influencing that perception to your advantage.
Leveraging personal branding to increase revenue
The perception of your company’s thought leaders can have a direct effect on the
number of leads you’re able to bring in.
Take the example of a CEO who gave a Ted Talk on her philosophy of providing guidance to peer organizations, instead of simply considering them opposing team members to beat. The talk attracted the attention of a number of interested prospects, simply because her message resonated with the way they like to do business. The positive executive branding executed here stays with her, making her an attractive ally no matter which company she is with in the future.
Executive branding also applies on all levels of the organization; it is not relegated to top members. In the simplest interpretation, it may mean having company bios on your website with photos and links to your team’s LinkedIn profiles. Potential clients can review them according to their areas of expertise and read any industry-relevant publications they may have. They can also research their number of followers on social media to see their level of influence; all with the end goal of understanding who they are working with when they work with your company.
Furthermore, executive branding has a strong influence on whether staff members and executives would recommend the company as a good place to work; with 80% of corporate stakeholders saying CEO reputation would affect their recommendation.
Developing your Executive Brand
The prospect of developing your own personal brand can be daunting, which is why so many C-suite executives turn to outside sources. There are a number of companies that provide branding services, ranging from brand identity firms focused on design, to online marketing agencies and traditional PR.
But, there are still plenty of ways to DIY the process, especially if you’re good at creating content.
One of the first recommended steps is to look inward and hone your message, in order to determine how you’d like to present yourself to the world. Think of what you’re known for and what you’d like to be known for, what your areas of expertise are and what makes you different. Then, map out what you value, as this provides depth to your message.
You’ll then create an Executive Bio to consolidate your image and how you’d like to present your personal brand. You can think of this as your brand brochure, and exploit it on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.
You can add a personalized logo to your design to further differentiate yourself. We now know that the importance of a good logo can’t be underestimated – though it may seem simple, the design and colors used can even affect key metrics like the bounce rate and amount of time visitors spend on your website.
Independent testing in this case even showed an increase of close to 30 seconds spent on the website, so it makes sense to spend time on it. It’s also important to implement the use of your logo across all platforms, with appropriate versions for your website, social media and printed media.
What do people see when they search for you online?
Go ahead and Google yourself to see what information online searches bring up and do a little reputation management by updating any editable information with your improved bio. This way you can ensure that your brand message remains consistent across different platforms.
Ensure your own website is well-optimized with your brand-related keywords. If you don’t have a personal website you can use a platform like Squarespace or even GoDaddy. Or, just tap into the talent pool in your company’s web development department.
Content strategy for your brand
Share your knowledge and insight through well-crafted content on your own blog, LinkedIn, or through hosted content on other sites. If you’re not a writer you can work with others to share your message through written content, or give interviews to be published. Consistently spreading your message of expertise keeps your brand current and can lead to other opportunities.
Publishing books is also very well known as an excellent strategy for brand-building, as authorship puts your name out their and strongly reinforces your expertise.
Speaking is a highly effective way to engage with an interested audience, and allows you to develop a presence of authority almost immediately. Satisfied listeners can be a great source of promotion and spread your message to potential business prospects. It generally just helps establish you as an expert in your field.
Industry-specific events are a must when developing your executive brand, giving you the chance to personally connect with others. The more you’re able to remain current, available, present and connected, the better your brand promotion will be.
No executive branding strategy would be complete without harnessing the full power of social media. As mentioned above, keep your brand consistent across the different platforms and use them not only to share and promote your written online content but to follow industry trends and join in conversations to share knowledge and thoughts from your official account.
The basic premise of DIY executive branding is to ‘know, show and grow’ yourself, your reputation, values and attributes. And finally, keep in mind that brand integration needs to be part of your strategy, and this means constantly reevaluating how you can make your personal brand present in everything you do.