Branding is essential for the success of your business, but your products or services aren’t the only aspects of your company that need a strong brand. As a CEO or executive, and the public face of your business, developing a distinctive and consistent personal brand complements and further solidifies your business brand—while at the same time helping you achieve personal development, growth and enhanced career success.
Personal branding is a natural extension of your leadership. Your personal brand encompasses your expertise, your career accomplishments, and your professional reputation. In large part, it is the emotional response your customers have when they hear your name—it is the experience of ‘you’.
As a CEO or executive, you don’t have to be Sir Richard Branson or Jeff Bezos to enjoy the benefits of a well-developed personal brand. The following four tips will help you create a consistent personal brand that will help elevate your professional reputation and drive brand effectiveness for your business.
Top 4 Personal Branding Tips for CEOs and Senior Executives
1. Understand Your Existing Personal Brand
Whether or not you’ve worked to develop it, you already have a personal brand. The problem is that it may not be the brand you want.
Your personal brand is defined by your reputation, and by other people’s perceptions of you. This is especially critical in today’s digital world, where trusting online information and resources is the rule rather than the exception. What kind of picture does a Google search for your name paint?
Controlling your personal brand begins with awareness of the reputation that’s already out there. Your professional website, social media profiles, and published content should all reflect the brand promise you want to deliver to your customers. Without active participation in shaping your personal brand, it will be created for you—and you may not be pleased with the results.
Some of the most crucial ingredients for managing your personal brand online include:
- A professional photo: Maintain personal brand consistency with one high quality, professional headshot that’s used for all of your online platforms, from your website to Linkedin to Facebook to Google Authorship etc. Having a great photo not only encourages brand recognition and visibility, but also helps to create personal connections with your customers.
- A unified profile: As with your photo, use a single, succinct and compelling personal bio for every aspect of your online presence that encapsulates your personal brand and strengthens brand recognition.
- A defined and consistent brand position: Make sure your personal brand philosophy is reflected in every piece of content that appears under your name online. Conflicting or incongruent presentations can undermine or dilute your brand and raise doubt in the minds of your audience about your integrity.
You may know how to define a niche for your products or services, but what about your personal brand? You can’t identify a target audience, because your customers aren’t buying you—or are they?
The goal of personal branding is to sell your audience on ‘you’ as a professional, an expert, and a business leader. This means you do have a target market, and it includes your business customers as well as your colleagues, strategic partners, stakeholders and the thought leaders in your industry. So defining your personal brand niche means deciding who your ideal audience is, and determining how you can best connect with them on a personal level.
3. Elevate Your Personal Brand By Association
As the saying goes, you are known by the company you keep. This holds true for personal branding, where a few strategic endorsements from industry influencers can enhance your personal reputation and allow you to be perceived as successful by association with known name brands.
Image via www.timferriss.com
Tim Ferriss, entrepreneur and New York Times bestselling author of The 4-Hour Work Week, has seen phenomenal success as a personal brand, bolstered by multiple endorsements from highly recognizable names. The bio page of Ferriss’ website places him in the company of big business and personal brands, from working with Google, Harvard, and Nike, to appearances in Forbes and on CNN, to receiving mentions in the class of Richard Branson and Jack Dorsey.
As a CEO or executive, networking with influencers in your industry and gathering testimonials is a powerful way to build your personal brand and draw on the success of association.
4. Own Your Brand
Even in an impersonal medium like video or the Internet, your audience can tell when you’re being authentic—and they can spot a phoney. Your personal brand will not be successful if it’s not authentic. In fact, authenticity forms the foundation of a unique personal brand that helps you stand out. As writer and poet Oscar Wilde (who was a strong personal brand before the term was defined) said: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
Many CEOs and executives fear the possibility of polarizing their audiences with a strong, authentic brand. But it’s essential to realize that, like your business brand, your personal brand won’t appeal to everyone—and it doesn’t have to.
Image via www.apple.com
Take, for example, Steve Jobs. The former CEO of Apple was unquestionably a powerful personal brand. Innovative, dynamic, and widely respected, Jobs was also known for his strict perfectionist tendencies and for being harsh on his employees. He never tried to hide these qualities or apologize for them, yet even after his death, Jobs remains a beloved icon and a symbol of technological innovation.
Jobs’ less desirable personality traits remained a known but low-key quantity throughout his life and career. But even more polarizing personal brands can be successful, whether at the positive or negative end of the spectrum. Consider the unprecedented success of UK entrepreneur and celebrity chef Gordon James Ramsay, Jr, OBE. Abrasive, brusque, and demanding, Ramsay has built his personal brand on unending criticism delivered in crude language that has actually reduced his guests—his customers—to tears on occasion.
Image via www.gordonramsay.com
Still, Ramsay’s audience can’t get enough. The reason is that despite his caustic demeanor, Ramsay is absolutely authentic. He has a genuine interest in, and a passion for, helping others succeed, and that passion shines through. And while he may seem to work at cross-purposes, at its core, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares aims to create more successful restaurateurs through the application of Ramsay’s demonstrated expertise.
Defining, shaping, and promoting your personal brand as a CEO or executive requires concentrated effort and some brand strategy inputs, but the results are worth the challenge. By maintaining a powerful and consistent personal brand that is distinct from, yet complementary to, your business brand, you can engage your customers and strengthen your platform for ongoing success.
What do you think?
• Are you aware of your existing personal brand? Is it positive, negative, or neutral?
• How can you monitor and shape your personal brand online?
• What niche audience does your personal brand appeal to, and how will you reach them and engage them positively?
• Where would you start looking for influencer endorsements in your industry?
• How can you define and enhance your authentic personal brand?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!