Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Seth Godin. If there’s one thing they had in common on LinkedIn, or even on other social media platforms for that matter, what would that be?
They had more interactions in their profiles than their company pages.
It’s all over their social media accounts, their press releases, interview articles and whatnot. Their vanity metrics are just shooting up, and people just can’t stop talking about them and sharing their content.
It’s pretty easy to do the math, and common sense would dictate that people would rather deal with people than with companies.
Truth is, a CEO’s brand can help catapult in reaching a company’s goal simply because the face behind the company is the one that can motivate and inspire people to take positive action. This, based on observation, is what a lot of companies fail to do to leverage their unique and compelling points.
CEO branding is accomplished through the process of getting the right message across to your target audience. By strategically combining online and offline tactics with the focus on establishing thought leadership and building relationships, a CEO’s brand can easily be established through different social media platforms, networking events, public relations and speaking engagements.
But before going through the whole shebang of promoting the CEO brand offline and online, the process of “messaging” has to be crafted thoughtfully. This all begins by determining how the CEO’s branding aligns to the existing corporate brand and how the former can be used to gain accessibility to the target market cost-effectively.
Being an advocate of human-centred marketing, the best approach here is to do it on a human-to-human level. While the market segmentation remains to be business-to-business (B2B) and/or business-to-consumer (B2C), the approach in branding has to resonate all across the board and has to be crafted on a deeper, more human level, as it aims to establish trust.
At the end of the day, branding is all about leaving an imprint, making an impact. Thus, CEO branding has to have what it takes to send that “message” across and make it stick.
And yes, the process involved in a CEO branding strategy could be complex. As it is an interplay between the company’s core values, the interest of its shareholders, the image and reputation of the CEO himself, it is possible to have a disconnect especially if the CEO’s values are not aligned with the company’s.
Thankfully though, there are basic steps to get the whole CEO branding journey started:
Identify the company’s target audience. CEO branding is not just your simple personal branding. It helps to identify who you want to send the branding message across to. Who are your shareholders? As part of the company, you are aware that shareholders are not just your customers. Your shareholders are your investors, business partners (if any), your customers, and even your employees. During CEO branding strategy, it is important to determine which audiences will be receiving your message, as these will be the same people you will be connecting to.
Determine your company’s goal. Is it for brand awareness? To increase engagement? Or is it for lead generation? By being clear with your goals, you get to easily measure later on if the CEO branding strategy was effective in achieving your goals.
Identify which platforms to use. The online tools you decide to use will be dependent on where your target audience is visible? As most investors and decision-makers are on a professional platform like LinkedIn, it would perhaps be a good idea for the CEO to be visible as well on LinkedIn. Twitter? Same thing. Ask yourself the same question. You’ll need to determine the most effective tools to get the message out.
Offline events? While speaking engagements, public relations, media coverage, networking events are all great avenues to boost a CEO brand, it can be a make or break things. It would be best to determine which among these offline events appeal to the CEO. Is he used to speaking engagements? Is he known for being a good speaker, or is he perhaps better at networking? Has he experienced media coverage and is comfortable talking in front of the camera? These basic questions can help in choosing where he can best shine when in front of his target audience.
Create a CEO branding strategy. This includes analyzing your brand strengths and aligning them with the company’s. In other words, it is helpful to bring out aspects of the CEO brand that will align with the company. It, of course, differs from a corporate branding strategy because you are particularly looking at a perspective that will allow the CEO to serve as the bridge with the shareholders to get interested (and stay interested) in the business.
Analyse the results. Determine how to measure your results. Specifically, what benchmarks are you looking for? Increased brand awareness? Increased sales? More engagement? More website traffic? Identify the metrics that are important to you. Better yet, identify the metrics that serve as good indications for your goals (number 2). From there, assess and analyze the results.
Tweak and repeat the steps as necessary. After analyzing the results, use the same metrics you’ve identified and factor in a few key performance indicator items such as sales, revenue growth, close rates, and increased pricing — and tweak your strategy from there.
Just like personal branding, CEO branding IS a journey. And considering that it is a journey, it is no longer just a “nice add-on” to a company’s strategy. It has grown to become a boardroom discipline, a discipline that transcends not only within the company but outside of its walls as well.
Because anything that gives results is worth keeping.