Your product or service isn’t the only thing you need to be promoting. As a CEO, one of the most powerful exposure and revenue-building tools your company has is, in fact, you.
CEO branding is the new corporate branding. People want an emotional connection to the brands they are invested in, so it’s important for those brands to have a face — and that’s where CEO branding comes in.
CEO branding is the process of aligning your face with your corporate brand. This process includes public relation activities, media interviews, philanthropy, articles, books, speaking engagements and employee treatment. It requires integrating the CEO’s brand DNA into how the company is viewed publicly. In a competitive marketplace, it is a differentiating factor. Though it happens naturally, CEOs need to be forward-looking in strategizing their brand — or reactive in managing it.
Consider these survey results compiled by Burson-Marsteller, one of the world’s largest PR firms, that illustrate the importance of a CEO’s reputation to the success of the company. The results indicated that, based on a CEO’s reputation:
- 95% of those surveyed decided whether or not to invest in a company
- 93% would recommend a company as a good alliance or merger partner
- 88% recommend the company as a good place to work.
Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx and the world’s youngest female billionaire, is a walking example for the power of CEO branding. In her company’s early days, she had no money for advertising, so she hit the road with her new product. She was the heart, soul and face of Spanx. Blakely took her passion and propelled Spanx to phenomenal heights.
Blakely also stands firmly by her personal beliefs about how business should be done. In the recent CNBC Town Hall Event, “Getting Back to Business,” Blakely responded to venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary’s statement, “Business is war,” by saying, “I have only been focused on my own quality – what can I offer that’s the best and give value.” It’s not just the words, but also the CEO behind them that the audience responded to so enthusiastically. Her authenticity is noticed by customers, investors, employees, and the general public, and it influences their readiness to connect to the Spanx brand. That’s the power of CEO branding.
As a CEO, you can harness this power and create a bond with customers and investors alike, ensuring that they care about your personal brand and in turn, your company. Here are 4 ways to kick-start your CEO branding strategy:
- Define and live your mission. Not only must you have a personal mission in line with that of your company, but you must also live out that mission. Clearly define what it is you stand for, and then the specific actions you take on a consistent basis supporting that personal mission.
- Reach your target audience. To deliver your brand directly to your target audience, you need to get out of the office. Attend events and speaking engagements in alignment with your personal and corporate mission. Research associations and events in which your target audience participates. Write articles in publications that your target audience reads to gain recognition for your brand.
- Maintain a positive presence. Before people consider doing business with a company, they often quickly research the CEO online and make a strong correlation between the CEO and the company. Make sure your name turns up at least two pages worth of positive search engine results, and speaks positively of your work.
- Share your vision and your victories. When you share your story with your customers and shareholders, it helps create and foster that strong, personal bond CEO branding is all about.
Raoul Davis is the CEO of Ascendant Group, a CEO branding firm. Ascendant has built a private executive client list that includes Fortune 50 executives, multimillionaire entrepreneurs, major media personalities, and NY Times Best-Selling Authors. Under his leadership, the company has helped clients generate significant business deals, national recognition and media coverage in NY Times, “20/20″ and more.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.