Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.
- Jeff Bezos, Amazon.
Whether you like it or not, if you are the CEO of a company, chances are big that you already have a personal brand right now. If you choose not to manage it, your stakeholders will project a brand on you anyway. So it’s only clever to take matters into your own hands. Besides, there’s quite some advantages to building a personal brand for your business. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at those benefits and more importantly, the 5 steps you can take to start building your personal brand today.
What is a personal brand really?
People don’t buy from companies. People buy from people. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling services or products, and whether you’re selling on- or offline: you are important to the customer. This has always been the case, long before businesses went digital, but even more so now that basically every business has an online presence. As a CEO, the way you present yourself on your social media, website and any other digital communication channel, impacts the way people feel. Not just about you but about your company as well. From the type of content you share to the way you engage with your social media followers, your voice, your story, and your message: it’s all part of your personal brand. Although it may seem like a big task to start working on intentionally managing your brand as a CEO, it’s actually a smart move that’ll help you in many different ways.
Why you need a personal brand as a CEO
As we mentioned earlier, every company’s CEO has a personal brand, whether they’re actively managing it or not. If you have a LinkedIn page, you already have a brand yourself. We’ll help you strengthen your personal brand later on, but first, let’s talk about why you would put in the effort. What’s in it for you?
Of course there’s many different angles, but roughly speaking there are 5 important benefits of having a well-managed personal brand as a CEO that will help you stand out from the competition:
When people are looking for a job, they will search for the people working at the company they want to apply for. And that of course includes you, being the leader of the team. Your LinkedIn profile and other social media pages will be viewed, as well as anything else they’ll be able to find when googling your name. If you make sure they find something interesting and helpful, they’ll feel more compelled to join the company.
Generally speaking, you help more people become aware of your business when you establish a personal brand online. For example: when you write a blog article on LinkedIn, sharing your opinion on a recent trend in your industry, people who enjoyed reading it will like the post or write a comment. Their connections will see that they interacted with your post, and they might be curious to find out more about you and your company. This happens every day, all day long, while people are scrolling through their feeds. You might as well take this chance!
Sharing your opinions, insights and expertise on subjects related to your industry makes you and your company more credible to others. You’ll be viewed as a thought leader, and someone who people turn to when they need information or advice regarding a specific topic. This not only applies to potential customers, but to partners, investors, competitors and journalists as well. When you prove yourself as a valuable source of relevant information on a subject in your field, this will be appreciated by anyone who’s interested in one way or another. Smaller businesses might look at you as an example, other leaders might share your content when they feel inspired, supported or heard by what you communicate about.
Let’s not forget about the social aspect of social media. As most businesses are active on social media, customers as well as other stakeholders expect to be able to interact with them. When you have a digital presence as the CEO of a company, you can engage people, entertain them, inspire them, and educate them. Those are all different ways of connecting with people and nurturing relationships, which is incredibly valuable for any company. We’ll dive into the details below.
Last but surely not least: prospective customers who research your company will be influenced by the way you portray yourself and your knowledge online. When deciding where to turn to for a service or product, people might remember something they read on your social media profile, and become highly interested leads. Those, in turn, will lead to more sales.
How to build your personal brand as a CEO
Step 1: Identify your audience: who are you talking to?
The first question you should ask yourself is: who are you talking to? Who are the people in your audience?
Then answer some questions about them to help you with the next steps. What are they afraid of? What are they worried about? What are their goals?
Once you have clarified those things about your audience, you can keep them in the back of your mind as they’re incredibly important for the way you communicate, what’s interesting to them, and how you can help them.
Step 2: Define your positioning: what story do you want to tell?
The second question you should ask yourself is: what story do you want to tell? In every form of communication, there always needs to be a story, be it long or short. It’s what us humans find interesting. Your story will help strengthen your authenticity as well as your authority.
So when you decide on the story, ask yourself a few more questions.
What do you want to be known for? What’s your personal expertise? What is your purpose? What are your values? What are you passionate about? What makes you different from others in your field?
Step 3: Define a content strategy: how will you get your message across?
Your content strategy consists of 4 aspects.
First, you choose the type of content that is both within your area of expertise and the area of interest of your audience (ex. sales, social media, innovation, open positions, business learning,...)
Second, you choose the voice and style you’ll use in your communication. Again, this needs to align with your positioning and your audience. If you want to be known as a brand that values transparency and honesty, it’s important to be very clear in your communication. If you have a great sense of humour, don’t be afraid to showcase it if the time and place allow for it.
Third: choose the right channels to communicate and clean up your profiles across all social media channels. You don’t want people to find your private Facebook photos or some old blog when they google your name. In most cases, LinkedIn is the prefered social media platform to use for CEO branding.
Fourth: define the frequency and topics of your posts. You should aim to post something on your social media at least twice a week. If you need inspiration on what to post, Willow can help with that.
Step 4: Define your value: how will you make an impact for others?
Closely related to your answers regarding the audience is what your value is to them. How can you serve your audience? Typically, there’s four different ways to make an impact online: you educate, entertain, engage or inspire others.
Education might be the most obvious way to impact others as a business. However, it’s not necessarily the easiest way! It’s still important to make sure you educate people on things they’re actually interested in learning about. Don’t just randomly share things.
Entertaining can be everything from a playful tone of voice to a video or a quiz. If you manage to grasp and keep their attention with your post, you know you did a great job entertaining the audience.
Engaging your audience can work by asking them questions, inviting them to reply to polls, or requesting to share something or take part in a competition. Regardless of the educational or entertainment level of your content, engaging people is always an option.
Inspiring people might be the trickiest way of connecting, but if you manage to do this, they will usually remember you the most. You can inspire others by sharing a personal challenge, anecdote, or simply by sharing something you are extremely passionate about.
Step 5: Get out there and be consistent
Always remember it takes time to build a personal brand. You can’t expect it to happen overnight.
Neither will it work if you put in effort one day and ignore it for three weeks straight. You not only have to speak up loudly, but consistently as well.
Doing this will gain trust from people as well as machines (like Google). It’s greatly appreciated if you have a lot of interesting content online, both by humans and computers (be it Google or social media algorithms). If you produce a lot of quality content, people will find their way to you more easily.
When it comes to social media, Willow can help you plan and schedule content so you don’t have to worry about consistency anymore. We’re here to help you when you need us. Just don’t give up!
The most inspiring leaders all have a strong personal brand on social media. Just take a look at these interesting people’s profiles:
Rich Lesser (Boston Consulting Group)
Satya Nadella (Microsoft)
John Porter (Telenet)
Rika Coppens (House of HR)
Ilham Kadri (Solvay)
What about you? Are you ready to become a thought leader in your industry?