Executive branding is the process of creating and building the professional brand of CEOs, business owners and senior executives in the context of business growth.
Like personal branding, executive branding is focused on the individual. However, personal branding’s primary objective is to find a job or accelerate one’s career trajectory. Conversely, executive branding’s desired outcome is increasing business value through the presence of the executive.
With executive branding, business leaders provide the “human-connection” for the company building trust and “likeability” in the eyes of customers, prospects and employees.
A great example is Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines as explained in “Meet a CEO with a stellar personal brand“. In an industry not known for its customer experience or employee satisfaction, Southwest stands out and continues to prosper.
Executive branding will:
- Attract, retain and energize employees
- Entice and facilitate new business development
- Create competitive differentiation
These business drivers are not necessarily new concepts.
What is new however, is how digital marketing is disrupting traditional approaches.
The Traditional Approach to Executive Branding
People work and conduct business with people they like and trust. It’s been this way since the dawn of commerce. Executives at successful businesses work diligently and consistently to create meaningful relationships.
Connections are made and credibility is established in person at industry events, customer visits, local chambers of commerce, business meetings, social engagements and other face-to-face interactions. It’s what I refer to as the “analog” world.
Savvy PR professionals develop executive messaging and then orchestrate and control the delivery of this information. Working with local and national print and broadcast outlets, they work to get the “message” covered.
If a deal is won because the executive has a “better relationship” with a customer compared to a competitor or receives a favorable “story”, the result is financially rewarding. Deals are secured and the company gains additional revenue and market share.
Digital Marketing (Social Media) Disrupts the Playing Field
The world has evolved with digital marketing taking center stage.
The graphic above provides a comprehensive overview of various digital opportunities and platforms available. An executive should, at a minimum, establish a core, passive foundation that includes an optimized LinkedIn profile and website.
Additional social media platforms should be established depending on the executive’s objectives. Directories provide another source of credibility and high-ranking listings in a google search result.
As executives embrace digital marketing, they can engage by sharing existing, relevant content. Ultimately, a successful program includes original content the executive creates and shares.
Older Executives Slow to Embrace the Digital Transformation
Older executives who grew up in the traditional, analog world are not embracing and fully comprehending the impact of this digital transformation. Reasons vary but generally fit three themes:
- Necessity / Value
- Ignorance / Competency
- Time / Resources
However, if an executive is not proactively managing and developing their digital presence, they’re at risk of losing business. If the online results are weak, missing or even worse, display damaging information (reputation management), opportunities will be lost. Often without even knowing they were being considered.
Power of Information Now in (Mobile) Hands of Individuals
In today’s “individual-in-control” world, people have unfettered access to information. Google delivers a wealth of information and links to additional sources. Mobile devices enable access anytime, from anywhere. And social media provides a crowd-source of opinion and influence.
The New Digital Dynamics for Business Engagement
Customers, employees, and investors research in advance of conducting business with a company. They seek information about the organization and crucially, the people leading the company.
People will “Google” a company and the executive’s name to see what results are displayed. They want to learn more about them as a person.
- Who are they?
- What is their purpose?
- Why do they do what they do?
For most business executives, their LinkedIn profile is displayed high in google search results. Creating a good first impression on LinkedIn is an opportunity many executives neglect.
Observe the two screenshots of executive presented below. Referred to as the Information Card, its what’s initially displayed when viewing a LinkedIn profile. The one on the left is, unfortunately what most executives look like. The one on the right is optimized to create an engaging presentation.
The Research Continues
Additionally, they look for other key social properties such as Twitter and Facebook.They look for personal websites. They want to learn about the executive’s approach by reading thought leadership pieces in blogs, videos and podcasts.
An initial impression is formed of the executive. Of the company. Does the executive seem credible, trustworthy and “likeable”? Is this someone they want to do business with? Is this a company they want to work for?
If they’ve met an executive in a networking event, investigation continues on the digital stage after the face-to-face interaction. Does the executive’s digital persona match and reinforce the initial impression? Does the message invite further engagement? Or is the digital personality weak, inconsistent or non-existent?
Isn’t It Time To Start Your Executive Branding Efforts?
Have a look at your digital presence. Google your name to see what Google says about you. Read your LinkedIn profile. Does your digital stage reflect who you are in person and provide the message you need to drive your business forward?
Executive branding like any branding effort is not something that can be achieved overnight. But with a strategic plan that is executed consistently over time, you can become the Gary Kelly of your business.
Contact me for a free Executive Branding Audit & Assessment.