The heart of a company is its CEO – so much so that the company’s reputation depends on the CEO’s reputation. Wise CEOs know that they become the brand of their company. A CEO’s personal brand is crucial to the organization’s ability to hire top talent and develop strategic partnering relationships. The CEO’s brand also affects customer and employee loyalty; that brand influences them to believe the company will always deliver what is best for them. It has a significant impact on revenue. And in the case of a start-up, the CEO’s brand influences the ability to secure investors.
These substantial impacts of a CEO’s brand beg the question of how to develop that critical brand and how to create brand promises that convey trustworthiness. Here are four principles and associated criteria that frame the CEO branding effort.
- CEO branding creates a lasting impression on an audience
Your CEO branding message is an ideal view of how you want your audience (customers, employees, partners) to perceive you. What do you want to be known for?
Make a list of words that showcase your personality and character. Are you active? Rugged? Creative? Highly disciplined? Passionate? Honest? Then, consider the following factors:
– Are the words uniquely you; do they show how you stand out from competitors?
– Do the words match your values?
– Do the words align with the values of your ideal customers?
Ask people in your inner circle who know you well or your coach if the words are an accurate picture of you. Then make sure that you include these words in company websites and marketing descriptions of your role as CEO. Also, highlight them in your LinkedIn profile.
- CEO branding reflects core values
Your CEO branding message conveys how you will communicate with your company’s market. Customers like brands with which they share values.
Identify your top three values – examples: empathetic, nurturing, authenticity, or mindfulness. Ensure that the values you identify are essential in your life and how you communicate with employees and customers.
Keep in mind that these values reflect your personal life as well as your professional life. Your personal and professional brands must align to avoid the risk of reputation damage.
- CEO branding reflects leadership style
Highlight your leadership style and behaviors. For instance, do you work with teams to brainstorm and solve problems? How do you treat new employees? How do you respond to someone who challenges your ideas? Are you optimistic or pessimistic in interactions? Do you lift others and value what they say, or do you tear them down? Do you welcome change and encourage teams to view it as an opportunity?
The people you lead watch how you “show up” and interact with others. They observe whether you believe in them. They see whether you do what is right and stay true to your principles and values. They watch how you handle organizational politics. And they know if you actively listen to them and seek to understand the agenda that drives their behaviors and their uncertainty.
The brand messaging conveyed in how you “show up” and how you lead is the same as how you treat customers. It enables them to know what to expect from you.
- CEO branding builds trust in the company
As CEO, you are responsible for guiding people through change, risk and unexpected challenges, or corporate threats. Your brand must convey transparent communications. Share the latest news about your company and important business decisions and changes. When employees know what to expect, you increase their trust and loyalty. Both are essential in developing highly functioning teams as well as developing loyalty among customers.
- Leverage platforms
Once you build your CEO brand, choose one or more platforms through which you can communicate your values, authenticity, leadership, and personality to your market. Platforms give you more visibility.
Platforms are widely available today. Top choices include a podcast, radio show, or YouTube channel; writing a book, a blog, a magazine, or newspaper article; posting on social media; speaking on a panel, or a webinar.
When you use a platform, make sure your content reflects and enhances your CEO branding. Content should show your audience that you understand who they are, align with their emotions, values, and identities; and care about them.