How CEOs Should Use Personal Branding to Drive Business

One of the greatest assets your company has for online marketing is the CEO. Nurturing her personal brand enhances the company’s brand. Given the ease of social media and other online channels, not using the CEO is a lost opportunity to cultivate the company’s image in the minds of the media, prospects, customers, and other decision-makers.

Do personal branding online right and the result is a big boost to the company’s top-of-mind brand awareness, lead generation, and competitive edge, all of which lead to increased sales, market share, and revenue.

Earlier this year, I wrote about the social media initiative of Men’s Wearhouse. George Zimmer, the CEO of Men’s Wearhouse at the time, was an integral part of the efforts. His commercials were shared by his loyal followers and Men’s Wearhouse customers on sites like YouTube, videos on Facebook, and media on the company’s Twitter page.

In other words, his personal brand as a dapper, successful business executive supported the company’s brand in a meaningful way. And the support was mutual: Zimmer’s social media outreach on behalf of the company supported his own personal brand. He was utilized for consistency in the company’s online marketing, represented the brand to consumers, and engaged daily with his community of followers.

Whether you’re selling suits or widgets, that’s what the senior executive needs to do. Some delight in tweeting and blogging themselves; but the tasks can be easily delegated to a staff member or agency team member in an authentic way that delivers the CEO’s voice.

(In June, the board of directors terminated Zimmer, seeking to reorient the business to appeal to a younger crowd. But given his strong personal brand and success in engaging online with customers, I think he should have been retained as a spokesperson during the transition. Instead, the acrimony that is now playing out in the press doesn’t help the company and its shareholders.)

Beyond the CEO…

Personal branding contributions are not just limited to the CEO. Any member of the executive team with something to say can contribute to industry websites, the blogosphere, Twitter, and all the other online channels.

There also may be staff in the ranks who can be part of your company’s online personal branding initiative. Take an inventory and invite everyone to tell you what they’re doing online that’s relevant to the company and industry – blogs, tweets, Facebook pages, etc. You just may find that you have some terrific “personal branding squad” members who’d be thrilled to contribute to your master plan.

And that’s where we begin: with a plan.

  1. Objectives and strategy. What are the messages you need to communicate, and what are the best channels to reach your target market? Assuming there’s already a general PR plan in place, start with a focus on online media and industry conferences.
    • Blogs. Get on a regular schedule to contribute to the company blog, or possibly create a CEO blog. Identify important industry blogs, publications, and other websites where the CEO can become a regular contributor.
    • Conferences and other events. Create a strategy for speaking engagements at key industry events.
    • LinkedIn. Enhance the CEO’s LinkedIn profile and use it as a daily personal branding tool.
    • The media. Identify primary and secondary media outlets. Create a plan to develop relationships with key media. (You or your agencies may already have relationships and media lists.)
  2. Competitive research. What are the competition’s executives doing to brand themselves via blogs, articles, media interviews, etc.? How are your executives seen by peers, competitors, and target customers?
    • How can your CEO be branded that differentiates her from competitors?
    • After the initial research, set up an ongoing monitoring plan to keep atop of competitive efforts.
  3. Create the content.
    • Create a master content plan that helps the CEO become the go-to person for her expertise. Apart from blogging and tweeting, this is content that can be pitched to journalists (there’s nothing that delivers better results than media coverage). Develop stories that would interest the media (which of course, are also of interest to your target customers).
    • Create the content: articles, imagery, videos. Start with an engaging photo or two – not the standard “executive behind the desk,” but something the customers can relate to – and a one-minute “talking head” video.
    • Determine how to turn the content into podcasts, interviews, and webinars.
    • Consider a book. If there’s no time to find a publisher and develop a full book, consider a self-published e-book or series of e-books that can be downloaded from the company site. The content can become the basis for a book contract.
  4. Execute.
    • Build a Twitter feed and possibly a blog for the exec that are separate from the company’s general feed and blog. The CEO is a spokesperson with whom people want to interact.
    • Plan for podcasts, topic-focused videos, and interviews.
    • Use social media to promote all placements, and to drive the buzz before, during, and after the events.

What Resources Do You Need?

If you’re rolling your eyes, wondering who’s going to do all this work: you’re right. It does require a team. I work with a broad spectrum of corporations on online personal branding, and believe me, you don’t have to be a Fortune 100 to get it done.

Among your current staff and your agencies, you may already have people who can:

  • Locate and coordinate presentations at industry events.
  • Create the presentations and online content.
  • Manage design, photography, and video production.
  • Undertake social media and media (journalist) engagement.

As a ClickZ author, I look forward to your comments here.

Here’s to your personal brand success.


Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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