As CEO, Are You Putting Your Best Face Forward?
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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
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.
Spanx Founder and Owner Sara Blakely attends the Time 100 Gala celebrating the Time 100 issue of the Most Influential People In The World at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 24, 2012 in New York. (Image credit: AFP/Getty Images via @daylife)
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.
Courtesy of YEC
Raoul Davis is the CEO of Ascendant Strategy, a firm focusing on strategic branding for leaders. He has built a private executive client list that includes Fortune 50 executives, multimillionaire entrepreneurs, major media personalities and NYT best-selling authors.
Courtesy of YEC
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC leads #FixYoungAmerica, a solutions-based movement that aims to end youth unemployment and put young Americans back to work.
Steve Jobs is CEO Branding
Apple is certainly a powerful brand in its own right, but behind the Apple icon was a CEO brand icon who built his company brand by developing his own CEO brand. The debate over the last few years has been about what will happen to Apple when Steve Jobs is gone. After all, his CEO brand elevated Apple's brand and fueled Apple's increase in corporate revenue and stock price.
Lessons on CEO Branding by Steve Jobs
Besides leaving a legend of innovative products and visionary thinking, Steve Jobs can teach us a lot about CEO branding. Here are some lessons to be learned:
- Align Actions and Decisions with CEO Brand Attributes: Everything that Steve Jobs did tied to the attributes he felt were important as a CEO, including inspiring others, changing lives, and designing products that people didn't know that they wanted. His traits as a CEO were inherent in Apple's strategy, marketing, and product development. This alignment only further solidified Apple's brand image as well as his own CEO brand.
- Be Consistent: Jobs regularly delivered on what he said he was going to achieve. And, if he didn't think he could achieve it, it didn't get announced or shared publicly. Being consistent in his actions and words helped to strengthen his CEO brand and build his reputation with his stakeholders. /li>
- Be Authentic: Maybe there's nothing more authentic than a black turtleneck and jeans. This doesn't mean that every CEO has to dress down, but this was a way that Steve Jobs let his personality shine through. It was he who he was, and his followers respected him for it. When he did product introductions each year, it was him, the product, and his audience. He kept it simple but everyone knew it was real. Steve Jobs never tried to be like any other CEO; he just wanted to be himself whether anyone else liked it or not. It turns out, though, that he was admired even by his competitors.
- Have Vision: There can be no doubt that Steve Jobs was a true visionary. He wanted to change the world and how people lived, and he did that with every product he introduced. His vision became the beacon of his CEO brand and where people turned when they wanted something new. Steve Jobs used his vision to be a game changer. Being a breakthrough thinker is a valuable attribute for any CEO brand.
- Exude Confidence: When he did speak in public, Steve Jobs showed his audience that he knew what he was talking about and he knew it was a success. His confidence was only furthered by his enthusiasm and passion, something every CEO can add to enhance their brand
- Have Presence: The rumor was that Steve Jobs ruled with an iron fist. Now, it may not be necessary to be tyrannical but he certainly developed an imposing presence that employees, customers, and the media respected. They recognized that maybe toughness was an essential part of CEO branding because it backed up the innovation, drive, and passion that he represented
The Future of CEO Branding at Apple
What remains to be seen is if Tim Cook will now develop his own CEO brand for Apple and help take the company forward. While this remains to be seen, it's important to note that Tim Cook must not try to copy the Steve Jobs CEO brand, but he must develop his own unique and captivating CEO brand that will captivate Apple's loyal following. Sure, he has rather large and imposing shoes to fill, but all he can do is create new footsteps that people will want to follow.
Raoul Davis is a brand accelerator specializing in helping CEO's build a brand strategy to increase their visibility and industry status to grow corporate revenues. Davis is a Senior Partner at Ascendant Strategy (www.ascendantstrategy.net). The firm specializes in CEO branding through tools such as PR, speaking engagements, securing book deals, and social media. Additionally, Ascendant helps corporate executives make the transition to CEO in their entrepreneurial ventures.
Ascendant Strategy is a CEO branding development firm specializing in corporate, personal, global, brand strategy and development for CEO branding, corporate branding, and executive branding. Using a proprietary 5 phases of branding system, we focus on brand monetization, brand acceleration, and brand strategy. Our corporate and CEO branding clients have ranged from executive corporate branding clients at Fortune 50 companies to CEO's and founders of entrepreneurial ventures. To learn about our proprietary corporate and CEO branding systems reach out to us at 336.575.3594 or email@example.com. We have worked with branding clients in the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean.