CEO branding: how to win hearts and minds

Build your individual brand for corporate success 

In today’s world it is no longer enough for a CEO to deliver financial performance alone. As CEO, you are also judged on your ability to enhance intangible assets and create non-financial returns. This depends on the effectiveness of your CEO branding.

Influential and well-respected CEOs build personal brand value that creates trust. When stakeholders feel positive about the CEO, they tend to feel positive about the company. They are more likely to engage with the organisation as clients, consumers, potential and existing employees. Because of this, it is vital to get your CEO branding right. 

Enhance CEO reputation, increase market value 

Research shows that a strong CEO brand increases corporate performance, reputation and profitability. Your reputation as CEO affects the performance, prosperity and destiny of your organisation. While a positive reputation is personally gratifying, it is much, much more as well: it is a driving force in relation to corporate reputation.

Corporate reputation is widely believed to be a company’s most valuable asset. In listed companies it plays a significant role in market value. Studies reveal that the personal reputation of a CEO defines up to 64% of corporate reputation, and improving CEO reputation by 10% can increase market capitalisation by 24%.

What exactly is CEO branding?

You might like to think of a “brand” as a collection of features that differentiate, create relevance and impart meaning. Ultimately, a brand equals a promise in people’s minds. Branding means creating the power of that brand.

Your CEO brand involves your personality, passions, values, skills and ideas. It combines your image (the picture that springs to mind when your name is mentioned) with your personal reputation (your overall performance compared with other CEOs).

You can use various CEO branding techniques to enrich your personal attributes and characteristics, strengthen your image and increase your impact. In other words you can enhance your CEO brand to create a powerful brand promise that will win hearts and minds.

What’s involved in CEO branding?

Practically speaking, CEO branding activities can range from everything you do as CEO, to an exercise in pure communication.

Becoming known as an innovator, thought leader, or even a disruptor, involves creating a positive presence, usually both online and in-person. This often encompasses speaking engagements, media exposure and – increasingly valuable – effective social media positioning.

Positioning yourself effectively does not necessarily mean turning yourself into a celebrity though. While CEO celebrity status can be beneficial, it also creates corporate risks and can act against shareholder interests. Tread carefully and ensure that you only position yourself in a way that enhances your company’s reputation.

Branding tactics often involve networking with relevant stakeholders/potential stakeholders to make genuine connections; coaching and training to improve your presentation and media skills; image consultancy to enhance your appearance; and creating a visual brand image – putting your personal touch on everything from stationery to office décor.

The cornerstones of a powerful CEO brand

Personality is a critical element of a successful CEO brand. Research suggests that the best-respected CEOs have a common set of personality traits. They are confident yet humble, intelligent, passionate and astute. Do bear in mind, though, that if you start to be perceived as overconfident or arrogant, this can harm your company as well as your individual reputation. It is important to listen to your trusted advisers on this and be prepared to act differently if/when appropriate.

Authenticity is fundamental. Authentic leaders are better trusted and liked and people find it easier to remember their messages. Being authentic demonstrates clear personal brand values and suggests stability and a lack of tension in the company. It allows you to come across as human.

So how do you demonstrate authenticity? You focus on people’s needs and feelings. You use authentic body language to show warmth. You share personal and business experiences openly, and you develop an emotional connection with others.

Ironically, authenticity is a perception that can be created in people’s minds. You might be a perfectly authentic person, but if you can’t express that effectively, you won’t be seen as authentic. For many CEOs, creating the perception of authenticity takes practice and hard work, but it is certainly worth it in the long run.

Employ an effective CEO branding strategy for success

Far too many CEOs build their brands accidentally, without realising that their personal brand can boost their company’s PR or doom it to failure. However, as CEO you should work with an executive branding specialist to create a CEO branding strategy that aligns with your overall corporate strategy. If your brand grows organically, without strategic rationale, you risk damaging your personal and corporate reputation, and you significantly reduce your chances of corporate success.

How would you like to be seen as a leader? What gaps are there between your current status quo and your dream CEO brand? If you’d like practical support in getting there – particularly in terms of communicating with authenticity and impact – connect with me on LinkedIn or drop me a line and give yourself a head-start towards success.