Managing the CEO’s brand is key to strengthening personal connections

They say image is everything and while that’s not strictly true, perception is certainly vital when it comes to business.

This is especially the case for CEOs, because personal branding is such an important part of leadership.

Most companies will have their own brand, and CEOs can complement and build on this by putting their own personal brand on the company they run.

An effective CEO embodies the look, feelings, and actions of their organization. And they have the power to project themselves and improve their image inside and outside the company, but only through astute personal brand management.

Not everyone can or wants to eclipse their own trademark in the same way the late Dame Anita Roddick transcended Body Shop or Elon Musk even eclipses his own Tesla.

Personal branding can strengthen ties with customers and therefore strengthen one’s own position in the market – on a personal basis rather than on a ‘B2B’ or ‘BCB’ level.

A CEO can be an extremely important asset. But it’s still worth asking some basic CEO brand management questions to make sure your business is pulling itself together and everyone is moving in the right direction.

Why is personal branding so important?

That’s because first impressions matter. As the figurehead of the company, your CEO has the potential to make an immediate impact when they are on duty in the company and involved in anything from a speech with the big and good in his industry or a broadcast interview.

With the right preparation and the investment of expert analysis, you will succeed and that will mean that you will strengthen the links with the company on a true human level. But if you fail to do your homework, you won’t be able to talk about the game or even look like it, and the consequences could be devastating.

The CEO can make a huge difference on many levels through their ability to inspire people to come work with you, inspire and galvanize their colleagues, woo the media or attract potential investment. More often than not they buy the person rather than the company, as was the case with Levi Roots and his Reggae Reggae Sauce with the BBC’s Dragons Den. This is why a high profile is so important.

How does the CEO brand work?

It will help if your CEO is an outgoing and charismatic type, and as the figurehead of the company, he or she is likely to be a little outgoing when it comes to promoting the business. Not all CEOs seem comfortable in the public eye. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t seem like a natural, but he clearly understood that CEO branding is vital, so he worked on it.

That said, it’s important to work with CEOs to ensure that corporate brand and personal brand are aligned. No matter how friendly the media is, it will only create confusion if the CEO goes off on a tangent. Every story they tell in public should be leveraged to ensure it aligns with the values ​​and ethics of the company and its overall direction of travel and reinforces the CEO’s position and personal authority.

A good example of how not to do this comes from across the pond, and Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter, who resigned as CEO after complaining about the negative impact on the business of NFL stars taking their knees – back when Papa John’s were NFL sponsors.

But in contrast, Alison Rose, Managing Director of NatWest, Dame Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV, and Clare Woodman, Head of EMEA and CEO of Morgan Stanley International, constantly show how it should be done. That was definitely the case when they helped launch the 25×25 initiative to bring the number of female CEOs of the FTSE 100 to 25 over the next four years.

“We have goals to achieve a 50:50 gender balance,” Alison said, hitting the nail on the head in a way that showed NatWest means business in many ways. “These are not HR objectives. These are priority strategic objectives for the company, not quotas. It’s really important.

How does a CEO brand flourish?

People are interested in the thoughts of a CEO as a leader who sets the tone of corporate life, shapes strategy and directs tactics.

There’s no stopping Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, who really sets the example when it comes to personal brand building, as he is, among other things, the author of a brilliant weekly blog. It’s special because it makes money (Virgin) every time. Short and sweet, it’s carefully written, well researched, the content is extensive and very topical.

Regular staff newsletters and monthly company-wide briefings are an important way to maintain staff confidence and let them know where the business is going. Externally, media opportunities should be carefully curated to enhance the CEO’s stature and press releases, thought leadership articles, letters to the editors and broadcast media interviews are a great way to project the CEO.

A good CEO will help you get untold media attention, but variety really is the spice of life and so potential speaking slots at industry events, roundtables and podcasts should also be on the plan. of the CEO brand.

How do you cultivate the CEO brand?

Consistency is the key. It’s important to be able to articulate opinions that embrace the virtues of a business, but in addition to being bold, it’s equally important to stick with them and not veer off in all directions. It is equally important to stick to talking about what you know.

Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon certainly does, whether she sticks her elbows for the broadcaster on the political front as she did in an interview with the Daily Telegraph or promise to show more related content climate as part of the COP26 Climate Change Pledge.

Don’t let your CEO talk about Peppa Pig when you’re supposed to be talking business. Nobody is an expert in absolutely everything and every good CEO knows it. And don’t overdo it – it’s essential that your CEO is consistently relevant and doesn’t end up screaming into the void.

It’s also essential for the CEO to sound natural, so putting the key messages in their mouth is a very tricky operation and so it’s best to develop narrative frameworks that do the heavy lifting for them on the messaging front. . Done right, the CEO can bring it all to life and the company’s place in the market makes sense.

How do you know if your CEO brand is a winner?

It’s probably an idea to imagine a scenario where what could go wrong has gone wrong and if so, the experience of former Ratners CEO Gerald Ratner will come to mind.

This may be an extreme example, but his calamitous speech for the Institute of Directors at London’s Royal Albert Hall. That was 30 years ago and he was recently featured in the Daily Mirror newspaper as one of the infamous corporate blunders after he jokingly called one of his products “total crap”. His rivals reportedly laughed the loudest when the company’s value plummeted by £500million in days, Ratners became Signet Group and he lost his job and the trappings of enormous wealth.

There’s no such thing as the court of public opinion when it comes to evaluating the CEO’s brand.

There will be signals of trust such as positive mentions online and on social media, an increase in online mentions, a sales team talking to potential prospects, positive mentions and, last but not least, improved results. . They will prove that while image isn’t everything, CEO brand management is certainly very important.


Cathy W. Howerton