In 2020, you’d be hard-pressed to find a business that doesn’t know that company branding is crucial to the health of the company. But not every CEO may realize the role a personal brand plays in the survival of his or her business. More plainly, your personal brand is your company brand, so take care to build it well.
For instance, Elon Musk is Tesla; Bill Gates is Microsoft; and Steve Jobs was Apple. How are their personal and professional brands different from one another? They’re not.
Many CEOs, even those who are in the upper echelon of business, are reluctant to personally brand themselves. And though that trend is starting to see traction in the right direction, let’s try to deconstruct why it’s key.
If people don’t see you, you don’t exist
As the CEO of any company, it’s likely you will be Googled, whether by your competitors, potential business partners, or clients. If they can’t find you, you may as well be invisible, and you certainly don’t have much of a voice in your own narrative or your company’s. A powerful personal branding campaign may be the anecdote to this.
You can make sure that when people think about your company, they associate it with you, by becoming an active brand in your own right — blogging, social media, and a strong website are great ways to start.
If people don’t believe you, they won’t believe your business
Once you’re recognizable, make sure you present your authentic self. What do you care about? What are you selling? What do you stand for? Through personal branding, you control the narrative. The more people believe that your story is authentic, the more apt they are to believe your mission statement is too.
After all, people trust people–not companies.
If you’re not a thought leader, you’re unremarkable
There are many forums in which a CEO can write, and yes, CEOs should write. And if you’re not a grammatical genius, that’s ok; use free programs like Grammarly or Scrivener. They will help take care of grammar so you can be free to share your knowledge. Because if you’re an expert in your field, but you’re the only one who knows that, it’s moot.
If the thought of gathering your insights in the written word is too daunting, start off with simple blog posts that you can host on your website. Writing is a muscle; the more you practice, the better you’ll get. Once you’ve built up some confidence, get writing on LinkedIn, Medium, or any other contributor platform.
Remember that there are only two groups of people when it comes to writing: those who are willing to practice, and those who aren’t.
If you don’t care, who will?
Carefully curating designers, writers, and branding experts (even if you wear all these hats) with updated websites, social media sites, blogs, and speaking engagements (if you can), translates to other people that you care. In the same way that we dress for the job we want, we brand ourselves for the industry where we want to stake a claim for ourselves.
An old website from the early aughts won’t cut it; a thought piece about 1980s shoulder pads isn’t relevant; and a LinkedIn with a profile pic of you in high school says that you can’t be bothered to update it.
You have to stay current, and more importantly, tackle today’s (or tomorrow’s) challenges. Arguably the only time anyone wants to hear about the past is in reference to the present or future. What historical parallels can you draw? What lessons can today’s society learn from the past? How, in this case, does history rhyme?
In personal branding, think of yourself as a candidate for your dream job. Considering 70% of employers check out the profiles of people vying for the same position, what would your chances be against someone who has a solid online presence? Why take that chance if you don’t have to?
If you’re unreachable, you’re unmarketable
By now, they’ve found you and like what they see, but where are you? Branding isn’t just about a beautiful website and thought-provoking content, it’s a tool to network and connect with colleagues, potential customers, and mentors. And most of the time, it’s free. What I’m talking about are social media profiles.
Yes, there are the standard Twitter, Facebook company page, and LinkedIn, but have you considered Instagram? It’s no longer just a platform for vacation photos. Millions of people use Instagram, and 80% of users search and follow businesses on the platform; most likely, you use Instagram too.
No savvy CEO should pass up free marketing. But be sure to use those resources fully to your advantage. Keep active on them, and share your personal as well as professional stories and content. The more accessible you are, the more you will be able to connect with your audience.
To thine own brand be true
Ultimately, what’s the most important aspect of personal branding? Know what you’re branding. In other words, if you’re trying to convey the sentiment that you care, make sure you care. If you’re touting a specific mission statement, make sure you follow through. And be your authentic self, it’s the best asset you have to sell yourself, and your company.