Essential Ways to Build a Personal CEO Digital Brand

By Karen Leland

In today’s continuously connected world, customers, employees and shareholders have a constant hunger for — and access to — information about your company and you as its leader.

According to the 2014 BRANDfog Global Social CEO Survey:

  • 61 percent of U.S. respondents said they were more likely to purchase from a company whose values and leadership have been clearly communicated by executive leadership on social media.
  • 83 percent of U.S. respondents believe better connections with customers, employees and investors can be built through CEO participation in social media.

In short, the message for today’s business leaders is “go social, or go home.” Assuming you have accepted the necessity of leveraging your personal executive digital brand for the good of your organization, the question becomes, how do you get there? A few essential actions include:

Leverage Your LinkedIn. One current trend is the release of apps that aggregate and integrate calendar appointments with data from LinkedIn and other social media sources to provide a “brand at a glance” of the person you are going to meet. For this reason alone, it’s important that every leader’s LinkedIn profile be up to speed. How exactly does having this digital dossier impact your chief executive brand? Let’s say you’re scheduled to give a keynote speech at an industry conference. There’s a potential investor you want to connect with, and you’ve found out they will be there. You look them up on LinkedIn, reach out on the site and suggest you meet up at the conference. It’s almost a certainty they will look over your profile. Their online impression may be the deciding factor.

Find Your Flavor of Thought Leadership. The world of CEO digital branding overflows with self-proclaimed experts and gurus — many of whom have not taken the time or rigorous exploration to define their thought leadership brand. To cut through the noise and be a standout chief executive in the digital space, you need to first decide the type of thought leadership you want to represent. The three most common are:

  • Celebrity. These leaders are best known for their personality: think Richard Branson, Tony Robbins and Oprah Winfrey.
  • Cerebral. These titans of industry are best known for their thinking and ideas: Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and IMF managing director Christine Lagarde.
  • Consequential. These executives are best known for the results they produce: Steve Jobs, Stephen Wynn and Debra Cafaro.

Where do you think you fit in? Knowing which variety of thought leadership you want to be known for affects the tactical and content marketing strategy you put in place.

Engage in C-suite Content Marketing. The content options for getting your personal C-suite digital brand out there are endless. The key is to figure out which tactics would work best for you and your company, and then build around those. Two simple, but often underused, activities include:

  1. Be proactive with online news media. The more reporters get to know you, the more they will call on you when they need sources to interview. A proactive online outreach campaign can get you on the media’s radar, be it big online outlets or bloggers.
  2. Share new insights and trends with the public at large. Consider the following content marketing tactics — singularly or in combination — to get your thoughts across.
  • A regular blog
  • Writing articles
  • A weekly podcast
  • An ebook
  • Webcasts

Remember, you as a chief executive have the daily opportunity (and obligation) to build your personal digital brand in service of your company’s reputation. The results should be higher performance, greater influence, and increased cooperation and engagement with your staff, colleagues, customers, industry, and the public at large.

Karen Tiber Leland is the president of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm, and the author of “The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build, and Accelerate Your Brand.”

For more than 30 years, Heather has been creating innovative content for a myriad of communities including business leaders, nonprofit, energy, health care, education and aviation. She has been with YPO since 2014, currently serving as Communications Director leading the member communications team.