A personal brand is not a new concept but for a CxO personal branding is not just about them, it is what it means to their companies. The value that your company derives from your personal brand may be the critical differentiator in a marketplace where companies compete for customers, investors, and employees.
How a CxO brand benefits your company
A powerful personal CxO brand can have tremendous corporate benefits because,
- A great CxO brand increases Company Credibility to customers: Credibility and trust have always played key roles in shaping business success but for a company, it is not easy to be seen as trustworthy — such a reputation is earned over years. However, if a high-level executive has a trustworthy, credible and believable personal brand, then their company is also seen as trustworthy, credible and believable. Anyone remembering Lee Iacocca being the face of Chrysler in its worst days knows that the trust to buy Chrysler came from him. Conversely, the loss of credibility of Travis Kalanick was leading to the loss of credibility of Uber.
- A great CxO brand makes PR more Effective: Companies need all the competitive advantage they can get. A CxO’s distinct, authoritative personal brand gets easier traction than the company spokesperson. For instance, if your company needs facetime in front of the press it is easier to get a few columns in a magazine or for the magazine to profile the CxO, rather than for the magazine to profile the company. A CxO armed with a compelling personal brand — is the best pitch a company has — not just to customers but to media as well.
Building a powerful CxO brand
So it must be understood that both the CxO and the company are engaged in creating the CxO’s personal brand, right? Wrong. Corporate marketing and communication functions don’t always focus on individuals but rather on products and services and it is a big mistake — as we’ve seen above. Creating a powerful personal brand is also not trivial. It requires a deep dive into the individual’s attributes and competitive positioning to bring out the key differentiators, and regular communication to keep the brand relevant. It takes patience, time and smarts. Here are some attributes of a great CxO brand:
- The CxO Brand is not a job description: Often, personal branding looks like a representation of one’s accomplishments and talent. Mostly it comes out as a job role, which it is not. When it is a job role it becomes interchangeable and dispensable. Some great personal branding can be seen in the case of Nandan Nilekani where he has become synonymous with character & predictable growth at Infosys to the point being brought back from retirement.
- The CxO Brand is self-defined and rooted in real attributes: A CxO brand should be built around unique attributes and around the CxO’s personality. Is he/her a people person? Analytical? Brilliant? Insightful? To be effective CxOs need to have a rich, fully-realized concept of their own identity and the best way is to be genuine and authentic. People can see right through disingenuous communication and it is easy to manage an authentic personal brand on a daily basis.
- The CxO Brand is not that of a Specialist: A deep dive into a specific domain is often boring for the employees you lead, interchangeable with another CxO and not inspiring. CxOs are generalists, they are multi-talented, multi-skilled, and open to many types of challenges. They stand out not because they do a few things well, but because they can do many things well.
- The CxO brand should tell a story: If your personal brand isn’t telling a story there is nothing unique and personalized about it. You and your company are still vulnerable because you’re interchangeable. The most effective personal branding strategy is to build a true narrative around who you are, your life experiences and what you wish to influence.
- The CxO brand has consistency and depth: Being consistent means to demonstrate consistency across your communication, gravitas, and appearance. Each of the aspects that your brand highlights have to be backed by tremendous depth of vision, knowledge, and content — consistently. Small inconsistencies can derail personal brand effectiveness.
- A CxO personal brand is a lifelong project: A personal brand is a lifelong project that constantly evolves and changes. So be prepared to invest your time in the long run to build your brand.
A CxO personal brand can be a major force that works in favor of your company. Not enough companies know how to truly leverage the personal brands of their CxOs and not enough CxOs realize that a personal brand doesn’t just impact them at an individual level but impacts entire companies. It is imperative that the CxO take the time and effort to create a respected personal brand that bristles with authenticity and authority and is seen as an industry voice.
Tech Entrepreneur, TEDx speaker & Philanthropist, Rakesh Shukla is a BTech-MBA & CEO of the world leader in communications for technology businesses with a worldwide Fortune 500 customer base. Rakesh is a speaker on Leadership, Strategic Marketing, Strategic Communications, creating world-class bootstrapped Startups & resurgence in business. He lives with 800 rescued dogs, has no work-life balance and will not have it any other way! Rakesh has been featured in 100+ interviews on the BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera, CNN-IBN, NDTV, India’s national dailies etc.
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