Why Every Entrepreneur Needs a Compelling Personal Brand -- And How to Build It
As customers gain more access to general company information via the Internet, they also develop a greater demand for details about a business's founder. That's why you need to take the time to craft your reputation in order to create a personal brand parallel to your company's brand.
Your personal brand will help you plan for the future. Even if you own your own firm outright, in an uncertain economy, businesses can and do take major hits when economic, political and world security shifts occur. Having a strong brand as founder of the company helps ensure your options and positions you for possibilities, should you need them in the future.
Keep in mind that every time a CEO or founder with a strong positive personal brand shows up or speaks, he promotes his business. Steve Jobs, Marissa Mayer and Tony Hsieh have all become synonymous with their companies. Even if you're not a household name, having a strong personal brand establishes you as a leader in your industry and field. By default, this increases exposure and enhances the reputation of your business.
In addition to being beneficial for your career and your customers' comfort, a strong personal brand both online and off is good for employee morale and engagement. In one 2012 study from brandfog.com, a majority of those surveyed believe that CEOs who use social media channels can improve engagement with multiple stakeholders across their organizations. Building better connections with customers topped the list at 89.3 percent, but engagement with employees and investors also came in strong.
Once you're on board with the benefits of creating a strong CEO brand, the next step is to begin with both online and offline strategies. Here are a few ways I get my clients started:
1. Make your bio bold, not boring. Take a look at your current bio and make sure it is fully fleshed out with all the accomplishments and achievements from your career, not just your present position. This should include who have you written for, speeches you've given, media interviews, relevant certificates or awards, projects have you been involved with, how long you have been in business, recognizable clients, national or international credentials and whatever else makes you a thought leader in your field.
I worked with one CEO whose bio was focused on his current position as president of a consulting firm, but totally ignored his past as a high-profile attorney who had been interviewed by The New York Times, Rolling Stone and the Washington Post for his expertise. Making over his bio increased his credibility and personal brand.
Related: How to Position Your Personal Brand In Two Minutes Or Less
2. Optimize your LinkedIn profile. Once you've crafted an updated bio, the next step is to review your LinkedIn profile and bring it up to speed. Having a fully fleshed-out summary, a professional headshot, at least 20 recommendations and all past positions held is essential. According to one Lab42 survey, the top activities on LinkedIn are industry networking, keeping in touch and co-worker networking.
I once had a client who was president of a 40-person financial firm, but had no profile picture and only a one-paragraph summary on his profile. Within a week after he optimized his LinkedIn profile, he was contacted with offers to speak at industry events.
3. Write a blog post or article. There is no doubt content marketing is a great way to build your CEO brand. Getting known personally as an expert in your field can be a boon to your business. Make a list of relevant top industry or business publications and blogs and brainstorm article topics you might write about. If you're not a great writer but still have something to say, you can hire someone to ghostwrite the article or post for you. Even a single, short blog post placed in the right media outlet can greatly increase your personal CEO brand.
If you're feeling overwhelmed and wondering where you are going to get the time to do all this individual branding, don't worry. The nice thing about wearing so many hats is that you have the ability to hire someone else to organize them for you. With the strategic use of virtual assistants, freelance writers, marketing and branding consultants and other support staff, you can create a personal brand that will build buzz for you and your business.
Karen Leland is the founder of Sterling Marketing Group, where she helps entrepreneurs and executives build stronger personal, team and business brands. She is also the best-selling author of The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand.