As 2020 gets firmly under way, it's not just your company brand that requires forethought, planning, and implementation -- your CEO brand does too. One way to approach your CEO brand-building strategy is to take a multifaceted approach that includes reputation management, thought leadership, content marketing, and executive presence.
In my experience working with small-business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders, building a CEO brand around these areas results in the simultaneous strengthening of both the company and the CEO's personal brand. Here are a few things to consider as you plan out your 2020 CEO brand strategy.
1. What will you do to enhance your online reputation in 2020?
Be it building a website for your new book, upgrading your LinkedIn profile, or increasing your Twitter following, a solid CEO brand requires a proactive approach to reputation management, both online and off. Online reputations in particular require close attention in an age where things go viral in a nanosecond.
To determine where you currently stand in terms of your online reputation, Google your name and see what comes up. As simple as this sounds, very few CEOs regularly check their online standing. Doing this allows you to address some of the low-hanging fruit of online reputation management, including:
- Replacing old headshots with more current ones. Most sites will update your picture if you send a new one.
- Updating incorrect information. Basic info such as spelling of a name, contact information, and dates can often be corrected by simply contacting the site owner.
- Determining whether any of your proprietary content has been shared without your permission. If someone is using your content sans approval, you can send a friendly message to take the content down.
2. What direction will your thought leadership take in 2020?
While thought leadership remains a buzzword of brand building in 2020, knowing the type of thought leadership you want to be known for is just as important. The savviest CEOs determine a specific area within their field and establish a public expertise around it. Through consistent effort, you can become the source in your field media go to for comment. For example:
- Celebrity CEOs are best known for their personality. It's the fanfare and flair that raises the profile of these leaders. Certainly, they are experts in their area (Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Elon Musk), but it's their flash that gets them noticed.
- Cerebral CEOs are best known for their thinking, creating out-of-the-box products or services, reinventing an existing field, and otherwise disrupting the way things have always been done. These CEOs are known for the way they shake things up and bring us something new and different.
- Consequential CEOs are best known for the results they produce. Did you turn around a company in trouble? Propel a business to the Inc. 5000 list? Lead your company in a radical new direction? CEOs with this flavor of thought leadership are known for the ways in which they move the needle.
3. What is your content strategy for getting your message across in 2020?
One of the first things I tell new clients is that there are more than 40 core strategies you can use to get your CEO brand out there, including podcasting, branding, LinkedIn campaigns, book writing, public speaking, networking, and more. But most CEOs don't have the time (or money) to pursue all 40 of them.
The best practice is to determine the top three to five that best fit your CEO branding goals, and the best way to find your ideal tactical approach is to ask yourself the following questions:
- Where does my audience consume their information? If the audience you are going after mostly reads blogs and listens to podcasts -- and doesn't spend much time on Twitter -- it would make sense to put more of your efforts into the former.
- Where do my talents lie? What are you particularly skilled at -- and not? I've worked with CEOs who were fabulous writers but so-so public speakers, and vice versa. Choosing a strategy that is within your wheelhouse produces higher-quality results.
- What do I have time for? I had one client who was a fabulous public speaker but simply didn't have the time to travel from conference to conference giving keynotes. In that case, even though speaking was technically a good tactic to build his brand, it was an unrealistic one to implement.
Finally, the most successful CEO brands have a rock-solid executive presence element to them. Leaders who have a clear message, delivered in a consistent way, are always at the top of the thought leadership pyramid.
They don't just let their CEO brands happen; they invent them. So, in the final analysis, the question is: How will you create your CEO brand by design instead of by default in 2020?