I was recently speaking at a conference for CEOs, and one of the consistent issues that came up was the best way to find executive branding services to assist the entrepreneur and CEO in building their personal brand. Among the comments I heard again and again were:

  • I know I need to work with someone, but I'm not sure where to find that person/company.
  • I am confused by the various vendors offering these services.
  • I'm not sure where to even start.
  • I've hired people before and been disappointed in the results.

The counterintuitive truth is that building a CEO or executive brand is more complicated than one would think. To confuse matters even further, every leader already has a brand; it's just that most have been created by default --rather than by design.

To create an executive brand by design takes a concentrated and coordinated strategic effort, usually involving at least some outside assistance.

Part of the problem --as I explained to my room full of curious CEOs --is that executive branding services firms are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. There are five distinct types of branding service firms you can engage to help build your personal brand.

1. Roadmap Warriors

If you're looking for some assistance in taking a bird's-eye view of your personal brand and then translating it into a strategy for thought leadership, this may be the firm for you.

Often known as brand strategists, these businesses and individuals excel at assessing your current brand in the marketplace, determining the best path(s) forward for building your personal brand and then helping you develop a timeline and plan to get there.

Cautionary tale. A firm that only writes the strategy and doesn't do the implementation can still be an excellent choice, but bear in mind that you will need to hire other resources to implement the roadmap.

2. Design Devils

Even those looking to build a personal brand (vs. a business brand) need well-designed collateral. Websites, one sheets, slide decks, media kits and the like all require the services of a qualified graphic designer or visual artist to make sure they are "on brand."

Often known as brand identity firms, these are the folks that help you create the logo, colors, fonts and overall look of your brand.

Cautionary tale. Some web and graphic designers offer brand messaging and copywriting as well. While some have the capacity to do this with quality, for many it's just not within their wheelhouse. Be warned. When it comes to your brand, the devil is in the details.

#3. Funnel Masters.

Known as Internet (or online) marketing firms, these marketers know how to use web advertising, keyword search, Google AdWords and other social media efforts (i.e., Facebook marketing, LinkedIn campaigns, etc.) to effectively create an online funnel that makes it easier for potential clients to find you.

Cautionary tale. In the insane flurry of social media hype, many people think Internet marketing provides the magic pixy dust needed to solve all their personal branding problems.

In reality, there is often a great deal of trial and error associated with successful campaigns. To avoid wasting time and money, be certain that the firm you hire employees an effective strategy given your goals and audience.

4. Media Makers

If you are looking to use traditional PR to build your personal brand, then this type of firm may fit the bill. Typically they handle everything from press releases and media kits to pitching to producers and placing stories on radio, TV, magazines, newspapers and online.

Cautionary tale. Unfortunately, some PR companies have not kept up with the changes in brand management and don't know how to create and implement a fully integrated branding strategy. Many won't guarantee a certain number of placements, making traditional PR a potentially high-risk proposition.

5. One-Stop Shops

Most executives have the desire to build a stronger personal brand but lack the time to implement it. Agencies and brand management firms offer a single source for putting your strategy into action.

Cautionary tale. Some firms say they can serve all your needs, but don't really have the deep bench needed to do so. As one woman said to me, "The agency I work for had me write the copy for a client's promo sheet, but I'm a graphic designer. I did my best, but it's not really my area."

By engaging the type of executive branding services that best match your current needs and future desired brand state, you can significantly, and effectively, move the needle on your personal brand. Do it right and you may just find yourself the center of attention at the next CEO conference you attend.