These days, everyone is a celebrity. Everybody has a voice. That’s fantastic in a lot of ways, but it also means you are expected to use your voice in more ways than ever before. Today’s world of social media and inbound marketing means that CEOs are expected to be more than strategic thinkers and charismatic leaders. As company brands merge with personal brands, CEOs are expected to be consistently vocal, targeted, and engaging on the larger scale as well.
I’m excited to welcome this week’s guests, Wendy Alpine and Nancy Tao of Alpine Communications. They are experts in the world of building a powerful voice, and strategically crafting thought leadership for CEOs and other leaders in the business world. They offer great insight on how to build a personal brand that will serve as an authentic extension of your company’s brand.
Choose Your Platform Carefully
If you are the CEO of a music company, you might think your platform needs to have something to do with music. Not necessarily the case. Look at CEOs like Richard Branson. He has created over 400 diverse companies under a brand that embraces adventure, disruption and creating change. His personal brand accents his company brand. He vocally supports causes like climate change, clean water, ending human trafficking, and supporting young leaders. The images we see regularly of Sir Richard jumping out of airplanes (or off of a casino in Vegas), waving from hot air balloons, or kite surfing across the English Channel only serve to enhance the brands he creates.
The platform a CEO builds might have lot to do with the goals of their company. But, it might not. When you are defining your own platform, it’s more important to think about what you care about while you’re in your living room at home – what do you care about personally that you want to share with your community? It might be something to do with company culture, or it could just as easily be a cause you can’t stop reading or writing about, or a community service to which you have committed time and energy.
Don’t go after what you think your target demographic wants to hear. Go after what drives you. Authenticity counts for a lot more than pandering to an audience – especially for millennials, who are driven by transparency and genuineness more than any other generation. Tao explains, “The same things that you believe in at home, you should believe in at your workplace and you should share that with your constituents.”
I know that a lot of you CEOs can be a bit guarded about your personal life, but opening the kimono on the things that really matter to you can show a personal side, and set people, both in and out of your company, at ease. Like it or not, you, as a CEO, are a bit of a hero to the incoming workforce. They want to see themselves in you, and by letting them see a bit of the personal side you allow them to relate. Even reading an article about a CEO who talks about their hobbies can make people feel more related – and therefore more likely to want to work with that CEO, or support the company they lead.
Being authentic personally can also help draw the right team. Says Tao, “There has been a lot of discussion on how to relate to millennials, and one of the things we keep hearing is that millennials care about these things. They care about the environment, they care about work life balance, and things like that, and I think it’s communicating that more than the company. There is a person behind it. You’re authentic and you’re real. I think that resonates with a lot of the employees today, especially the young people.”
Company Brands aren’t Separate from Personal Brands
As I mentioned above, your personal brand doesn’t have to be directly linked to your company brand – but, that doesn’t mean it won’t support it. Your company also has certain values, and it’s likely that your interests as a CEO will coincide in the big picture sense with those of your company.
As a CEO, you may even want to consider taking your personal interests, and creating a story line for your company from those interests. Consider having your company participate in volunteer activities. This will help create a great culture, give your PR department powerful material, and work to align your personal and company brands. It’s a great fit all around.
Go Off Script
In the past, it’s likely that your PR director would spend time with you before any press appearance or interview crafting detailed answers to expected questions. Times, again, have changed. You’ll still need a bit of time going over speaking points for expected questions – but, it’s more expected that you’ll go off script. People trust you more when they can experience your thought process along with you, and this comes from seeing you work through a question and come up with an answer. Preparation is good, but if you can prepare and then let go and do a deep dive into the question, you’ll come off as more authentic and intelligent.
Have a Plan for Getting the Message Out
When you know what you want to say, it’s time to figure out how to say it (and to whom). Blogging is a great way to start. So is podcasting, internet radio, town halls, and internal communications. You’d be surprised at how many CEOs ignore the power of an internal blog or newsletter. There are an abundance of ways to get the message out. Be strategic. Know your audience and be aware of how they absorb information. Unless you have an endless budget, you can’t succeed on every platform, so do your research and choose wisely.
Remember, every CEO is expected to be a rock star (or celebrity chef or top triathlete). Embrace it, and be willing to share yourself, or at least the things that drive you, with the world. We need a lot of heroes these days. Be willing to be one of them.