In a society powered by constant access to information, customers in every space are following people they respect and trust — not just companies with great marketing campaigns. And while marketers toss around the phrases personal branding and expert branding a lot, building a strong personal brand really is a requirement for top executives to engage followers who increasingly look to those leaders, rather than to their companies alone, for information.
The truth is that Elon Musk is Tesla’s best asset for promoting its brand, and Steve Jobs had the power to present nearly every new product in a way that earned it coverage in publications and media outlets across the country. Why? Because people know and trust public figures like these.
While you don’t have to be a global celebrity to enhance your company’s brand, you do have to be active and respected in your industry. Here’s why establishing your personal brand is important and how you can achieve this:
More often than not, people trust and connect with other people, not with corporations. As the leader of a company, no matter how small that company is, you already have a certain amount of built-in authority and credibility. Just saying that you’re the CMO of XYZ Company defines you as someone who knows what she’s talking about.
But by building your personal brand, sharing your ideas, and interacting with your audience and the media in your space, you can build deeper trust, establish a strong connection, and advance a conversation that can be used to drive people back to your company in the long run.
When you start becoming known for your ideas and your unique approach, you can quickly become a huge asset for your company. I call this the mirror effect, and it happens when your brand grows so strong that it builds the company brand and vice versa.
A great example here is Sheryl Sandberg. Because she is a leading voice for women in the workplace and has a tremendous reputation in that domain, her stature has a positive impact on people’s perceptions of Facebook. It seems simple, but the truth is that your good reputation reflects on your company, and the good reputation of your company reflects on you.
If you don’t have a strong personal brand, you may have had the following experience:
You have some really exciting news about what your company is doing. It could change the industry. It could change the world! Unfortunately, when your marketing department or PR team reaches out to media, no one seems all that interested in what you have to say. What you’re doing is great, but because nobody knows who you are, no one wants to write the story. Worse yet, many media outlets won’t even take your calls because they’ve never heard of you.
Consider the opposite experience:
You have a strong brand and are often quoted for stories in your industry’s top publications. Your blog following is strong, and you’ve even written a book that solidifies your position as a leader in your space. Not only does the reporter know who you are, but others in your industry also view you as a leader. When you have exciting news, you simply send an email to the reporter, and her interest in you makes her want to write the story. You also share that news on your blog, which is read and shared by others in your industry.
Which of these scenarios sounds more appealing?
It doesn’t happen overnight, but building your public profile means that people start to notice and to care about what you say, and when you have something important to communicate, you have an established audience and the leverage to get that message out to the world.
Right now, you may be considering building your personal brand so you can help your company succeed. Keep in mind, though, that whether you are an owner, executive, or employee at your current company, there’s always a chance that you won’t be there 10 years from now.
A strong personal brand travels with you, and you take your reputation and your own brand equity with you when you join a team. You lend your credibility to organizations you join, boards you sit on, and new ventures you are involved with. Even if you’re not considering a change now, it’s powerful to know that you can use your brand to add value to any future venture.