I consider myself a bit of a fanboy for LinkedIn and its publishing platform. And knowing how much I rely on it now to distribute content and engage with my audience, it’s strange to look back on a time when I didn’t even have a standard account.
I started using LinkedIn (and Twitter and other social networks) after I met some resistance getting started in the industry. Because no one outside of my own personal network had any idea who I was, people didn’t take me seriously. I struggled to include myself with other company leaders at industry events, and prospective clients and partners had never really heard of me either. How could I build a name for myself and help grow my company if no one would give me a chance?
The answer was obvious, and it was right under my nose the whole time: I needed to use the same thought leadership and executive branding services my company delivered to our clients. So we got to work establishing and building my executive brand.
It didn’t take long before I noticed positive changes as a result of my executive brand. While I was still the same guy and still the CEO of the same company, I saw my reputation begin to grow among other leaders. And soon, I started building more and better partnerships and earning invitations to speak at industry events. The difference was like night and day.
With the help of my team, I was able to position myself as an authentic, credible leader and build genuine relationships with my audience, and that trust and authority reflected onto my company.
But while the ideas driving executive and company branding are similar — and even overlap if executed correctly — there are major differences between them.
Personal executive branding is just that — personal. This is when individuals differentiate themselves by communicating (often through content) their unique experience, expertise, and qualities with the goal of building credibility and establishing themselves as an industry leader or expert.
Company branding, on the other hand, is the process of strategically selecting a company leader or executive and positioning him or her as a thought leader for the company with the goal of earning company recognition by other industry leaders as a trustworthy, innovative business and becoming a valuable educational resource for prospective clients and partners.
The end goals are different, but these practices intersect when the individual who has developed a strong executive brand also acts as a leading voice for his or her company, as was the case in my situation. The executive brand my team and I built for myself reflected onto Influence & Co., and the audience I had engaged eventually began turning to the rest of my company for high-quality, valuable content — and services.
With the right team and a solid strategy in place, there are three best practices that can help you develop your own executive brand — and build your company as a result.
I understand that the thought of executive branding sounds inherently self-interested or narcissistic, but I assure you that it’s more about leveraging your own experience and business insight to engage readers than it is about promoting yourself. In fact, self-promotion ruins your credibility. When your audience members read your content or listen to you speak at an event, they’re looking for honesty, transparency, unique insights, and your personal experiences — not a sales pitch.
And when you include those qualities in your content, you’re humanizing yourself in the eyes of your readers. To create the kind of brand that’s going to boost your and your company’s authority, be genuine and embrace authenticity in your executive branding content.
While being authentic is critical to your efforts, you still have to harness that authenticity into content that delivers tangible value to your readers. Your personal stories and insights don’t mean much if your readers can’t incite change — within their companies or their day-to-day lives — with that information.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to deliver value to your audience. You can provide value to your audience in a number of ways, from comprehensive guides that thoroughly educate your readers on best practices to trend analyses and prediction articles to simple blog posts that celebrate others in your industry who are setting the standard. If your readers can take something important away from your content and apply it to their lives, you will have delivered value.
Executive branding is not a one-and-done strategy. You can’t just decide to build your brand by writing one article or sharing a post on LinkedIn or your company blog. To effectively build and leverage your brand to grow your company, you’ve got to keep at it.
That means regularly creating content that includes your expertise and insights and distributing it to the right places at the right times to get it in front of the right audiences. And it means being active on LinkedIn and Twitter so you can engage with your audience and maintain those conversations. Branding is a long-term game, but it can pay off for you and your whole team if you make time to contribute consistently.
The spotlight that shines on leaders is no longer optional. The general public, including current and prospective clients and partners, will talk about you and your business, and by developing and leveraging your executive brand, you can ensure their conversations are positive. Develop and nurture your brand by embracing authenticity, delivering value, and committing to consistency, and you’ll create an executive brand that propels your company forward.