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CEO branding can help you unlock your brands hidden potential

Samuel Dontoh

In Branding, CEO branding, Marketing Posted

What do Gwyneth Paltrow, Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson all have in common? They are CEO of successful brands as well as being brands in their own right. Today’s CEO’s get more attention from journalists and social media than they ever have. It now starts and ends with the CEO, especially if they’re the founder of the business. CEO’s are often seen responding publicly to questions and remarks on social media.

Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky is a great example of a CEO leveraging social media for good, whilst raising sentiment for himself and the Airbnb brand. Reacting to President Trump’s travel ban announcement, Chesky went on to twitter to offer free accommodation for those who were affected. He also encouraged his followers to speak about the ban. This can be seen as a H2H (human 2 human) approach. Chesky appealed to his Twitter followers emotions and showcased the devotion of his brand to make a difference. 

Granted the whole set of communications may have been thought up by the marketing department, as a reactive exercise, by leveraging the CEO’s social media presence and adding that human touch it was well received and not seen as a marketing or PR move. Instead it was viewed as a positive move by a CEO and his company.

Elon musk Tesla CEO

The face of the business

The CEO is often seen as the face of the company and usually gets most of the publicity, which makes them a vital influence on the company’s reputation. Some CEO’s are great at naturally portraying themselves as amazing personal brands, others require coaching and mentoring to get their personality across in a favourable way. Research has found CEO’s impact financial aspects of a business such as financial performance, profits and stock returns, and non-financial aspects such as job retention of employees and overall company reputation.

Master at work

The late Steve Jobs was one of, if not the most iconic CEO’s of our generation. He had great influence within the tech world and within his company. When Steve announced his resignation in August 2011, Apple’s stock price dropped 3%. That was a staggering amount as it was equal to $10 billion of the company’s value at the time. The sell off of Apple stock showed that there was a lack of confidence in the company without Jobs at the helm. There are both benefits and negatives about having a CEO with such a public face. However, when executed correctly it can have an amazing impact on a business by putting a human face to the company. By putting a human face to the company you’re allowing key stakeholders to better relate to the company. Remember people feel good when working for someone they respect, not just a concept or brand identity.

How to brand your CEO

Branding a CEO is no easy task though. It’s something that can take years to develop and requires time and planning to get it right. A robust three year CEO branding plan gives the company enough time to action various stages of what we like to call the PRTC formula. PRTC is an in-house formula we use to get to the heart of a CEO’s persona, improve their reputation, develop thought leadership content and finally increase engagement between the CEO and customers.

Stages of PRTC

Persona development

Reputation building

Thought leadership

Customer engagement

The above are core areas that should be approached as individual micro projects. To achieve the most of the CEO branding plan you’ll need to involve HR, PR, marketing and finance. Businesses who do not have the resources to do so in-house, should consider hiring an independent marketing agency. This allows the business to keep ticking over whilst most of the heavy lifting is undertaken by the marketing agency.

CEO social media strategy

Does your CEO have a social media strategy? This might sound daft but the CEO, being the face of the business, needs to be the leading light in your social media strategy. Public perception is key to a CEO’s reputation and needs to be handled with care. A solid strategy should focus on the persona of the CEO and how the public perceives the CEO.

When creating this unique style of strategy it’s important to fully understand the personality of the CEO and the brand identity to find key similarities that can be used as a recurring theme/message in the social media strategy. Great CEO’s respond to crisis management issues as well as responding to consumers via email, letters and social media posts. If done right these responses will often find their way into the public eye and show the CEO in a positive light. Some CEO’s will naturally be social media savvy while others will require a team or agency to manage their social media accounts.

Visual imagery

What the CEO wears is also important. Think of Steve Jobs and his jeans and polar necks for example. What a CEO wears is a reflection on the brand they represent. It’s a work uniform to project confidence and success. We are visual beings by nature, and we sense success and failure in equal measure without ever seeing the bank balance. This is what makes the CEO’s appearance so important to their personal brand.

Once the persona work has been done, a strong and varied photography shoot with a stylist is recommended. There are great examples of iconic images of CEOs. This type of service shouldn’t be exclusively available to just the rich and famous. At Happy Lucky, we work with award-winning photographers, stylists, PR consultants, copy writers and strategists as part of the CEO branding process.

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