When I started Delightful Communications back in 2012, one of the niche services we offered executives was called personal branding. At the time, there was a lot of talk about TRUST in business, and I felt strongly that big companies were missing the mark by not having their leaders more visible at a personal level, building trust and engagement through their own personal brands that also benefited the corporate brands they represented. I wanted to reverse engineer the strategies and tactics I’d employed during my time at Microsoft as their Digital Marketing Evangelist to help leaders become more discoverable, sharable, and memorable within their industries.
It was a slow burn.
Back then, few executives prioritized social media for professional engagement. Even now, research shows that while 75% have LinkedIn accounts, nearly 25% haven’t posted anything in 90 days.
Given the reluctance of some leaders to invest in leadership branding efforts at a personal level, this part of Delightful was successful, but at a small scale.
Then along came 2020, which changed everything.
Suddenly business professionals were at home in front of a screen rather than networking at in-person events or speaking at conferences all around the world. But they still had a message to share. They still wanted to engage with customers, partners, employees, potential employees, and journalists. But how? Enter social media stage left.
To assuage reluctant executives uncomfortable with the potential perception of “personal” in personal branding, we coined the moniker “Leadership Branding” and interest in our services suddenly skyrocketed.
Here’s a closer look at the discipline we call Leadership Branding—what it is, why it’s important and how you can fine-tune it to your organization’s advantage.
After all, your brand is out there already whether you own it or not, you might as well take control and start emanating the wisdom and experience you have spent so many years cultivating.
What is Leadership Branding?
Leadership Branding is the discipline of uncovering and shining a light on your professional purpose, what you do, who you do it for, and the value people and companies get from having you work with and for them.
It’s the art (your brand, your message, how you want people to feel) and the science (how you come across online and in person, what you share on social media, what shows up for your name on search engines, how people find or recommend you) of the experience you want people to have with regards to your wisdom and experience.
Putting yourself out there on social media doesn’t mean you have to make yourself an open book. Instead, it’s personal because it’s YOUR experience, it’s YOUR career story, it’s what YOU have to offer the world after however many years in your industry.
Just be aware, like in marketing and advertising, whatever you share has to be authentic in order to resonate with your target audience. More on that in a moment.
By building your Leadership Brand, not only can you cement yourself as a thought leader and become more discoverable, shareable and memorable, the brand associated with you—your company— will reap additional related benefits.
Leadership Branding helps better position aspiring leaders to reach higher in their careers and it gives established leaders a podium from which they can share their own success stories and the lessons learned for the benefit of others.
How to establish your Leadership Brand
When we start working with a new client, we ask who the leader is trying to reach, what message they are trying to get across and what value they bring to the conversation. This helps focus and target future messaging. It may require some soul searching at first. After all, you have to reflect on and understand your own story—and career path—in order to form meaningful connections.
We’ve found many executives are so focused on building their businesses they haven’t taken time to step back and assess their career trajectories. That includes success and challenges, of course, but also where they want to go and what impact they want to make.
As part of our Leadership Branding services, we ask what we call the Legacy Question, which is: When you’re sitting on a beach in retirement and looking back over your career, what is the impact you want to have made on the world? Did you take all the opportunities that came your way? Were you able to close the “regret gap” because you were purposeful about your career and grew through it with intent?
For many leaders, this question is often one they’ve not thought about, and by reverse engineering how they want to feel about their life at some point in the future, it sets them on a path to plan better while still being present in the here and now.
Build out Leadership Brand messaging pillars
From there, we recommend leaders establish three or four messaging pillars, or topics to focus on. We work with many tech leaders, so they might pick digital transformation, customer advocacy, diversity and inclusion, and something more niche like partnerships within the fintech sector. This helps executives and their communication managers curate and eventually create the content they want to share with their target audience and adds focus.
Assess the competitive landscape
Once you’ve established this baseline, look at what other leaders in your industry are doing. What are they sharing? Where are they sharing it? When? Is it engaging? If you were going to be on a panel speaking at an event, who from other companies might also get asked? Being cognizant of who else is in your industry or professional space will keep you relevant and up to speed with your industry, showing you are in touch.
Make time to engage on social media
To make the most of your work so far, you have to commit to sharing digital content. I find the best way for busy professionals to do this is to simply schedule a recurring time every week and we recommend tools like Buffer to help with scheduling posts.
It’s important to commit because—let’s face it—your Leadership Brand is there whether you cultivate it or not. And as well as sharing your ideas and other people’s content, to truly enjoy the benefits of Leadership Branding, you have to engage with other people—and be engaging yourself.
Create and share your own content
Often, we find the act of sharing content tends to spark creativity among leaders who realize they have their own perspectives on a given topic, so think about what you could create whether a long-form article or video series to get your thoughts across. Plus, research shows only 15% of decision-makers rate the quality of existing thought leadership as excellent. That means there’s still a huge opportunity to create GREAT content.
These are just a few Leadership Branding tips from our book and that you’ll find posted to our blog and social media channels.
Hope they provide some valuable insight as a starter for you on your way to helping your wisdom and experience become more discoverable, shareable, and memorable.
Mel Carson – Founder & CEO