Whether you like it or not, you have a personal brand as an executive. Are you doing enough to build it?
Some of our leading executives are eager to share what they've learned as they continue to build their brands. Just like growing your career, it's about working it daily.
Here are the best tips for executives looking to build their brand.
Steve Barriault, Global Technology Sales Leader
If you want to build your brand today, it needs to go through the web—particularly social media. Today, platforms like LinkedIn play the same role for executives (and other professionals too!) as snazzy storefronts and glitzy banners have done for brick and mortar stores for decades: they get attention. Your "virtual storefront" is building your brand 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Not having a lively online presence means it is much more difficult for others to find you, just like a store without a sign that tells passing travelers it's open for business.
I also believe the rules of self-branding have evolved because of social media. People, especially younger ones, are frankly fed up with stereotypical communication from the PR department—you know, the type of communication that is so neutral that it has no taste left. It is perceived, at best, as uninteresting, and at worst, phony. People yearn for leaders to speak plainly and from the heart. Just look at what gets the most clicks, even on LinkedIn (hint: it is not the dry stuff).
So, be yourself.
That doesn't mean to be frivolous, though. After all, you are an executive and have an image to protect. You certainly don't want to be seen as offensive or impolite. But there is a lot of middle ground between shocking your audience and being seen as stodgy. For example, if you record a video to put online, smile and crack a joke if you can...or don't. Do something else entirely if this is what will get your message across. Just be authentic. Your fellow human beings will appreciate it!
And if you make a mistake along the way, learn from it, apologize if necessary, and move on. It is pure hubris for someone to think he or she cannot do anything wrong. Taking the chance of making small mistakes along the way may make you feel inadequate, but it may also take away some of that aura of invincibility many of us try so hard to build. It will also make you a lot more accessible, more relatable, and ultimately a more effective leader. Someone flawed but inspiring, mentoring their teams to excel and overachieve.
Steve Barriault is a global technology sales executive with 18+ years of experience in business development on three continents. He is currently serving in a 3,000 employee-strong company providing embedded software testing solutions in multiple industries such as automotive, avionics, industrial systems, telecom, and others. Multilingual, he holds advanced degrees in business, science, and computer science.
Rosanne Mao, CFO/Finance Director
We should build a personal brand to communicate the "unique" characteristics and clear value to current and potential employers or clients. The unique personal reputation develops a unique identity to distinguish from other executives. Long-term success depends on making a critical distinction and emphasizes the personal qualities. Personal branding is one's story.
The #1 tip for executives looking to build their brand is reinventing the personal brand as we grow. Throughout the career life, it's important to keep refining your personal brand to ensure it aligns with personal achievements and goals. Our personal brands will change as the digital ecosystem changes and the career evolves. It's important to adjust our personal brand accordingly as we meet different people, find new networking opportunities, and grow our careers.
Understanding what goes into a good brand strategy is the key. Try to look critically at your personal brand at least twice a year and create a shining brand that reflects your professional life. Personal brand emphasizes your ongoing professional development and forces executives to learn new skills and not always rely on the core strengths.
The finance executive, as a thought leader, plays many roles: strategic partner, ethical leader, financial expert, mentor, and more. We aim to inspire confidence in others, communicate with investors, motivate the team, and sell the company's vision. Building a personal brand begins with a clear statement, somewhat similar to a mission statement. Here's one as an example: "As a Finance Director/CFO, I helped the company reduce costs, improve efficiencies, foster innovation, and enhance corporate brand. I designed the strategic solutions to enhance cash flow, maximize corporate profitability, and reduce risk." Employers highly value the problem-solving skills highlighted in this statement.
The advent and growth of social media and other digital channels (LinkedIn, Twitter, blogging, etc.) has created an ideal environment in which we can become branded as a thought leader. Share wisdom and increase credibility by mentoring others. The team becomes part of the executive brand. How are you shaping the style of your team in terms of how they extend your brand? Thinking strategically and working collaboratively to solve problems will benefit a finance executive's brand better than being a financial guru.
Cultivate the authentic and consistent brand that reflects expertise, values, personality, and empower to excel in diverse roles. Come up with a strategy to track the success of building a leadership brand over the long term. A leadership brand is a reputation for developing a distinct set of talents that are uniquely geared to fulfill customers' and investors' expectations.
We are always evolving, so the personal brand should always be evolving. Sean Oliver advises that the personal brand is, "as important as your financial portfolio. It must be sound, healthy, diversified and worth the long-term investment." Build integrity and confidence to track the long-term success of the personal brand and increase brand value. After all, we are a business-of-one.
Rosanne Mao is a CFO/finance director with more than 20 years of financial management experience in a multinational company. She's helped the company enhance cash flow, maximize corporate profitability, improve investor relationship, and reduce risk. Her leadership strategy has successfully driven company EBIT to increase by 15%. She has strategically led the enterprise digital transformation with 37% improvement in financial productivity.
Susan Leys, Healthcare Coach, Consultant, And Career Navigator
The best tip I can give executives looking to build their brand is to give your time, energy, and support to the relationships you have with your clients, colleagues, and teams.
Early last month, I was on a webinar hosted by Chris Cardell from Cardell Media in the UK. He made a suggestion that has stuck with me since he said it. "Check in on your clients," he said. "Don't try to sell them anything, just check in with them and see how they're doing."
I loved this because we have a relationship with everyone we work with when you think about it. But how are you defining that relationship? Do you see it as just a "business connection," or is it more than that? Do you ask about their family? Do you know the challenges they may be having outside of your business?
After sitting in on the Cardell Media webinar, I received a call from their office in London. The woman I spoke with was helpful and answered my questions about one of their products. At the end of the conversation, I asked her how they were coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. She said, "It's about the same here as it is there; we're all hunkered down like you are." But then she added, "The silver lining of it all is that I get to spend time with my beautiful family."
Several years ago, my dad was losing his battle with cancer, and between setting up hospice care in our home and adjusting to his care needs, we were also trying to sell his boat, which was in a shipyard hundreds of miles away from our home in Florida. We had tried different brokers, but the boat still wasn't selling. We were exasperated and low on options, so had shifted our focus to that which was most important—dad's health and the care he was receiving.
Early one morning, I received a phone call from a company representative who built the boat. He said, "My wife died of cancer a few years ago, and I understand and empathize with the challenges you are having and am sorry you're going through this. I want to offer to buy your boat. While I know this isn't the price you would hope to receive, I would like you to consider it because it would get the boat off of your hands while also giving my team a project they could work on throughout the winter so I wouldn't have to lay them off." He also offered to cover the remaining bills that we owed the shipyard. In a phone call, all of our worries were gone.
While my dad loved his boat, this one phone call told us a lot more about the builder's brand and his commitment to service and his customers.
Your brand is everything and will always be integral to the relationships you have.
S.A. Leys is a coach, consultant and career navigator at http://www.coachingfornurses.io. We provide coaching, consulting, and debriefing for the healthcare professionals and teams who care for all of us. Follow our hashtag #debriefyourteam on LinkedIn to receive information and strategies to assist your team with coping and retention strategies.
Cynthia McCarthy, B2B Marketing Communications Leader
In an era of unpredictability, when consumers are turning to authentic and inspiring companies they can trust, a strong employee and company brand is crucial. As an executive, your personal brand represents the purpose, values, and culture of your company. In short, you are the human side of the brand. Your position as an industry leader brings the opportunity to build trust and credibility. It builds business success.
Helping tech companies simply communicate value in their marketing and branding, I see both B2C and B2B customers today responding to the human side of a company. Customers are engaging employees to get info and a sense of comfort making decisions. Given that more than 75% of social media discussions revolve around consumers seeking recommendations, information, and advice, Forbes recommends sharing accomplishments, strengths, and industry knowledge as a way for executives to become a resource for others—a dependable thought leader.
My #1 tip for executives looking to build their brand is simply share and share simply.
Share your industry knowledge and insights. Thought leadership is most valued.
Share your experiences through storytelling. People will remember what you said.
Share with and grow your community channels. Especially social media and virtual events.
Share consistently and with purpose. Concise, clear, and present promotes confidence.
Share with humility and compassion. Be authentic, helpful, and humble.
Cynthia McCarthy leads global teams delivering integrated marketing and brand communication strategies for high-growth B2B tech companies. With 15+ years of marketing experience, Cynthia leads content creation for 18+ industry and product campaigns resulting in 20% lift in MQLs year over year at AspenTech. Deep roots in UI/UX and multimedia, including an Emmy award-winning show at WGBH, she helps companies including Apple, Oracle, AT&T, and RedHat innovate to better engage customers. Cynthia passionately serves as a mentor to creatives and marketers on design and technology. She chaired the Massachusetts Women in Technology Leadership Conference and is a member of the Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange (MITX) and Babson College Coaching for Leadership and Teamwork (CLTP).
Building your brand as an executive requires you to be intentional. If you're unsure of where to start, we hope these tips from leading executives will inspire you to build your personal brand today.
Ready to take your executive presence to the next level? Check out Work It Daily's Executive Presence Program today!
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