When it comes to corporate reputation, your executive visibility strategy can make or break your brand. Jeff Bezos, Meg Whitman, Rupert Murdoch, Elon Musk. When you hear the names of these top leaders, the corporate brands they’ve helmed quickly come to mind. Their reputations and those of their businesses are intricately intertwined.
Who is the face and voice of your brand? Who is the driving force of company values, culture, foresight and intellectual capital? Whether it’s your CEO or another C-level leader, a strategic approach to positioning your top executives as leading industry thinkers, trendsetters and influencers will set your company apart from the competition, build customer loyalty and boost sales.
3 Essentials of a Strong Executive Visibility Strategy
1. Share unique knowledge.
Let’s assume, for example, that you’re charged with building the thought leadership of your CEO. In addition to deep understanding of your company and its vision, let’s say she has a distinctive vantage point about trends, challenges and risks impacting your industry. The very strengths and insights behind your company’s mission and business strategy are undoubtedly of value more broadly, too.
Embrace a visibility strategy not as marketing hype but as a means to helping your industry flourish. Be a voice for the marketplace, not with the purpose of landing sales alone, but with the broader purpose of raising the issues of utmost importance to the industry and its customers. Brand attention and sales may follow, but if you’re in it for those reasons alone, your audiences will sense it and lose interest.
2. Be authentic and personal.
Instead, tap into themes, opinions and issues that are deeply meaningful to the CEO. What does she keep talking about with customers or employees? Are there certain types of news articles she responds to more? What does she debate with the leadership team? Find something that resonates with the CEO, and that matters to your customers and prospects.
Consider how your CEO personifies your brand’s values. For example, how Richard Branson personifies “enjoyment” plays a key role in the brand image of Virgin. The more your thought leadership platform connects the CEO’s passions with the company’s purpose, the more easily and authentically it can come to life with personal anecdotes and stories.
3. Invest and execute realistically.
At a minimum, embracing a thought leadership plan for your CEO requires her to strategically inform the effort. But to be truly successful, it also should include personal commitment of time and focus. Bluntly: She needs to want to do it and be part of it.
But CEOs don’t need to do it all on their own. An executive visibility strategy should be designed to reflect personality, communications style and work style, and play to strengths. If she performs best in a prepared setting, focus more heavily on written pieces and controlled content. If she shines with larger groups, put her on stage. Prefers quick responses? Try a social media program. Likes to be deep and thoughtful? Craft an op ed.
To maximize efficiencies and maintain an objective perspective, your agency or marketing team should interview the CEO, write first drafts and create visual content, share news trends and articles of interest to prompt new ideas, and conduct outreach to journalists and conference organizers to secure opportunities.
The big payoff.
Elevating executive visibility creates a competitive advantage and positions your company as both innovative and customer focused. But it also directly and indirectly increases the executive’s communications and leadership skills, helps build trust and rapport with customers and business partners, and can be a mechanism for thinking through industry problems and solutions and testing new ideas.