How to Enhance Your Personal Executive Brand and Expand Your Influence
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Companies are more influential when their executives have a personal brand, and Americans say they are more likely to trust executives who have taken the effort to establish a personal brand.
Executives, especially in the biopharmaceutical industry, often haven’t established their personal brands or even agreed that they need one.
“An executive brand enhances and magnifies their unique personality, points of view and commitments. It is (the act of) establishing oneself as an expert or thought leader in the public sphere,” Karen Tiber Leland, author of The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand, told BioSpace.
“Their brand is represented by what they post on social media, their LinkedIn profile and the content they create, whether that’s podcasts, books, blogs, whitepapers or presentations.”
Essentially, an executive brand should parallel the corporate brand, enhancing it and, thus, enhancing the value of the business.
The Benefits of a Solid Personal Brand
The benefits of establishing an executive brand accrue to the company as well as to the executive. Research over the years shows that when CEOs maintain a personal brand, their organizations are better able to attract and retain employees and build trust among investors and existing and potential customers – even in the biopharma industry.
The ability to extend your influence is another benefit. As an example, Leland mentioned Joshua Peck, founder of TrueCode Capital, a family wealth portfolio manager who developed a cryptocurrency index strategy.
“His LinkedIn profile is up-to-date, and he creates whitepapers and regular content for social media.” When the crypto valuations dropped recently and the crypto exchange FTX Trading’s woes began, Peck was ready, she said.
“His branding was in place. As a result, he was interviewed by Forbes, CBS News, The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, The Guardian and Reuters.” Those interviews further strengthened his position as a thought leader in his industry but were possible only because he had established a presence before the crisis broke.
In biopharma, there’s always news coming out. “If executives want to be speaking about that news, they have to have a platform designed for their brand so they could be ready to be a source for the media,” Leland underscored.
She advised people to begin developing their brands immediately after leaving school so their content is available to would-be employers. Later, as they form companies, “One of the strongest things they can do is create a parallel brand at the start," she said.
Most people will work at multiple companies during their careers.
Therefore, as Vicki O'Neil, executive creative director, LifeSci Communications, told BioSpace, “This means executives should come to each of those companies with a core set of values, a personality and a perspective.” Those perspectives and values can grow and evolve over time, but “their core brand should stay consistent.”
Many biopharma executives are coming from research labs where they focused on science more than personal branding. Nonetheless, “It’s never too late to start,” O’Neil said. “Begin by identifying topics that really embody their brand as well as their company’s brand.”
Deciding what should be in that brand requires strategic thought. “Understand your position about an area of expertise,” Leland advised. For example, “Is your position about building a company in a certain entrepreneurial way? Is it about leading-edge science or technology you’re trying to create?”
Other executive brands are about the concept behind a technology or breakthrough. Bill Gates is a good example. For others, like Elon Musk, the personal brand is driven by personality.
No particular type of personal brand is superior, Leland said, as long as your brand is authentic to who you are.
Once you have determined the strategy for your executive brand, find opportunities to speak at conferences, be interviewed in the media, write articles and attend networking events. “Social media is a great tool to inspire others and to engage a broad audience,” O’Neil said, “so plan a regular cadence of posts with a consistent tone of voice and message, and add a visual aesthetic to help build personal brand equity.”
Emphasize Your Individuality
There is a place for personal touches in an executive brand when they can be linked to a business issue. For example, Leland said, “One executive loves sports and he often posts about that, with an analogy linking sports to a business insight. It infuses his personality into his brand.”
Another is passionate about food, so his musings sometimes discuss a particular food or restaurant, delving into what he’s learned about that food or place and why it’s important, framed within the context of his executive brand.
“It doesn’t hurt to sprinkle in a more personal post during the holidays to remind your audience that you’re human,” O’Neil said, and that you have the same type of concerns your audience has.
What’s most important is that the personal and corporate brands reinforce each other. Thus, “Content should be relevant to the company’s goals and mission, and highlight the company in some way,” O’Neil reiterated.
Leland advised treading lightly around controversial topics unless they help your organization in some way and you’re truly committed. “No matter which side of an issue you’re on, you will alienate somebody,” she cautioned, so interjecting your personal, political and social opinions into your brand may have consequences.
Personally, she said she keeps controversy away from her own personal brand, “but there’s no one right answer to that.” The right balance, strategy and tactics will vary depending on your audience, goals and markets.
“On social media, you want a two-way, positive dialogue that really engages your followers,” O’Neil said. Therefore, if people comment, reply to them as if you’re in person and dropped by to chat. The frequency of posting depends on the topic and what you have to say. “You don’t want to overwhelm your viewers. I’d say one post per week is good."
“The most important thing, though, is to be consistent and authentic,” O’Neil said. “Don’t try to be somebody else, because it’s your unique personality that makes you stand out.”
The business environment has changed in the past several years, and people care about what company CEOs and senior executives think more than ever before.
Nonetheless, “Executive brands tend to be undervalued, so CEOs and other executives tend to consider it optional,” Leland said. “The truth is that it’s not optional anymore. If you are not building a personal CEO or executive brand, you do so at your own peril – for your career and your company.”
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