You are so much more than your job: holistic strategies to build your professional brand
Harnessing executive brand power is not an easy task. Striking the fine balance between having a reliable brand, while staying true to your values and keeping up with the latest trends, can be complicated.
Have you ever wondered why certain people in your field rise seemingly out of nowhere to ubiquitous prominence? These are the ones who get all the media attention, deliver the keynotes at top trade conferences and have a line of clients wanting to work with them. Are these outliers just smarter than the rest of us? Or have they mastered the art of holistic executive branding?
In today’s marketplace regardless of industry, you need your executive brand (or as some refer to it — ‘professional’ brand) to be both trustworthy and memorable. Whether you are conscious of it or not, you are developing this leadership visibility every day. But being intentional in how you craft and articulate your message is the best way to resonate with key audiences. A holistic executive voice aligns your visual, verbal, tactile and emotional assets and allows you to aptly respond to people’s sensory and emotional needs.
Holistic executive branding has empowered Sir Richard Branson to mightily scale his unique brand of quirky fun, creative and personalized experiences across a multitude of industries. And, while Jillian Michaels and Gordon Ramsay each had moderate success early on in their respective fields, their holistic approach to branding brought them to the spotlight and allowed them to ultimately create mega empires. In the eyes of their fans, they are so much more than a fitness trainer and a chef. They are each an inspiring, brilliant and trusted leader.
Still, harnessing executive brand power is not an easy task. Striking the fine balance between having a reliable brand, while staying true to your values and keeping up with the latest trends, can be complicated. Important questions loom: What makes you special? What can you provide? A holistic ground-up approach can help you answer your calling, maintain consistency and establish a professional brand that extends well beyond the job you have.
Self-awareness is one of the most important ingredients in the executive branding recipe. Have you ever seen someone you know plug their executive voice on social media platforms and it’s very obvious to you that they’re trying to be something they’re not? Or they come across as inauthentic and promotional? Believe me, it won’t take long for their audiences to figure it out either.
Recent data from Pew Research Center shows that trust is tracking at an all-time low, largely due to uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. People are understandably skeptical and if you try to pretend to be perfect, they’ll see you coming from a mile away (and turn the other way). And if people don’t trust you, they won’t listen to what you have to say, and they definitely won’t buy from you.
Know your audiences
One of the first steps in raising your executive visibility is to pinpoint your audience. You should be able to accurately describe their preferences, tastes, habits, and sentiment on current events. What are they passionate about? What turns them off? What does an average day look like for them? What media do they consume? What do they care about? And, more importantly, what do they need?
At the end of the day, prioritizing the needs of your audience over everything else is fundamental to serving them. When you give people what they’re looking for, you’ll see the return on investment in the form of more followers, referral sources, leads, career-enhancing opportunities, advocates, and contacts.
A large part of learning about your audiences lies in understanding your reputation and knowing where you stand in the marketplace. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from a trusted mentor or associate who will offer you the criticism you need. In other words, don’t look for an echo chamber. You need a sounding board.
You should also invite feedback directly from your network as this will provide you with the most telling insights about both yourself and your audiences. Many of our clients are quite surprised by the feedback they gauge on social media. Often, they’ll receive messages from people they’ve never spoken to in person about how their posts have been very helpful or that they are a go-to resource for their field. Other times clients have been able to identify new topics that audiences would like to see and understand, as well as which topics or strategies to avoid.
Knock down the barriers
In the modern era, credibility no longer strictly wears a suit and tie. The overly polished image or cautiously curated presentation style may come off as contrived and forced, especially if this doesn’t fit with your natural self. Instead, modern audiences are inspired by leaders they relate to. Being raw, vulnerable, unedited and spirited will resonate more than being buttoned up because it makes you real and approachable.
Commit to the long haul
Executive branding is a long-term commitment and you cannot expect results overnight. Essentially, you are trying to build a community of followers that turn to you for content and advice. We sometimes call this a tribe. Nomenclature aside, you are essentially using your executive voice to form meaningful relationships with people in your industry (and bridge gaps and find partnership opportunities with people outside of your industry). You must continue to provide value to nurture these relationships and build trust with your audience. If you don’t stay the course and remain consistent in your branding activities, these relationships will never fully blossom.
Amplify your executive voice with a dedicated team
In an era of volatile consumer sentiment, executive branding strategy is becoming equally as important as organizational branding. Consumers are more likely to respond to people rather than faceless organizations, which is why we’re seeing the remarkable rise of influencers as brand ambassadors for corporate brands. Notably, this trend is especially picking up traction amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Your executive voice speaks to what you have to offer and determines your success as a leader. But most executives are busy doing their jobs and it takes time, effort, and strategy to identify the right audiences, calibrate the right messages, executive consistent campaigns and maximize your return on investment. By deploying a 360-degree approach, an effective expert branding team will furnish the right tools to strengthen your executive voice and help you lay the foundation for your empire — from the ground up.
Originally published in Thrive Global.