How to build your personal brand

For many CEOs, executives and founders, building a personal brand can often take a backseat to the day-to-day responsibilities of running a business. In today’s saturated media market, thought leadership takes more time than some are willing to put in because differentiating a stance or opinion is more difficult than ever.

The paradox of thought leadership is that larger, more established companies and executives have a generally easier time getting noticed by the press, but often can’t find the time to write, develop a speaker’s profile or get in front of a camera for a video series. It’s even tougher when they have to sustain a thought leadership campaign over months and years.

Executives at early- or mid-stage companies, on the other hand, might me much more active in building their personal brands but have a harder time getting noticed because they lack the name recognition of established companies.

Building a personal brand is about both balance and consistency. You want to be aware of and capitalize on media trends without becoming just one more voice saying the same thing as everyone else. Identify a trend, then find a way to add something new to it that advances the conversation: a contrarian viewpoint arguing against the predominant opinion, a new problem customers have been having that few people are talking about, the next big wave of technology (not your own) that will change how your industry operates.

The trick, of course, is to be slightly ahead of the industry curve, then stay there. The best thought leaders are constantly writing, speaking and engaging fellow industry influencers on social media. It’s a tough thing to be available to speak with reporters regularly, to travel to conferences, to sit down to write an article or two every month and, oh, run an entire company besides.

It’s here that a dedicated marketing department or PR team can help you stay on schedule. There are a lot of things your marketing writers or content strategists can do to make life a little easier. If you’re discovering that you’re too busy to handle the day-to-day of managing and growing your personal brand, ask your marketing or PR team to:

  • Schedule regular meetings with you to identify themes, topics or specific story ideas you want to explore.

  • Develop outlines and conduct research to provide structure when you are able to sit down to write.

  • Manage your social accounts to guarantee you’re posting relevant content regularly and engaging with reporters, readers and influencers on the topics your industry is discussing.

  • Research award opportunities for you as a CEO (or your fellow executives if you’re too humble), looking at local, regional or national awards for executives, company culture, etc.

  • Create a speaker’s bureau, a repository of content that lays out your expertise in the form of speaking topics. Spread that content across various types of speaking engagements: panels, keynotes, one-on-one interviews, etc. That way, you and your team aren’t scrambling to pitch a topic last-minute.

As you continue to curate speaking engagements, write op-eds and ramp up your social media profiles, consistency should be king. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into one narrow sliver of your industry, but don’t go so broad that a reporter or trade conference programmer wouldn’t feel confident using you as a source or speaker.


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