Personal branding for business leaders: kickstarting your profile
April 18, 2023
Many successful executives recoil at the idea of proactive profile raising. It is undeniable that many leaders shy away from the public spotlight, choosing instead to devote their energies to their work and to their key stakeholders – whether employees, friends or elsewhere. However, the reality is that that approach is profile building as well, it’s just more targeted.
The often-quoted maxim that “No man is an island” applies doubly to leaders, who are reliant on the support of others to get things done. Whether looking to raise profile on the global stage, the regional stage, or just in the boardroom, leaders need to know who they are talking to and how to do it, if they want to connect with stakeholders and make a lasting impact.
The reasons for building profile, then, are clear, and so is the strategy: identify your key audiences, identify their concerns, and show them your strengths in addressing them.
So, what are the right tactics for you, as you look to build your profile in business or society? In this blog we look at key tactics for bolstering your visibility as a business or thought leader in 2023.
Identifying your skillset
This first step may sound simple enough. After all, you will be well aware of what value you can bring to clients, colleagues and other stakeholders, as well as areas where you have significant experience.
It can be easy however, to lose focus on what really makes you stand out from the competition. The original spark on which your success is built should be front and centre going forward.
This may be straightforward for many individuals who have already made a name for themselves in a certain space, however it can be useful for others to map out your skills and what you want to be known for. Consider getting third party opinions from friends, mentors, colleagues or indeed clients, about your strengths and weaknesses.
Above all, be careful of including any skills you are not very comfortable with. Embracing new challenges is commendable, but if you’re positioning yourself as a leader, you need to be seen to be on top of your subject matter.
Of course, if you are positioning yourself primarily as a learner rather than a leader and want to bring audiences on the journey with you, you’ll need to set out your aspirations for your new skillset. It is important to see where your existing skills can be transferred, however, to give yourself credibility from the outset of your new project.
Establishing personal brand identity
Successful leaders need to be seen to have vision. Once you have identified a concrete list of skills and relevant experiences, it is important to create a shortlist of keywords that speak to your brand. This is both for the purposes of creating strong personal brand messaging and for any initiatives such as online advertising, budget allowing.
Building a strong brand identity based on your experience, skills and a core set of values strengthens the message and makes it ready for outward promotion. This refers not only to your day-to-day business offering but also your character traits. This will ultimately inform your messaging on key issues and convey your outlook and objectives to prospective clients or business partners.
To start this process, you might first look at telling your story. Asking yourself who you are, where you have come from, where you are going and any challenges you overcame on the way, is a great place to start and will also help inform you of your key values if you do not already have these pinned down.
This, teamed with any branding visuals i.e., logo, colour palette or font choices you use, should all be kept consistent on various mediums, be it your online presence, communications, and official documents.
At all times, consider who it is you are trying to reach and plan accordingly. Having a shortlist in mind of who you are looking to attract will steer your outreach planning.
Creating your content
A major part of kickstarting your personal brand is creating content that showcases your expertise and personality, while also providing value to your audience. There are various types of content that can help you establish your personal brand.
Writing blogs and articles about topics on which you are knowledgeable and passionate about is crucial to establishing yourself as an authority in your industry and building your reputation as a thought leader. Producing or co-authoring more in-depth whitepapers and reports will go even further in helping you to establish yourself as an expert in your field and attract new leads and clients.
Wider audio-visual content includes videos and podcasting. Through creating videos sharing valuable insight and information about your industry or your personal work, you can showcase your expertise and connect with your audience on a more personal level. This will establish the trust and credibility needed to promote your personal brand. Podcasting is a tool that is being increasingly used by industry leaders and rightfully so: they can help you share your knowledge and expertise on specific topics related to your industry in a fun and innovative way. This can help you reach a wider audience than you would through written content. Audio-visual content works particularly well when it comes to positioning yourself alongside other known individuals or brands, for example co-hosting podcasts with guest, or sharing photos from high profile events.
Promoting your personal brand
Once you’ve created your content, you need to get it out there and there are several ways to do this. Again, think about your audience’s interests, needs, and preferences.
Many business and thought leaders are wary of being active on social media but platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram provide great opportunities to share your thoughts, insights, and experiences. They can help you build a following and connect with other professionals in your industry.
It is however essential to think carefully about what you put on social media, and how you engage with others, just as you would in real life. If in doubt, hold back. Many is the public figure who has been called up for an ill-judged social media engagement, particularly off-the-cuff responses to other people’s posts.
It may make sense to zero in on only one social media platform. For business audiences, LinkedIn is key, and even more so in the age of remote working. The last three years have seen the extent to which business communities interact on LinkedIn skyrocket. That also has implications for the tone of the content, which is often much more personal than would have been the case five years ago.
Whether you want to share personal stories or whether you would prefer to stick to more abstract discussions, or indeed combine both, should be subject to ongoing evaluation.
Next, don’t forget the power of face-to-face interactions. Attend industry events and conferences to network with other professionals and promote your content. This gives you an opportunity to share your business card or connect with people on online networking platforms such to continue conversations. Even better, think about what speaking opportunities you can arrange for yourself, whether as a panellist, chair or keynote speaker. Speaking opportunities (both in person and online) instantly elevate you over your peers, positioning you as an expert and promoting your visibility.
The same can be said for media visibility. A comment in a key outlet on a breaking news story, or an intelligently-written opinion article, will highlight your expertise and also has the advantage of search-engine staying power. As with social media, all engagement with the media should be judged carefully, whether reactive or proactive. A specialist media advisor will be able to help you cut through the media noise and tell your story your way.
Remember, personal branding is a process
Personal branding is very much a process. By firstly establishing your professional identity as a business leader and setting out the parameters from which you will market this to your target audience, you can then move towards generating impactful, content that raises your profile where you want it to be raised. Being able to then effectively promote this across a range of mediums in a targeted way will put you well on the way to reaching your targets.
Find out more about personal branding for executives and private individuals.