Emerging Trends in CEO Branding
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Episode 98 Transcript:
Chris Curran: Growth Igniters Radio, with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, Episode 98 − Emerging Trends in CEO Branding. This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of success. On the web at businessadvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated − and right across from me as always, is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi, Scott.
Scott Harper: Hey, Pam. It’s always exciting to join you again for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. If you’re listening for the first time, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration, and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to accelerate themselves − and their companies − to their next level of growth and success. So Pam, what’s today’s topic?
Pam Harper: Emerging trends in CEO branding. Now, in previous episodes, we’ve discussed the power of CEO branding, and different aspects of it such as increasing your visibility on social media like LinkedIn, sharing the story of your leadership journey through speaking engagements, and writing a book.
Scott Harper: Right, and we’ll have some links to those previous conversations on the Growth Igniters Radio episode page for this Episode − number 98.
Pam Harper: That’s great. With the changes in technology and social media though, there’s a paradox, and that is that the same opportunities that can build our CEO brand can also damage our CEO brand.
It’s really all in how you do it. The more we understand about what is emerging on the horizon, the more we can make choices that best represent us as well as our companies on the journey of growth.
Scott Harper: Right.
Pam Harper: So our guest today is an expert in CEO branding. She is Karen Tiber Leland, President of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm. Her company focuses on helping CEOs, executives, and entrepreneurs develop stronger personal, business, and team brands. Clients include AT&T, American Express, Marriott Hotels, Apple Computer, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others.
Karen is the best-selling author of 10 business books, and writes a monthly marketing and branding column for Entrepreneur.com. Her most recent book is The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build, and Accelerate Your Brand. Karen speaks for a wide variety of groups, including The Young Presidents’ Organization, American Management Association, and Direct Marketing Association. She’s a frequent guest of the media, and has been interviewed for her career and workplace advice on the Today Show, CNN, CNBC, and Oprah. You can see Karen’s complete bio by going to growthignitersradio.com, selecting Episode 98, and scrolling down to “Resources.” Karen, welcome to Growth Igniters Radio.
Karen Leland: Thank you. I am so delighted to be here.
Pam Harper: Well, we are delighted to have you.
We always like to start out, especially on an episode about branding, by learning about the person who talks about branding, and her own brand. Tell us a little bit about what drives you to do what you do.
Karen Leland: Well, it’s funny, because I just happen to have this freaky weird background that in the world we live in today turned out to be useful. I started out as a musical theater major in college, and pretty quickly figured out I couldn’t make a living at that.
Scott Harper: Did you really?
Karen Leland: I did, but I will tell you that I use the skills I learned in musical theater every day in what I do for a living. I went into business, and I went and studied organizational development, and for a long time I was a very traditional management consultant. Along the way I wrote books, and because I was writing books I had to learn how to do the marketing and the PR for the books. Then I was the marketing officer for our company, and then I started doing interviews. I just have this background where I’ve been a writer, I’ve been a speaker, I’ve been a management consultant, I’ve run a PR firm, and in the world we’re in today, all of those skills come together to have been very useful in the world of branding and marketing, and so I’m sort of this amalgamation of all of those.
Scott Harper: Okay. That’s cool. The theater major is interesting because Pam and I actually met years ago doing comic opera in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Karen Leland: Wow.
Scott Harper: Yeah. Yeah, we couldn’t make a living at that either.
Karen Leland: No.
Scott Harper: Okay, so you’ve come to this idea of branding, and people talk about, “Well, I have to have a brand. I have to do this. It’s important to brand my company. It’s also important to brand me,” but what’s the common wisdom with CEO branding these days, and are there errors in that?
Karen Leland: Well, I think there’s a couple of common wisdoms with CEO branding today that are inaccurate. I think one of the common wisdoms is you have to create a CEO brand. Why I would say that’s inaccurate is because whether you like it or not, you already have the CEO brand. You don’t have to create one, you have one. The question is − are you going to have a CEO brand by default, or are you going to have it by design.
One of the things is people look at it like they have an option, and the reality is you don’t have an option today. It’s not a luxury. It’s not an exercise in ego; it’s really that an executive or a CEO brand is required in our digital world today, and given that you already have one, you should be shaping it yourself rather than letting other people shape it. I think that’s one of the big myths that we have about CEO branding today.
Pam Harper: For the sake of clarity − I think everybody has their own idea about what a CEO brand is. So what do you mean when you talk about “a CEO brand”?
Karen Leland: Well, it’s the reputation that we have that’s already established both online and off. At its most basic, that’s what it is. It’s our reputation. It’s the way we’re seen, and viewed, and related to online and off.
In our companies as CEOs, we have a certain brand or reputation. It’s the things people say about us. You know, Jeff Bezos of Amazon famously said, “Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” In our companies as CEOs it’s what people say about us in the coffee room and at the lunch hour and privately.
Then online, it’s the things that pop up when we’re Googled or when someone looks up our social media, our LinkedIn, the articles about us, et cetera.
Scott Harper: Okay. Now the question is, where is this trend going? What are things that are maybe popping up now that hadn’t been present just a few years ago?
Karen Leland: Well, one of the big trends is a trend towards apps that are instantly integrating information about people. For example, LinkedIn profile. Let’s say that you’re a CEO − and this actually happened to a client of mine; he’s a CEO − he had a meeting with a big potential Fortune 500 company. He showed up for the meeting and he started to talk about himself and what he does and his background, and they stopped him and they said, “No, no, no, no, we already know. We already did all the research.” One of the trends that’s emerging is that there are some calendar apps that are coming out now where as soon as you put in the calendar it can connect with the person’s LinkedIn profile. Then you’ll see all that information about the person as the calendar appointment gets scheduled. Just think about that. Think about what that does if you’re a CEO and you’re going to a conference and you’re going to meet with someone, or you’re going to speak at a conference, or you’ve got a meeting scheduled. People will already have a predetermined idea of who you are, what you’ve done, what you stand for based on what you have put out there on your LinkedIn profile and on your social media. That’s one of the big emerging trends right now.
Scott Harper: So you’d better be current, and you’d better be in control.
Karen Leland: Yeah, and I will tell you that at least 9 out of 10 CEOs who call me up who say they need to work on their brand − when I look at things as fundamental and basic as their LinkedIn profile, or their social media, or their content on the web, it’s generally subpar.
Pam Harper: Well, because a lot of people are looking at it in a disjointed kind of way, which is I think the way most of us have grown up with it. There’s this piece, and that piece, and you can do this too. That’s why I especially wanted to make sure you had a conversation with us, because you have a really cool philosophy. For instance, you talk about a “CEO branding matrix.” How did you come up with this approach?
Karen Leland: Yeah, well first of all let me just say it’s a great question. The CEO branding matrix is really a 360 degree way, or an ecosystem way of looking at the CEO brand, because as you very rightly said, people tend to put it in silos. They have their profile, they have their bio. What I found was it’s like anything else. It’s really a system, and when the system is working, you have a profoundly strong CEO brand.
I came up with the matrix really through clinical observation. Through working with companies and working with CEOs I would notice that they’d be doing a whole lot of work, let’s say for example on their thought leadership, but they weren’t doing any work on their personal presence, or their executive presence. Or they’d be doing a whole lot of work on content marketing, but they weren’t doing any work on their reputation management. The CEO branding matrix is my answer to that ecosystem of CEO branding, and it really is composed of those four things. It’s your personal executive presence, it’s your reputation management, it’s content marketing, and it’s thought leadership. Those four things are what really go together to make up a strong, solid, effective CEO brand.
Pam Harper: It’s exciting to hear that there’s a way to look at this that’s holistic. We’re going to talk about this in more depth, but right now we’re going to take a quick break. When we come back, we’ll talk more with Karen Tiber Leland, President of Sterling Marketing Group, about the best strategy for effectively building and leveraging your personal CEO brand. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: We’re so glad you’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. We’re brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, and we’re on the web at businessadvance.com. We focus on enabling visionary leaders to dramatically increase momentum in their companies for game-changing results.
Pam Harper: Does this topic resonate with you? Well, we have more. Check out related episodes to expand your perspectives, and take away even more immediately actionable ideas. Just go to growthignitersradio.com, select Episode 98, and scroll down to Resources.
Scott Harper: And while you’re there, sign up for our weekly alert of upcoming episodes so you’ll always be up to date.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper − that’s me − and Scott Harper. Today Scott and I are speaking with Karen Tiber Leland, President of Sterling Marketing Group, about emerging trends in CEO branding. Karen, how can people find out more about you, your company, and your books?
Karen Leland: Well, they can go to my website, which is sterlingmarketinggroup.com. The books, and the most recent book, “The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand,” can be all found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores.
Pam Harper: Okay; and of course you can access this episode by going to growthignitersradio.com, Episode 98.
Now, in the first segment, we were talking about the whole philosophy of CEO branding, and how you came to this. Now let’s dig deeper into more of the concepts. Let’s talk about specifically the concept of the S.W.O.T. analysis. I was very taken with this. What is it based upon?
Karen Leland: Well, you know the idea is just like in a typical S.W.O.T. analysis where you look and say, “What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What are your opportunities? What are your threats?” With clients, I always ask my CEOs to do the same thing. What are their strengths in terms of their CEO brand? What are their weaknesses? What are the opportunities? What are the threats? Because you have to analyze your CEO brand to the same degree that you have to analyze your business brand to determine where you need to create a strategy and take actions.
It’s not enough to just go, “I want to have a better CEO brand,” and then throw a few things at is, which is by the way typically the approach people take. They think, “Okay, I want to have a better CEO brand,” so they hire a PR firm, and then they try to do PR. Not that that’s bad to do, it’s just that’s one teeny, teeny, tiny little slice of the pie if you don’t have a bigger strategy. To me the bigger strategy comes out of doing that S.W.O.T. analysis.
Pam Harper: Okay. Well, are you talking about S.W.O.T. in relationship to other CEOs of comparable companies? What is it in relationship to?
Karen Leland: Yeah, that’s a great question. No, it’s in relationship to two things. One, it’s in relationship to where you are according to best CEO branding practices. Not necessarily other CEOs, because other CEOs may not have a great CEO brand. In other words, the bar is a little low, so I don’t think I’d want to base it on necessarily the average, but on best branding practices for CEOs.
Then in terms of your objectives − what is that analysis in terms of what your objectives are? I work with CEOs who go, “Look, I want to be a thought leader. I want to be one of the preeminent people in X space. I want to be known for this.” That’s one type of objective and goal. Then you have to do that analysis against that objective of thought leadership. Then I have other CEOs who just say, “Look, I want to have a good, solid online reputation so that when clients, investors, consumers check me out, I show up the way I want to show up.” That’s a different objective, and that analysis then is done against that set of objectives.
Scott Harper: Now Karen, you’ve talked about the concept of reputation management, especially as it pertains to search engines and social media. We just touched on that, but what might we not already know that we should know and aren’t using?
Karen Leland: Well, I think one thing that people don’t already know that they should know − and again this sounds obvious, but a lot of CEOs aren’t doing it − is that they’re not putting a Google alert on themselves so that any time their name is mentioned, they come up. I think the other thing that people don’t realize is that you can actually have an impact on information that’s already out there. We tend to think of it is, “Well, it’s the internet, and whatever’s out there’s out there, and you can’t do anything about it. It’s there for life.” While that is certainly true to a degree, there are things you can do.
I always have my CEOs set a Google alert for themselves and look and see what comes up. For example, I’ve had CEOs where we Googled them and we found old photos, and the old photos were for whatever reason not appropriate anymore. Maybe the person had gained weight or lost weight, or they were older or they were younger, or they were better looking or worse looking, or et cetera, and they got tired of showing up and people going, “Wow, you look different in real life.” What we did was we simply contacted the person and said, “Hey, we noticed you have this old photo up. We’ve attached a new photo. Would you mind replacing it?” In about three-quarters of the cases, people replaced the photo. It was a way to get old photos off of the internet, or driven down so far in the way they came up that they were irrelevant.
Pam Harper: Ah, so you may not be able to totally erase something, but you can limit its impact.
Karen Leland: Some things you can actually get rid of, some things you can replace, and some things by putting in new, more updated content with similar keywords, you can just push the old results to page five, or six, or seven to the point where they’re irrelevant.
Scott Harper: Right. I’ve heard of the term “internet scrubbing.” Is this similar?
Karen Leland: Yes, It’s similar.
Pam Harper: That’s really good to know. Now, here we are, we’re all faced with so much competition, it’s coming from all directions, and we have limited time. That’s our listener. How do you choose the best strategy to most effectively be heard above the noise? I know this is a huge question, but maybe a rule of thumb. If people go onto your website and they see all the different ways that your strategy can be shaped, the mind boggles. Karen, what’s a rule of thumb?
Karen Leland: That is probably one of the most important questions that you can ask. It’s really true, because people do have limited time, and limited bandwidth, and limited resources. One of the important rules of thumb is that you do not have to be participating in all things all the time.
I had a client call me the other day in an absolute panic. “We’ve got to get on Snapchat. We’ve got to do something about Snapchat.” I said, “Why? Your audience doesn’t even live on Snapchat.” “Because it’s the hottest, latest thing,” and I said, “But that doesn’t matter because your audience isn’t there.” One of the most important things is to identify where do your consumers, where do your people, whoever you’re trying to go after, where do they consume their information? That’s where you need to be, and that is usually a limited place.
I always tell my CEO clients, that there are 40 core strategies and tactics you could use to promote your CEO brand. But unless you’re the CEO of Coca Cola, you’re not going to use all 40, and even then you’re probably not going to use all 40. Part of it is figuring out and picking the two or three strategies that are going to work the best to promote your CEO brand, and then pursuing those. Two or three strategies is something most people can handle. That’s kind of part A to the answer to the question.
Then part B is of course, you don’t do it yourself. You hire some help. Now, whether the help you hire is someone from within your own company that you assign it to, an intern, or someone like me that you hire, that’s not as important as the fact that you can hire some help and have someone else manage that strategy, those two or three key strategic tactical items for you.
Scott Harper: Yes, and it all goes back then to what you said in the first place − being strategic with your own brand, as strategic as you are with your company’s, is critical.
Karen Leland: Yeah, and I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this idea of creating the strategy, and soberly creating the strategy, by the way, taking the time. You know, it takes me an entire day of sitting down with someone and talking with them, and then another entire day of research, and then another entire day to write it, to come up with a CEO strategy for someone. It’s not a quick and fast process. If you do it right, it will save you huge amounts of time and money. My clients tell me that on average, by sitting down and really coming up with a well-defined CEO strategy, they save between six months and a year of wasted effort, and they save anywhere from $30,000, to $300,000 in wasted effort.
Pam Harper: It’s a good reason to respect the process for sure.
Karen Leland: Yes, it is.
Pam Harper: We’re going to take another quick break, and when we come back, we’re going to talk more about some immediately actionable things that we can all do to improve our CEO brand. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated. We focus on enabling visionary leaders to dramatically increase momentum for game-changing results. We’re on the web at businessadvance.com.
Pam Harper: If you’re enjoying and gaining useful insights from Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, can you let us know by doing us a favor and writing a short review on iTunes? Not only does this let us know what you value, your review is one of the most important ways that we can reach others who will benefit as well.
Now we’re reprising a special limited time offer in honor of the holidays. The first 10 people who submit reviews between December 14th and December 30th, 2016 will receive a complimentary autographed copy of my book, “Preventing Strategic Gridlock.” Reviewers have said the book is a timeless resource, and a great book for overcoming stalls that derail strategic progress, regardless of the economy. To look inside, visit the “Preventing Strategic Gridlock” page on Amazon.com.
Scott Harper: Just be one of the first 10 people to use the Contact Us link on growthignitersradio.com by December 30th, 2016, let us know about your new review, and we’ll get you your autographed copy right away.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last two segments, Scott and I have been talking with Karen Tiber Leland, President of Sterling Marketing Group, about how you can improve your CEO brand by being more strategic, and really respecting the process. Karen, how can people find out more about you, your company, and your books?
Karen Leland: They can go to my website, which is sterlingmarketinggroup.com.
Pam Harper: And remember you can find links and other information by going to growthignitersradio.com, Episode 98; scroll down under “Resources.”
Karen, this is the part of Growth Igniters Radio where we really get tactical. We want to make sure that as soon as our listeners are done listening that we can all run off and immediately put these great ideas to use. What is the first idea that you would have for us on improving our CEO brands?
Karen Leland: Well, one is every CEO today must be what we call a “social CEO.” The BRANDfog did a study called “The Global Social CEO Survey,” and they uncovered some really interesting things, such as that 80% of the people that responded agreed that social media was a key component of PR and communication strategy for C-suite executives and CEOs.
There’s just tons of information that tell us you have to be social as a CEO. However, I have lots of CEOs that say to me, “Oh, I don’t know. Somebody did my LinkedIn profile; I don’t pay attention to it.” The reality is that in terms of business to business, LinkedIn is the biggest social media site for CEOs in terms of core reputation. Having a sufficient LinkedIn profile is just an essential. It’s like having a phone number. Every CEO has to have a LinkedIn profile, and one that is top-notch, up to speed, well-branded, et cetera.
Pam Harper: Okay. Now, you mentioned LinkedIn. Are there other kinds of social media that would also be part of the basic strategy?
Karen Leland: Honestly, I think the most important one for CEOs to have is LinkedIn.
Pam Harper: What about Twitter?
Karen Leland: Well, a certain CEO really thinks Twitter’s important, but I’m not going to go there.
Pam Harper: I guess what I’m saying is, are there certain types of social media beyond LinkedIn these days that we weren’t really aware of that are going to become more important in 2017?
Karen Leland: Well, I think we don’t know who the new emerging players are yet. What I can tell you is video has also become bigger − more people do a search on YouTube than on Google, so it’s huge. So I think the second primary one for CEOs is really to be generating some video content, and then having a YouTube channel where it plays either on their website YouTube channel, or their personal YouTube channel.
Pam Harper: Okay, so social media is a must. What’s a second immediately useful idea?
Karen Leland: It’s really thinking about what role will thought leadership play with you as the CEO? What’s the flavor of your thought leadership? I always tell CEOs, they need to think about one of three things. Do they want to be either a celebrity CEO, and those are people that are known for their personalities. Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey. President Elect Trump is a great example of that. His brand of thought leadership, what he’s known for as a CEO really is his celebrity.
Then there are people that are cerebral thought leaders and CEOs, and these are people that are really known for their thinking and ideas. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. Then there are CEOs that are known for their consequential CEO thought leadership. Those are people known for the results they produce − Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Part of it what you have to think about as a CEO is do you want to be known more for your celebrity, your cerebral, or your consequential activities in thought leadership. That in part does drive your strategy − how you go about creating your CEO brand, where you go about it, what conferences and trade industry events you speak at, what news media you go after, et cetera.
Pam Harper: Are there certain industries where it’s more important to be one type of CEO than another in terms of branding?
Karen Leland: Well, for example, if you were going to be a cerebral CEO, you’re going to be known for your ideas, you might want to be speaking at South by Southwest, but if you’re trying to be a celebrity CEO, then you might pick a conference that’s much less focused on ideas and is much more broadly focused on, for example, entertainment. It just helps shape the choices that you make as CEO.
Scott Harper: The way that you pick that is in harmony with your personality, with your preferences? How do you do that?
Karen Leland: Well, part of it is your personality, what you’re naturally lean towards in terms of your personality, but it’s also a matter of where you think you have to contribute. Some people, I mean Richard Branson’s a great example, Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey. They’re great celebrity CEOs because they have these big, large personalities that lend themselves to being in front of large groups of people in big ways. Whereas you have someone like Mark Zuckerberg, he doesn’t lend himself to that so much, but he certainly lends himself to being known for his thinking and his ideas.
Pam Harper: So a second idea would be to start thinking about how you want to be known, and maybe to get some feedback from others as to how you are known. What do you think about that?
Karen Leland: Absolutely. Often when I work with CEOs I’ll start with basically a 360 degree assessment. How are they currently seen today by people? What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses, et cetera? Because that helps to position them. Just aswe position a company − and companies have unique branding propositions and companies have unique selling propositions, and companies have their messaging − CEOs need all of those same things. They need their unique branding proposition as a CEO, their unique selling proposition, their branding messages. All those same things apply to a CEO brand.
Pam Harper: That’s good to remember. What’s a third immediately useful idea?
Karen Leland: Well, to me a third useful idea is that you have to engage in content marketing. Now, what that is depends on your strengths, your abilities, your interests, your objectives, the type of thought leadership you want to have. For some people it’s either a regular CEO blog, or it’s writing articles for your own company or other companies, it’s publishing white papers, it might be doing a weekly podcast. I’ve had some of my CEOs start doing a weekly podcast. It might be doing an eBook. It may be doing a webcast regularly. Whatever it is, it’s really engaging in content marketing in a way where your ideas, your thoughts, your points of view, your knowledge, your expertise can begin to get out there in a more seen wide way.
Pam Harper: I guess there are some styles that are just easier for some people to do than others, right?
Karen Leland: Yeah; I have CEOs that are bad writes, but fabulous talkers. For them, writing a CEO blog is painful, unless they’re going to have someone like me ghost write it for them, but they’re great at talking, so doing a weekly podcast is nothing for them. They just sit down and do it. They’re fabulous at it. I have other people very intimidated by talking, but fantastic writers. Doing a regular CEO blog or writing articles for other blogs or other newspapers, magazines, trade publications is perfect for them.
Scott Harper: Okay, so identify your strengths of communication, and tailor a way of getting that out on a regular structured basis so that people don’t forget who you are.
Karen Leland: Yes. Correct.
Scott Harper: Okay!
Pam Harper: Well Karen, do you have some final thoughts on this topic of CEO branding?
Karen Leland: I actually do. There was some research done by Weber Shandwick, and I’ll leave you with this. It revealed the attributes that drove the strongest CEO reputations. I’ll just say them quickly, okay?
Scott Harper: Okay.
Karen Leland: They were: having a clear vision for the company, inspiring and motivating others, being honest and ethical, being a good communicator internally, caring that the company was a good place for people to work, having a global business outlook, being a good communicator externally in terms of to the outside world, being decisive, and being focused on customers.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Karen. We’re really glad that you could be with us today.
Karen Leland: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Scott Harper: Thanks, Karen, and thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To get show notes and resource links for this week’s episode, go to growthignitersradio.com, and select Episode 98.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper …
Scott Harper: … and Scott Harper …
Pam Harper: … wishing you continued success, and leaving you with this question to consider.
Scott Harper: What is your CEO brand, and what steps can you take this week to consciously start building a more powerful positioning that will benefit both you and your company?