Many of the top-performing CEOs in the world, as determined by Harvard Business Review, are names that aren't exactly fodder for dinner conversation. They know how to create long-term value for their companies but many focus little on creating their own personal brands.
While personal branding isn't necessarily essential for leadership within mega-corporations, having a well-branded CEO/owner at the helm, especially among smaller companies, can help differentiate that brand and help the marketplace feel more strongly connected to it. It can result in prospects seeking you out specifically versus just hunting the lowest-priced option.
As CEO/Owner, your decision to personally brand should hinge on your long-term intentions for the company. If it is your desire to ultimately sell the company, then creating a personal brand connected to the business brand can make it challenging to sell without creating alarm among customers about your absence. Think Steve Jobs. Investors understand this, which can devalue your company.
If your intention is not to sell and your differentiator is your own expertise, then a personal brand should be considered. A personal brand allows the marketplace to more easily relate to you and your company, gain insight into what makes you tick, and even empathize with you. The down side is the public scrutiny. If you make a misstep, either personally or professionally, you do so publicly.
If you elect to promote your personal brand in support of your business brand, begin by determining your mantra -- the short statement you'll use to communicate your brand. Richard Branson's mantra can be found within his Twitter profile: "Tie-loathing adventurer and thrill seeker, who believes in turning ideas into reality. Otherwise known as Dr. Yes at @virgin!"
The formula for creating your mantra equals description plus function plus emotional appeal. Your description explains the industry you're in. Your function explains the service you offer and what makes you stand out from others. The emotional appeal relays how people benefit from working with you, how you make them feel, or how they describe you.
Consider asking colleagues, employees and friends to describe you in ten words or less to help prioritize the key words in your mantra.
The next step is consistently telling the story behind that mantra in words and pictures through each social media post, the content you develop and promote, and each personal interaction. Grow your network by connecting with people who will find value in your content and work to continuously evolve your content to increase relevancy to those in your network.
Promoting your personal brand to the market can offer your company a sought-after competitive advantage. Just be sure to manage your reputation carefully, understanding that the lines between a CEO's personal and professional brand are blurry at best.
Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover, a sales training and marketing firm based in Memphis, Tennessee, www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).