Originally posted on @erwwpr’s flagship blog.
This is the sixth in a series of 10 posts about different aspects of CEO branding.
As a CEO, you are not only responsible for profitability and productivity, but you’re also the top representative for the views and philosophies of the company you lead. Your company website no doubt has pages dedicated to what your company is about and what it believes in. It might even have a page about you and your C-suite colleagues. And if you believe you’ve built a better mousetrap and you expect the world to come knocking, you might well think you don’t need to do anything more.
How many times does anyone visit a company’s website to read the About section? How many times does anyone watch another company’s corporate videos? How many times does anyone read one article written by a business leader? In most cases, once. Why would anyone bother with more when stacks of fascinating new content become available every day? From print newspapers, magazines and books, to TV, radio and movies, to, of course, the Internet, there’s a veritable fire hose of new stuff. So you need to get great material out there that will capture readers during the one time they’ll most likely read it.
It’s more important than ever to raise your profile in today’s content-rich world, which means being proactive about regularly voicing who you are and what you stand for. (“You” in this case means you as a professional in your own right and you as CEO of your company; there should be plenty of overlap. If there isn’t, you might need to take a serious look at the fit between you and the company you lead.) At the very least, you should be penning bylined articles and booking speaking engagements at high-profile events. The health of your CEO brand depends on what you write and what you say on behalf of your corporate brand and your own professional brand.
If you are currently working with PR professionals, why not write an article on a topic you feel passionate about and let the pros help you get it placed in a relevant trade magazine, local paper or national publication? You’re not limited to traditional publications, though. All industry sectors have at least one online forum where you can have your say and interact with peers online. And Internet-only platforms such as the Huffington Post and your local Patch will help you get inroads to community leadership opportunities.
If you don’t have time to write articles yourself, you’re not alone. How many high-profile CEOs do you think have the schedule and skills to write columns or books? Like them, you can engage a ghostwriter who can aptly speak in your voice and express your viewpoint. Many journalists, bloggers and former business executives have taken up careers as ghostwriters and can help you get the word out.
You could also start a blog, if you’re entrepreneurial about what you choose to say, and aim to post to it as frequently as you can; having a personal blog can boost your brand tremendously. It leaves you free to create a varied mix of content, from business issues that fire you up to musings from your own life to create a well-rounded read. Take cues from business thinker Seth Godin if you’re searching for topics, and remember: Your aim is to be interesting and engaging. Nobody is expecting Pulitzer material.
Having a blog doesn’t guarantee success in raising your profile, but why not give it a shot? To paraphrase life coach Tony Robbins, you’re defined by the stories you tell—and in a world where others’ perception of you is a function of a Google query, you need to own your online presence. You might even surprise yourself (and other people). Having a great blog can establish you as a thought leader and point to business opportunities.
You can do a lot for your profile with the written word but not everything. Speaking engagements are still a great way to establish your credibility and network with potential clients and partners. If you’re not an experienced speaker (or even if you are), there’s plenty of learning to be gained from watching others doing it. To hear some of the best, and maybe get some pointers for your own speaking, check out TED. Sponsored by big guns such as Coca-Cola and AT&T, TED is steeped in “ideas worth spreading” (as its mantra tells us), always delivered in an 18-minute slot.
While you’re practicing your speech and searching for cool graphics and engaging PowerPoint templates, keep one guiding principle in mind: Having a great story is the most important aspect of being a potent speaker. Regardless of bells and whistles, the power of a great story is what will set you apart. It’s also what will keep ADD-addled audiences awake and interested.
A great story runs deep and can even get emotional at its most effective. Inventor Dean Kamen, for example, gave an inspired presentation at TED about inventing a prosthetic limb for amputee veterans. For the first four minutes of a five-minute talk, he stood and spoke: No slides, no video, no images—just him, on a stage, talking. The way he told how he put his career and life on hold to accomplish his goals was beyond compelling. Kamen’s personal passion hooked the audience with a great story.