Personal Branding for CEOs

Contributed by Robert M. Donnelly

As I explain in my new book, Personal Brand Planning for Life, personal branding is a process of self-discovery and using the results of that analysis to create an image of yourself that captures the essence and marketability of you. The goal of personal branding is to develop a persona that builds equity with a particular audience. In the case of CEOs, and especially with entrepreneurial founders, their persona is reflected in the image of the company and in effect the brand reflects the culture of the CEO, and vice versa. Steve Jobs was Apple, and Apple was Steve Jobs.

The personal brand of any CEO is made up of their personal identity, the emotional reaction they create, and their value to customers. Your brand must evoke strong, positive emotions with customers. Strong emotions move people to action with employees as well as customers. Steve Jobs new product presentations were eagerly anticipated, motivating, and resulted in immediate sales. His brand generated an expectation of quality, value, and design elegance. His successor, Tim Cook, lacks a unique motivating persona, and as a result his brand image and that of Apple is faltering.

This, and many other examples reflect the fact that the reputation/brand image of the CEO has a material impact on the worth of  their company’s brand. It’s another known fact that the quality of the leadership of the CEO contributes to the performance of their company. A good personal leadership brand demonstrates who the CEO is and what they can accomplish.

The brand image of a CEO is captured in a myriad of experiences, news items, stories, customer testimonials, and now social media, that are a reflection of the CEOs character, confidence, and approach. It is captured in their ability to articulate with confidence their vision for the future of their firm. Another good example is Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon. He has become infamous for his steadfast commitment to his vision for the future of Amazon.

CEOs have to embellish their personal brand with all the stakeholders of any firm – the customers, employees, shareholders, and the communities in which they operate. Their personal brand has to create value in the eyes of all the stakeholders.

The biggest mistake many CEOs make is to try to adopt a persona that they cannot live. Espoused, but unlivable personal brand images create cynicism because they promise what they cannot deliver. My advice is be yourself if you believe that what you are doing is adding value to everyone you come in contact with.

Don’t be afraid to articulate your vision for the future of your company, and then live it – “walk the talk”. Business is about solving customers problems and migrating with them as their requirements change – treating them as the appreciating assets that they are. If you do that well your personal brand will shine, and the value of your company brand will grow.




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