CEO Branding” has never been a more important or relevant topic than it is in today’s highly charged business and economic climate. Working with some of the top CEOs in the country I can tell you from first-hand experience that to the one, chief executives at the top of their game all place CEO branding near the top of their priority list. With the public’s overall perception of CEOs as a class being at near all-time lows, there is much work to be done in the arena of CEO Branding. The simple truth of the matter is that what was once the most coveted title in the world, now rests just above villain status in the minds of many. In today’s post, I’ll address the benefits of CEO Branding both for the chief executive and the corporation they serve…

With well more than a trillion dollars being spent on corporate branding initiatives each year, most CEOs readily understand the need to build brand equity at the corporate level or for products, services, intellectual property, etc. However while times are changing, there are still very few CEOs who understand the substantial benefits that are created from increasing their personal brand equity.

The simple fact is that many chief executives completely miss out on one of the most powerful branding strategies available in today’s market…the creation of their own personal brand.

Personal Branding for Executives

When reading newspapers and periodicals, listening to media interviews on the radio, watching guest appearances on the TV, and seeing who gets the speaking invitations you’ll notice that it is usually those CEOs who have positioned themselves as innovators and thought leaders through a carefully managed personal branding campaign. These individuals may, or may not, have anything more to offer than their peers other than the fact that they knew how to brand themselves as consummate business leaders.

If you would, picture in your mind’s eye any high profile company and you will likely find that their CEOs have not only established themselves as leaders inside their firms, but they are also perceived as industry heavyweights and power brokers to the external world. When a company’s chief executive is viewed as an astute, savvy,  and innovative leader by the media or the public at large, it makes them more valuable to the company. It is a true win-win scenario in that the CEO who knows how to manage his/her brand equity, in turn, increases the brand equity of the enterprise. Because the corporation benefits from the chief executive’s ability to brand themselves, they are willing to pay more for their services and work harder to retain their considerable talent.

Regardless of how you feel about the following list of individuals, you must agree that they have done a remarkable job of building a personal brand that has oftentimes resulted in the creation of modern-day empires. Think of Warren Buffet, Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Sam Walton, Ted Turner, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison, and a whole host of others and you’ll quickly see just how powerful a strong CEO brand can be. In fact, spend some time browsing through the Forbes 400 and you find that you recognize far more names than not. View a list of the Fortune 500 CEO’s and you’ll be surprised how many of their names have been converted into strong personal brands. Look at the Inc. 500 or Entrepreneur Hot 100 lists and you’ll see a number of strong personal brands in the making.

The reality is that most of us will probably never achieve the status of icons, nor do most of us really aspire to that end. However increasing your CEO brand equity is good for adding value to your company’s brand, leveraging your earning power, and improving your job security and/or marketability. Personal branding is far more than an ego-play; it is smart business. If you don’t know how to create a strong personal brand as a CEO the following tips will start you in the right direction:

1. Make those around you successful. While some CEO Brands are built at the expense of others, or on the backs of others, the most highly regarded CEO Brands are built on the success they have created for others. Think “selfless” as opposed to “selfish.”

2. Hire a coach or mentor. This is something that many CEOs initially struggle with as their pride can be a barrier to seeking the wisdom and counsel of others. However, this is one of the single best investments you can make in building a powerful, sustainable and respectable personal brand as a chief executive.

3. Invest in continuing education: Okay, so you already make a mid six-figure or seven-figure income, run your own (or someone else’s) business, and you’re busy…the sad fact is that it is far easier to reach the C-suite than to remain there. You will only stay in the corner office if you continue to refine and advance your skill sets and competencies. Never sacrifice or forego learning because you think you don’t have time, or worse yet, because you think you already know it all.

4. Learn to work the media, or hire someone to do it for you. When it comes to the media you only have three choices: a.) you can try and remain invisible, but anonymity won’t help you build a brand; b.) you can be a target for the media, and while controversy is not always a bad thing, it causes more unnecessary brain damage than you will likely want to incur, or; c.) you can be a friend of the media and serve as a subject matter expert who is available as a resource for the media. While the choice is yours, I’d personally recommend option C.

My advice is simple…start building your CEO brand strategy yesterday you’ll be glad you did.

Image credit: PR News