People’s trust in brands is diminishing and therefore CEOs can no longer rely on them to do the talking for them. Nor can they represent their organisations only in times of crisis. Reputation is the new currency, and without it most businesses will sink without a trace.
Smart leaders know this and they understand the power of proactively positioning themselves to manage the reputation of a business. Leaders such as former Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly, who actively promote women in finance, are regarded as business figureheads, but how do they get to that point? Well, it’s more than just being the CEO of a corporation; it’s also about stepping forward to share your voice.
In today’s world where news is immediate, social and 24/7, a CEO’s reputation, credibility and actions are scrutinised more than at any other time in history. Some CEOs, such as Sir Richard Branson, know how to use this to their advantage, while others still refuse to see how their profile makes a financial impact. A CEO’s reputation and that of the brand is more than a marketing strategy; it’s also financially important. When ANZ CEO Mike Smith publicly launched himself into social media, he made himself accountable. As a result, he established trust, and public opinion of ANZ improved. Crafting a reputation is now a business imperative for every CEO. Here are the steps to achieving a strong and lasting reputation.
Develop a personal brand
Personal branding is how you market yourself to others. Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not around. It’s what you’re known for. Think about some of the world’s most influential leaders and you will notice they bring to mind certain traits. Steve Jobs was known for innovation, Nelson Mandela for unity, and Aung San Suu Kyi for peaceful resistance in the face of oppression. These were and are their personal brands.
You need to be very intentional about creating a brand that resonates with your audience, otherwise other people will create one for you. It’s worth taking some time to consider who you are and what you stand for. Have a think about the one thing that sets you apart from your peers.
It’s also important to think about your area of expertise. Define your niche and stick to it. Don’t be vague when determining this, as it will dilute your personal brand and confuse your audience. Owning your niche will add value and consistency to your brand. It will also build credibility and trust with your audience. This personal trust flows over into trust in your business.
Build your profile
While you may already have a personal profile within your own professional sphere, creating a lasting and positive reputation requires a profile that goes further than your immediate network. While a personal brand is all about how you want people to see you and think about you, building your profile is about getting that message to the people and influencers who matter most. These could be company and industry stakeholders, customers, shareholders or the media.
A profile can be built in a number of ways. For instance, a blog is a powerful platform on which to demonstrate thought leadership and expertise. You have complete control over what is published, so you can share your ideas more precisely. This allows you to differentiate yourself from competitors and showcase your personal brand.
Social media is another channel CEOs can use to build their profiles. LinkedIn is particularly good for demonstrating thought leadership and communicating with a carefully selected audience of influencers and connections.
While traditional media might be seen as yesterday’s way of building profiles, it still packs a powerful punch and can provide the trusted third-party credibility that few other platforms
can offer. Print, television and radio love experts and thought leaders. They need them for articles and programs as they provide the credibility, opinions and commentary needed to make stories more relevant.
Any successful thought leader will tell you that sharing useful and interesting information helps build a positive reputation and solid credibility. But sometimes, just sharing information is not enough and, like the old marketing adage says, “You should show, not tell.” This is where the art of storytelling comes in. Storytelling allows you to paint a mental picture of a scenario to help illustrate a point. It’s a more relatable and engaging way to share your expertise. To work properly, however, storytelling must be done in a way that is authentic. It may even require you to be vulnerable and share your fears and failures.
This type of storytelling is intensely brave and powerful.
Having the courage to be honest and exposed when you tell your stories through the old media or social media will give them so much more impact. Your stories will resonate with people in a personal way. When you start telling your stories authentically and sharing your expertise with the motivation to help others, you will be amazed at the emotional connections you build with people and the relationships you start developing, because you are positively impacting their lives.
Owning your niche will add value and consistency to your brand. It will also build credibility and trust among your audience.
There’s no denying that reputation is the new currency. In a world where the public can crowdfund a new venture into reality almost overnight, where companies can suffer collateral damage from a misworded tweet, and where there is an increasing degree of transparency surrounding businesses and their representatives, the way a brand and its CEO are perceived can have a significant financial impact.