Karen Tiber Leland is a branding expert and author of The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand.
When you think Facebook, you think Mark Zuckerberg.
When you think Amazon.com, you think Jeff Bezos.
Those and other examples of celebrity corporate leaders show that a CEO’s personal brand can work in concert with the corporation’s brand, helping elevate both in the public’s eye.
Like it or not, today’s CEO, and other top leaders, have been pre-cast in the role of their company’s chief brand ambassador, and much of the public makes a direct connection between a corporation and its CEO. However, all leaders have the daily opportunity and obligation to build their personal brand in service of their own and their corporation’s reputation.
If you are a new leader, that can feel like an overwhelming responsibility. And if you aren’t quite at the CEO level just yet, you may think that all this doesn’t apply to you. It does, though. Your behavior as a leader sets the example for your employees, and how they behave can make or break your public image. Besides that, it is never too early in your career to develop your personal brand and then work to protect it.
That’s why it’s important for all leaders, and especially the ones at the very top, to take an active role in managing their reputations. Here are four ways you can do that:
Claim your name
In the digital era, you need to stake a claim to your name in similar fashion to the way miners staked their territory in the gold-rush days. One step in doing this is to register your name for a website, even if you have no immediate plans to create a personal-brand website, Leland says. That way you are protected from someone else hijacking your name and perhaps using it to damage your reputation.
Stay on top of search engines
It might seem like an act of vanity to type your own name into Google or another search engine, but it can be revealing to see what pops up. Leaders might find unfair comments, negative news articles or other less-than-flattering online chatter about them. They can’t remove that content, but they can take steps to move those items off the first few pages of the search results. For example, they can write blog posts and articles that use the same keywords as the negative content to drive those items off the first page.
Be a social leader
A key way leaders can manage their reputation is to participate in social media. Studies show that social media participation can make a significant difference in promoting a company’s brand. For example, BRANDfog’s 2014 “The Global Social CEO Survey” revealed that 71 percent of U.S. respondents viewed companies as more trustworthy if their top executives communicate about their core mission, brand values and purpose on social media.
Of course, online isn’t the only place for you to to boost your personal brand.
Building your brand also involves old-fashioned, face-to-face networking. Go to a conference, take someone to lunch, attend a business workshop. This part of personal branding might seem a little more comfortable because it’s the type of branding you’ve probably practiced your entire career.
Karen Tiber Leland is a branding expert and author of “The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand. She is also president of Sterling Marketing Group, where she helps companies, CEO’s, executives and entrepreneurs build stronger personal, team and business brands. Her clients have included Apple Computer, LinkedIn, Twitter, AT&T, Avis Car Rental and Bank of America, among many others. She is a regular guest of the media and has been interviewed by Fortune, Fast Company, CNN, MSNBC, and Oprah, among others. Karen has spoken for Stanford, Harvard, The American Management Association, Young President’s Organization and others.