The concept of personal branding is gaining a lot of traction in marketing media. The concept is straightforward: your activities on the web leave an indelible mark that says something about you. Or, worse still, your activities on the web are so insignificant; they barely leave a mark at all.
For marketing and PR leaders this presents an important question: what is your CEO’s personal brand equity?
Whether you work for a consumer-facing brand or a business services firm, it’s important that your boss has a positive online reputation. If you can help get it right, there are three upsides for you personally.
The first step is to audit your boss online. At a basic level, this is Google his/her name. Also, Google his/her name, plus your company name (advanced reputation building also considers attribute keywords, such as “venture capital expert” or “cloud computing commentator”).
There are other search analysis activities that can also be deployed here, such as looking at the Google page rank of sites that you own and adding his/her name to your keywords that your search function is working on.
Having completed an online audit you’ll see that some of these aspects contribute to establishing a presence – in other words, the “digital footprint” – and some are about the content and what it represents, “the reputation”.
While it’s important to begin by building the digital footprint, you must consider the brand attributes that your CEO stands for. I’m not talking about obvious stuff – like honesty and trustworthiness as that’s assumed – it needs to be what he/she wants to be known for. For example, being responsible for introducing a new online security product to market, or having strong views about exporting to emerging markets. This will really help you with your media relations work, too.
A full personal branding programme can be a mini PR campaign in its own right, but you can still make a difference with a few quick wins.
Finally, this wouldn’t be an article on personal branding if we didn’t mention Wikipedia. The short advice is: be very careful. It’s against Wikipedia’s neutral point of view principles to write articles on behalf of yourself or someone you may have a “conflict of interests” with. You can engage with the Wikipedia community to make it happen, but it has to conform to a set criteria, so this is one that I would put in the “advanced” personal branding camp.
These are just a few of the basic tactics. If you’d like more in-depth advice or would like to find out about some of the advanced options to really help your CEO to stand out from the crowd, get in touch.
I went to an old school reunion last week. We were regaling the mischief we got up to and one of my friends admitted (30 years after the event) that at a particular house party, his father got the kegs muddled and instead of letting us kids drink the watered down mead, we got stuck into the adult’s keg that had ‘substances’ added in for some extra punch. No wonder my memories of that party are hazy (it was the late 70s!).
How thankful I am to have survived the party with no photo evidence stored for posterity on social media. We took silly photos, regretted it the next day and thankfully shredded the negatives (didn’t we?). Surely I’m not alone in having cringing recollections of my teenage years, and some memories are better kept that way – unrecorded and perhaps forgotten.
How is it for kids nowadays? Despite knowing how to set up their privacy rules properly, my kids’ reputations are at the mercy of their (700?) close Facebook friends! Are our kids going to be constantly drawn back to their pasts with a record of all their teenage escapades on social media? Will they find it harder to forget their foolish moments, their dumber-than-dumb comments or to lose the silly nicknames they earned at school (fruitbat/smellie/poo-face/lucy-lastic/stinker/contrarymary/dopey/droopy). For many people, there comes a time when you need to break with your childhood or teenage past either temporarily or indefinitely to make a go of a new relationship, to fuel a career or to initiate some sort of reinvention of yourself as a sensible adult.
Will society become more tolerant of youthful misdemeanours? Will our kids’ job applications get overlooked because rightly or wrongly they’ve been made a scapegoat on Facebook or because they were a member of a dubious political party when 19 years old? Will our kids resort to taking on new identities with a clean Facebook record in order to get a job?
Tolerance gets my vote. I hope a colourful life history in photo, video and commentary, all perfectly preserved on the internet, shows spirit and character and hopefully an occasional depth of thought, as well as the occasional depth of debauchery.
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