Attracting and retaining the best staff and clients will more competitive in 2021 than ever. With the impact of COVID-19, ongoing market challenges, industry disruptions and the new hybrid workplace models, it’s essential that C-Suite & HR leaders commit to building their brand and digital footprint. Leaders personal brands impact employee and client trust in ways far greater than appreciated as the following research indicates.
The business case for personal brand management
Consistently, global and national surveys ratify circa 80 per cent of consumers and employees trust organisations whose leadership have an active and engaging social media presence.
The Hootsuite Social Trends 2021 report saw a dramatic increase in social engagement during 2020 and that ‘people want to connect with people’. Their research indicated that 73 per cent of all marketers ranked new customer acquisition as their top priority for 2021, representing a 58 per cent year-over-year increase.
The global Brand Fog report found 93 per cent of people were more likely to purchase from organisations whose leader’s beliefs on social issues aligned with their own. And 75 per cent of employees felt it important their CEO communicated their opinions on social issues publicly.
Business advisory firm Brunswick Connected Leadership research found 60% of candidates would research the CEOs social media. Of significance, over 83 per cent (5:1) of employees prefer to work with organisations whose C-Suite leaders use social media factoring it as an important element for satisfaction and retention.
Trust and engagement is amplified with transparent personal brand management. Value touchpoints are vast across organisational and EVP brand awareness, talent acquisition, referrals, social proof, sales, marketing, networking, investor relations, product launches and feedback.
HR leaders need to embrace social media as a method to augment other talent attraction strategies and engage on a parity level. Top talent in the new working environments and commercial marketplace have more leverage now and are actively going to be reviewing leaders and people custodians with a steelier gaze.
HR leaders can also take a strong front foot to assuage bias perception of candidates who are reluctant to apply for roles. Diversity, inclusion, ageism and all other concerns and biases erode the hiring eco-system and candidate confidence. HR leaders who hold purpose and strong policies to knock these issues have a real opportunity in their personal brand narratives to address these issues and indeed they must.
And for industries which have an inherent degree of market mistrust (for example, finance, recruitment, banking, marketing) the need to ameliorate divisive perceptions via social media and personal brands is essential. This will positively impact new client acquisition and work towards changing reputations.
LinkedIn – the critical platform
The undisputed professional social media ruler is LinkedIn. With over 722 million global and 11+ million Australian members its value for personal brand and engagement is implicit.
The doyen of recruitment activity from its inception back in 2004, today in 2021, the benefits to marketing, sales and networking are matchless. It is a mission critical platform for leaders to build personal brand trust.
it is the professional social platform for leaders to build personal brand brands impact employee and client trust
However not everyone uses the platform in the same way but as the world’s largest database and Google indexed reference site it is critical to show up on LinkedIn with authority.
Google is the kingpin of searches and LinkedIn profiles show up on the first page. So even if LinkedIn isn’t the first touchpoint for referencing, all roads lead to Rome there.
Elements of brand authority
There are five key elements that coalesce how a person is perceived and experienced. Rhetoric (perceived) must meet reality (experienced). Congruency at every touchpoint is vital. And whilst the notion of disingenuous PR brand spinning is unacceptable, there are adroit ways to communicate which is accurate, candid and creative.
Below are the five elements which follow after self-reflection, reality checking, a creative marketing mindset and courage. To inspire and influence with integrity is the ethos and goal.
1. The why and ‘why below the why’. The drivers below the hyperbole.
2. Goals, values, passions. Your small and bigger goals for your career and organisation. This can and should incorporate the social issues that matter as appropriate. Of course social responsibility endeavours, community, sporting and board activities sit here. NB: Refer research above from Brand Fog aligning social issues and leadership trust.
3. Personality and character. The nuances which are uniquely yours. Your vibe does attract your tribe. It’s pointless crafting a narrative of dissimilar traits to reality. Personality and character are two different elements.
4. Equity, skills, unique value, education genius which is demonstrated and factual. Some leaders, and dare I add, women can often struggle here. Reality statements are not value judgements’ and there is a thick line between bragging and chest beating to stating actuality with clarity and confidence.
5. Visual, appearance – a photo tells a thousand words. An accurate representation of how you show up in a meeting either in person or via Zoom. But of course its the ‘best days’ that you bring.
Whilst the above just touches on the elements, it must be said that creativity is not deceit but crafting messages without clichés and banality. Standing out is about differentiating yourself in a way that is accurate but inimitable as everyone has a professional narrative that is unique.
It is simply vital for all C-Suite, management and HR leaders to take their personal brands seriously to inspire and influence genuinely. It not only maximises success and opportunity but is a barricade to negative market assumptions. The implementation of branding needs consistency across social media, LinkedIn and websites.
In a swirling sea of competition and noise, personal brands which are transparent and trustworthy are pre-eminent pillars of organisational strength and leadership.