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Brand management in 3 steps: Why CEOs should be involved in marketing

Brand public perception is also a result of CEO public perception. Read on for CEO brand management tips like online reputation management.

If you didn’t know, brand management is actually code for damage control.

The reason brand management has companies big and small dedicating roles to it is because in any public relations (PR) situation, positive affinity with your brand can shake off any negativity, allowing you as a company to press on past the problem. If you think about companies that have a lot of detractors – or haters, it’s uncommonly because of a service or product issue but rather the brand having a greater PR issue with image. And image starts with your CEO.

In this blog, let’s talk about a brand aid I call C.E.O., and how this CEO-rallying strategy makes easier work of managing your brand over time.

C.E.O. brand management step #1: Credibility

CEO brand management in 3 steps: Credibility
Brand management in 3 steps: Credibility

Credibility means a lot of things but naught more than respect – or better said, authority. Authority in your space. With audiences. And amongst industry peers and competitors alike.

But you know where building credibility takes root? In your company character, and that’s inherited from your CEO.

To establish character in building credibility, fire up your content marketing with a multimedia human-side CEO presence. In 2022, think:

Downstream from any character building will be the face you’re putting on the brand. And it’s that very face (not your logo nor latest launch) that public perception will deem credible – or not.

We say this a lot at Serviceform but people as a rule trust people, not brands. So personify your brand: personify, personify, personify. Half of your brand’s reputational worth actually depends on the public perception of your CEO, relays CEOWORLD.

Action point: Brand personification in practice focuses less on what’s being posted than from where or whom. In your social selling, have your CEO’s actual account – not just your official company page, post the company latest or then share product and service updates. Like this:

CEO brand management in 3 steps: Share company milestones through CEO's personal profile
Brand management in 3 steps: Share company milestones through CEO's personal profile

C.E.O. brand management step #2: Exposure

CEO brand management in 3 steps: Exposure
Brand management in 3 steps: Exposure

Exposure is exactly what it sounds like. To put a face on your brand and personify, your audience needs face time with your CEO. This is where marketing and CEOs need to be in sync and talk online reputation management – ideally before there’s much of a reputation to manage.

Our co-founder and CEO at Serviceform, Iranthi Gomes, recently placed on the Forbes 30 Under 30. Huge, right? We thought so too. We made sure this year as her marketing team to rally around that and get her out there. Her story. Her mind. Her face.

The number of impressions (8K+ at image bottom-left!) from our efforts should tell you all you need to know about why sharing your CEO’s story is a great idea.

CEO brand management in 3 steps: Serviceform's founders Iranthi Gomes and Jarkko Oksanen at the Forbes 30 under 30 summit
Serviceform's founders Iranthi Gomes and Jarkko Oksanen at the Forbes 30 under 30 summit

So the public perception – that is, feedback and opinions – on her personal accomplishments reflected well on our company, garnering us professional feedback as a result. And remember: Opinions are something audiences can relate to. Whether they agree or disagree, it’s a means of exposure and if you’re lucky, buzz.

In brand management, always capitalise on opinions. An unhappy user is still a user – a user with an opinion.

Use negative feedback as an opportunity to engage with users and build out both your marketing personas as well as ideal customer profiles (ICPs). Both personas and ICPs are data-intensive so know beforehand that it’s a process! Never stop refining for current (and future) user pain points. And leverage positive feedback as you would a warm lead, noting (what clicked with them) and following up accordingly.

Action point: The easiest way to bank opinions about your company or a live product is to conduct a UX survey. I personally recommend open questions – meaning question and answer via blank text boxes (versus closed questions with tickable radio buttons). And that’s because preset options will never adequately capture user motivations. For higher participation, don’t reveal the number of questions but rather how long the survey takes. For example, ‘3 minutes to complete’ will net more participants than ‘survey has 10 questions’. And remember to have a progress bar!

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As your CEO exposure grows, probing both negative and positive feedback is an online reputation management must.

C.E.O. brand management step #3: Optics

CEO brand management in 3 steps: Optics
Brand management in 3 steps: Optics

Optics is a pretty popular political term in the Anglosphere but it’s something I think of as equally relevant in today’s marketing. The idea is that how something looks or appears to the public is (unfortunately) equally or even more important than the reality of the situation itself. 

Circling back, the reason optics matter is simple: brand management. If an audience looks favourably upon or warms to your CEO, then they’re more than likely in kind warming to your company. Two other areas from where optics take cue are earned media like user reviews, and then business partnerships.

Brand management that’s holistic demands mining of product and service user reviews. If you’re not regularly taking stock of user reviews, you’re overlooking one of the rawest and realest means of seeing your users for their pain points and likewise desires or wants – nay, needs.

Again, proactive online reputation management will make palatable work of more reactive times when underwhelming PR needs more than a plaster and kiss to make it all better.

Paired however with good reviews, CEO likeability makes for strong optics when wanting to enter into business partnerships. Investors invest in the people behind (good) products, after all – in the minds behind good ideas turned great. Because the likeability of CEOs precedes their respective companies, CEO reputation signals early to investor interest that the company is investible from a viewpoint of public appraisal. Two keys for effectively drumming up partnering interest are the aforementioned brand credibility but also brand resiliency.

Resiliency in your optics means public perception has determined your CEO nothing if not a steadfast leader in the space.

To this end, marketing teams should be drafting and engineering timely social content for their CEOs to share; think current insights and labour injustices, also responsible trend forecasting, as LinkedIn’s Carreen Winters alludes to in her 2022 write-up on corporate reputation as currency and our needing accountable leadership now more than ever. Lastly, improving brand resiliency is proportional to what I’d discussed above with managing your CEO exposure, that is brand personification.

The better personified your brand, the more resilient the brand.

And if you’re thinking about the risks, then consider the opposite. Brand perception on self-servicing AI or hands-off, ‘safe’ customer experiences read tone-deaf right now, well missing out on the brand loyalty and emotional identity payoffs of today’s more personalised branding.

Action point: It’s exceptionally OK to be human in 2022 – especially if you’re a CEO! If your CEO has a tendency to post in clichés or office speak, they’re adversely undoing any brand personalisation efforts.

For example, a winning synergy at last week’s powwow? Pass. Consider instead a ‘creative vibe’ or some ‘awesome teamwork’ at last week’s ‘meetup’. Pivoting in a new direction? Pass again! Consider ‘rethinking’ or ‘revisiting’ your ‘original approach’. Speak like a human if you want to connect with humans!

Wrapping up

I want readers to take away from this blog the C.E.O. brand management aid that is credibility, exposure, and optics.

My goal with that is to fortify your brand not unlike a fortress, one that’s respected, visible, and ultimately admired because of its ability to withstand attacks in reputation, dips in services and products provided, or otherwise.

Remember in fortifying, that your CEO needs to be a marketing team participant. Because a company without a face will only ever be a ‘company’. Be more. Talk online reputation management as a team. Then begin personifying your brand in view of available products and services. Kick off personification by building credibility. And go from there.

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