Every organization has at least one leader who naturally serves as the public face of the group. That individual’s personal brand is a representation of the organization they lead. Executive positioning programs give leaders opportunities to positively position themselves and their organizations. This also helps strengthen relationships with employees and communities alike.
Whether someone is new to a leadership role, transitioning one’s career, focusing on reputation recovery, or simply looking to elevate their personal brand, an executive positioning program can help showcase an executive’s values, priorities and voice.
Additional benefits include attracting and retaining top talent and strengthening engagements with current and prospective clients.
When undertaking a positioning campaign, it’s important to see the distinction between individual and corporate positioning. Individual positioning puts you in front of the audiences and stakeholders that matter most to you. In corporate work, the end goals are different (e.g., recruitment, increased sales/engagements, organizational reputation), so we use different tactics.
Traditional, Social, or Both?
There are major differences between the traditional and social media platforms you can leverage in your executive positioning campaign. For many of our clients, traditional media is still the primary target. Executives want to be featured in the likes of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times or on Good Morning America, among other highly sought after publications. While high-profile traditional media for executive positioning is greatly coveted, shrinking newsrooms and disappearing media outlets have made executive positioning opportunities in traditional media more competitive and demanding of timely news hooks.
Insert social media to the mix. Social media is a simple and accessible way to address all those concerns. On social media, you can control your output for free. You can showcase your professional experience, as well as a personal side that the public might not otherwise see.
Additionally, social media is great for authenticity. You can provide your own insights and contribute to the overall conversation on any issues that are important to you. You can – and should – get engaged in the conversation in real-time.
Once you’ve decided to pursue a traditional or social – or both – executive positioning program, there are three things you should know:
1. Identify your key pillars.
What is important for you? What are the topics that you feel strongly about from both personal and professional standpoints? When you talk with media, they will ask your opinion on specific topics. You need to have one. It sounds simple, but it can be extremely difficult.
Let’s say you’re the CEO of a bank. You are most likely qualified to discuss anything that pertains to the financial industry. Yet, it can be a differentiator if you’re willing to share personal anecdotes, contrarian points of view, or more meaningful insights. It can set you apart from other thought leaders in your industry, especially on LinkedIn. In fact, the LinkedIn content that includes personal stories and experiences invites more engagement. You don’t need to spark controversy, but you will not distinguish yourself by spouting off perfect-sounding corporate jargon.
For example, Sir Richard Branson leverages social media incredibly well to elevate his personal and professional brands. Once he caught an employee sleeping at work, so he took a jovial picture and shared it. It went viral immediately because it was a slice of his personality. It was fun and different. Additionally, when his Caribbean home was hit by a hurricane, he used that opportunity to discuss philanthropic causes that needed help. He understands that he is the face of his company, so he leverages his position to talk about myriad topics that are of important to him and his company.
2. Demonstrate patience and make yourself available.
Networking with the right reporters and media outlets takes time. Capturing opportunities and engaging in initial briefing meetings with key reporters doesn’t happen overnight, as it is a continuous process to properly educate media about who you are, what company you’re with and what you stand for. All of this is required before you can successfully tell your story in the media.
Some of this can be credited to the media being skeptical of leaders. When we pitch an executive to a top-tier, national publication, before media even call us back, they Google the subject of our pitch. If you’ve taken the time to build the foundation of recognition in your industry – whether with content on LinkedIn or with trade media stories – you have a much better shot at getting that dream placement.
Shifting gears slightly, one of the biggest roadblocks to a successful executive positioning campaign is availability. We fully recognize the leaders we engage with have busy schedules and PR may not always be top-of-mind. However, when our team secures positioning opportunities, it’s crucial that we work to accommodate reporters as much as possible and be mutually respectful of their time. If we burn a bridge with the reporter, we can reverse a lot of hard work and make securing the next placement twice as difficult.
A packed schedule is also a detriment to executive positioning on LinkedIn. A truly effective positioning campaign includes publishing at least six to eight LinkedIn long-form articles per year and posting at least two short-form updates per month. It is difficult to increase engagement, add followers or be seen as a thought leader if you are doing anything less.
3. Consider new opportunities beyond your traditional focus.
Sometimes you’ll need to start small before you can get the big prizes that exist. Bigger publications with national reach are focused on the cream of the crop. If you haven’t had profiles done in the past, you won’t necessarily catch the attention of the outlets in the major media markets. In today’s landscape, some opportunities that arise won’t be with The Wall Street Journal or Good Morning America-types of the world. There will be other publications, events or social media channels that you can go after instead. With so many digital publications and media channels, executives need to be open to opportunities from new and different platforms. Consider what audience you want to reach, and reach them where they are.
Executive positioning isn’t a straight line from your personal LinkedIn page to The New York Times. The more flexibility, commitment and personality/opinions you can bring to the process, the more effective and accurate it will be. If you’re ready to begin the process, drop us a line, and let’s get started.