When it comes to corporate reputation, your CEO thought leadership strategy can make or break your brand. Just peruse this list of Forbes 100 Greatest Living Business Minds. Reading only the business leaders’ names – like Ratan Tata, Meg Whitman, Rupert Murdoch and Elon Musk – the corporate brands they’ve helmed quickly come to mind. Their reputation and that of their businesses are intricately intertwined.
Whether your CEO is the actual face of your brand or not, she is most likely the driving force of its values, culture, foresight and intellectual capital. Done right, a strategic approach to positioning your CEO as a leading industry thinker will set your company apart from the competition, build customer loyalty and boost sales.
3 Easy Steps to a CEO Thought Leadership Strategy
Step 1: Share unique knowledge.
In addition to deep understanding of your company and its vision, your CEO has a distinctive vantage point about trends, challenges and risks impacting your industry. The very strengths and insight behind your company’s mission and business strategy are also of value more broadly.
Embrace a thought leadership strategy not as marketing hype but as a way to help your industry. Be a voice for the marketplace, not with the purpose of getting sales, but with the purpose of raising the issues. Brand attention and sales may follow, but if you’re in it for these reasons alone, your audiences will sense it and lose interest.
Step 2: Be authentic and personal.
Instead, tap into themes, opinions and issues that are deeply meaningful to the CEO. What do they keep talking about with customers or employees? Are there certain types of news articles that make them react? What do they debate or argue with the leadership team? Find something that resonates with the CEO, and matters to your customers and prospects.
Consider how your CEO personifies your brand’s values. For example, how Richard Branson personifies “enjoyment” plays a key role in the brand image of Virgin. The more your thought leadership platform connects the CEO’s passions with the company’s purpose, the more easily and authentically it can come to life with personal anecdotes and stories.
Step 3: Invest and execute realistically.
At a minimum, embracing a thought leadership plan for your CEO requires that they strategically inform the effort. But to be truly successful, it also should include their personal commitment of time and focus. Bluntly: They need to want to do it and be part of it.
But the CEO doesn’t have to do it all on their own. The CEO thought leadership strategy should be designed to reflect their personality, communications style and workstyle and play to their strengths. If they do best in a prepared setting, focus more heavily on written pieces and controlled content. Whereas, if they shine with larger groups, put them on stage. Prefers quick responses? Try a social media program. Likes to be deep and thoughtful? Craft an op ed.
To save time and maintain an objective perspective, your agency or marketing team can interview the CEO, write first drafts and create visual content, share news trends and articles of interest to prompt new ideas, and conduct outreach to journalists and conference organizers to secure opportunities.