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To Be a More Compelling Leader in Southeast Asia, Build Your Executive Brand

A strong brand is not about being flashy or superficial; it’s about conveying what you stand for.

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BY Alison Davis - 04 Apr 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

You've worked hard to become a leader in your organization. But sometimes you worry that you're not effective enough at conveying what's important to you or influencing others to support your objectives.

What you need is not to put in more hours or build elaborate PowerPoint presentations; it's time to build your executive brand.

What is an executive brand? Let's start with the basics; "brand" can be defined as the characteristics that distinguish an organization, product or person from other organizations, products or people.

One person who often worries about brand is the CEO. As Karen Tiber Leland writes in The Brand Mapping Strategy, "Today's CEO has been pre-cast in the role of the company's chief brand ambassador." That means that CEOs need to build their own unique public identity that supports their company's brand.

But even if you're not the top dog, it's still valuable to work on your executive brand. As Valerie Di Maria, principal of PR and communications agency the10company, explains, "an executive brand defines who you are, what you contribute and what you want to accomplish. In this information-overloaded world, an executive brand helps you cut through the clutter and make a memorable impression."

An executive brand requires three key elements, according to Di Maria:

  1. Authenticity. Your brand needs to reflect who you really are and what you stand for.
  2. Distinction. Your brand needs to be different from that of other executives. Di Maria often works closely with leadership teams to develop each member's brand. Although there are some common attributes--after all, leaders all work for the same company--there are always key differences.
  3. Credibility. You may aspire to be wildly creative or incredibly charismatic. But your brand has to be rooted in reality. After all, your brand is proven by how you act every day.

Di Maria notes that while executives often think about brand primarily in terms of their external image, a brand has as much value in strengthening how you work inside your organization. "Understanding your brand makes you a more effective leader of people," she says, "because it creates focus for the story you tell every time you communicate."

Once you decide that an executive brand is important, how do you build yours? Di Maria's firm follows a multi-step process, which can include:

  • Use 360-degree feedback to gather insights from your boss, colleagues and team members about how they perceive you.
  • Develop a brand statement--a short description that captures your contribution and goals. Your statement should articulate the unique contribution you bring to your professional role.
  • Build a communication approach to convey your brand story. This can include internal forums--like town hall meetings and video interviews--and external venues--like speaking engagements and authored articles.
  • Decide how to use social media to increase your visibility. Platforms like LinkedIn are essential to expressing your brand and articulating your thought leadership.
  • Use your brand as a platform for building relationships. A leader who is conscious of his/her brand also makes an effort to build his/her network. "You meet people every day who can support your short-term efforts--and help you succeed in the future," says Di Maria. "So you need to continually tell your story."
  • Make a long-term commitment to nurture your brand--and revisit it periodically. Obviously, you want to be consistent, but you also need to be flexible. If your role changes, your brand may need subtle refinements so that it continues to express who you are.

"An executive brand is really not different from creating a brand promise for a product or service," says Di Maria. "Developing--and delivering on--your executive brand will communicate the unique value you bring in a consistent and memorable way."

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