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5 Personal Branding Mistakes Most CEOs Make

5  Personal Branding Mistakes Most CEOs Make

Imagine being the face of a corporation whose name and reputation are directly linked with a company's success. As a CEO, your personal brand is a strategic tool that can open doors, inspire trust, and pave the way for your organization. Sounds pretty darn impressive, doesn't it? But beware: even the most accomplished CEOs can unintentionally affect their personal brands with a few common missteps.

CEO falling down.
CEOs can make personal branding mistakes that end up hurting their business.

In the world of corporate leadership, personal branding is an absolute gem when used correctly. It can lead to tremendous opportunities and help to create a successful business. However, many CEOs may take a wrong turn, potentially costing their credibility.

In this article, we'll dive into personal branding and explore the common mistakes CEOs often make. So, if you're a CEO looking to maintain and enhance your personal brand, read on to discover these pitfalls and how to steer clear of them.

What Is Personal Branding?

Simply put, personal branding is the process of creating a brand identity for a person or a company. This can be either a brand for you or your business. Your personal brand is a culmination of the experiences, skills, and values that differentiate you from the competition.

"Personal branding is not just about marketing but about being your marketer. It is about standing for yourself and your business to command respect and confidence from your peers and customers." - Adam Heitzman, Search Engine Journal

We live in a time where people's attention is being pulled in all directions. It's no wonder most people struggle so much to focus on anything. The need to make an impression is more important than ever. Creating a solid and memorable brand identity is the most effective way to do this.

Dug the dog getting distracted by a squirrel
Just like Doug, most people's attention spans are fleeting.

In one of our previous articles, 5 Strategies to Follow for Effective CEO Branding, we discussed the impact of CEO branding on a business. According to Wolfgang Lonien from Insider, CEO branding is a differentiating factor in a competitive marketplace. Furthermore, he brings up some interesting points from a survey conducted by Burson-Marsteller. The results showed that based on a CEO's reputation:

  • A total of 95% of those surveyed decided whether or not to invest in a company
  • 93% would recommend a company as a suitable alliance or merger partner
  • Of those surveyed, 88% recommended the company as an excellent place to work

These results show the importance of a CEO’s reputation to the company's success. When you think about top brands, you naturally associate them with the people behind them.

Personal Branding Mistakes

Now, on to the good stuff! Well, not so good, actually. This is a list of what not to do if you want to create and maintain a successful personal brand. If you have avoided committing any of these mistakes, congrats! But if you're guilty of inadvertently doing any of these, don't worry. It's always possible to step up your game and become the best CEO for your company that you can be. Ready? Brace yourself to check how you're doing with your personal branding strategies.

1. Neglecting Authenticity and Transparency

A person thinking.

A. The Role of Authenticity and Transparency in Personal Branding

Have you ever met someone who seemed very charismatic but seemed too good to be true? You get the impression that they're not being authentic and are trying to come off as something they're not. In most cases, that is entirely true. This is the importance of being authentic in personal branding. People can tell when you're being fake and will move along to something else.

"In the long run, pretending to be something you’re not damages your brand. Audiences want authenticity and sincerity from the personal brands they follow. When they discover that you haven’t been honest, it backfires, and any trust that you’ve worked to attain is broken." - Connor Brooke, Business 2 Community

B. Hiding Mistakes and Vulnerabilities

A common misconception is that people expect CEOs to always know the answers and to get things right all the time. It's time to put this unrealistic idea to rest. Everyone makes mistakes. What matters is that you own up to them and try to make things better. Sharing your missteps and how you've learned from them humanizes you in the eyes of everyone involved in your company and your customers.

C. Strategies for Fostering Authenticity

Here are some tips to foster authenticity and transparency in your personal branding. It's not anything out of this world, but it does take some work:

  • Share Your Story: Your journey, experiences, and the lessons you've learned along the way. Your story makes you unique, and people love a good story.
  • Admit to Mistakes: When you mess up, admit it. Share how you're fixing the problem and what you've learned.
  • Be Human: Don't be afraid to let your guard down. Share personal interests, experiences, and even the occasional quirky hobby.
  • Listen and Respond: Engage with your audience. Show them that their opinions matter. Answer questions, address concerns, and be present in the conversation.

2. Neglecting Online Presence

Let's be honest here for a moment. When meeting someone for the first time, you usually look up that person's social media. We're not talking about anything stalkerish or creepy. We're not Joe Goldberg from the series You. That man went beyond being obsessed. Most people just want to get a better sense of people and brands they're interested in.

Don't worry, most people just have a healthy curiosity about you and your brand. Unlike this man right here.

Your online presence as a CEO is critical to your personal brand. It's your first impression on potential partners, employees, and competitors. Your online presence is where people go to get a sense of who you are and what you're all about. A strong online presence can establish your authority and showcase your expertise.

A. Ignoring Social Media Platforms

CEOs often shy away from social media. However, by doing so, they're missing out on many opportunities. Social media provides the perfect opportunity to interact with your audience on a personal level. It's a place to share insights, engage in discussions, and show some personality. When you ignore social media, you also leave the door open for others to shape your online narrative.

"A report by BRANDfog said that 75 percent of those surveyed believed the executive leadership of a company is improved by those leaders being active on social media. If you're a leader yourself, you don't have to be present on all platforms, but you should be highly present where most of your target audience lives, and you must use that platform well." - Jeffrey Hayzlett, Entrepreneur

B. The Impact on Reputation and Credibility

Your online presence, LinkedIn profile, and social media activity contribute to your reputation and credibility. A strong online presence  builds trust with your audience, letting them know you're a real person they can connect to. You risk seeming detached or outdated when you don't connect with your audience.

"The message here is that people make connections with people. So, give them an insight about your thoughts, opinions, and style." - Entrepreneur

C. Now let's delve into strategies to fix the issues related to neglecting online presence for CEOs:

  • Define Your Online Persona: Determine what image you want to project. Tailor your online presence to align with this persona.
  • Content Sharing: Share content that aligns with your personal brand and expertise. For example, relevant industry news, insights, and updates on your LinkedIn and other social media profiles.
  • Platform Selection: Choose the most relevant social media platforms for your industry and audience. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram can be effective platforms for CEOs.
  • Transparent Communication: Address gaps or mistakes in your online presence openly and transparently.
  • Highlight Achievements: Showcase your achievements, awards, and industry recognition prominently on your profiles.

3. Failing to Communicate Vision and Values

A man and  woman with inconsistent communication

Your vision and values are the core of your personal brand. They guide you and help you make the best choices for your business. In personal branding, your vision and values are the foundation for building your identity and reputation. They are what hold your narrative together. Failing to communicate them clearly will cause nothing but chaos for your brand.

"If you haven’t got clarity on what your brand is about and what you’re trying to do, then, simply put, neither will anybody else." - Hanna Power

A. Inconsistent Messaging

Unsurprisingly, having inconsistent messaging creates confusion. When you think about it, most of us have lived through it in relationships. Sometimes, it feels like someone is telling you one thing today and the opposite the next. Eventually, this behavior gets old, and you decide to move on.

The same thing happens with personal branding. When your messaging is all over the place, your audience can't understand who you are and what you stand for. Being inconsistent in your messaging sends mixed signals to your audience. And just like in any other relationship, this will only help to push people away from you.

B. Failing to Build Trust

When you communicate your vision and values consistently, you're creating a path of trust. Your audience knows what to expect and believes in what you stand for. In time, failing to build trust with your audience will affect your relationship with them. Trust is what transforms casual followers into loyal advocates.

C. Here are strategies to solve the issues related to failing to communicate vision and values:

  • Define Your Vision and Values Clearly: Clearly articulate your personal and professional vision. Identify your core values, those principles that guide your decision-making.
  • Create a Brand Messaging Guide: Develop a messaging guide outlining key themes, values, and talking points related to your personal brand. This document serves as a reference for consistent communication.
  • Transparency in Action: Demonstrate your values through your actions. Show, don't just tell, how your values influence your decision-making, collaborations, and business strategies.

4. Overlooking Thought Leadership

Thought leadership is a big deal. It amplifies your influence and positions you as a trusted expert. People care about what you have to say when you're a thought leader. It's also beneficial to building your personal brand. If you want to inspire change and progress, you have to be a thought leader.

A. Not Sharing Insights and Expertise

Think back to your school days. Did you ever have a brilliant teacher who was not great at passing on their knowledge and expertise? Well, you might be guilty of making that same mistake regarding your personal brand. Neglecting to share your insights and expertise is a missed opportunity. Sharing your expertise is a great strategy to help you stand out from competitors.

Frodo Baggins saying Alright then ,keep your secrets.
That is terrible advice, Mr. Frodo.

B. Not Establishing a Loyal Following

Another inevitable consequence of not being a thought leader is the missed opportunity to establish a solid and loyal following. You do not benefit from hoarding your insights and expertise to yourself. Without sharing insights and expertise, your audience has little reason to engage with your content. They won't find value in what you provide, which results in reduced likes, shares, and comments on your posts or articles. Instead, sharing your insights means creating a community that believes in you and supports your goals.

C. Here are some strategies to establish yourself as a thought leader:

  • Content Sharing: Start by creating content that showcases your expertise. These can be blog posts, articles, videos, podcasts, or social media updates.
  • Engage With Your Audience:  Respond to comments, answer questions, and actively participate in discussions.
  • Problem Solver: Thought leaders are often seen as problem solvers. Your unique perspective can help address complex challenges.
  • Trust Builder: People trust those who show expertise. Your audience consistently sees you as a trustworthy source when you always provide valuable insights.

5. Ignoring Employee and Stakeholder Engagement

Believe it or not, your personal brand isn't entirely personal. We know that sounds contradicting. It simply means that employees, investors, partners, and customers play a vital role in it as well. Your personal brand is also about connecting with those who have a vested interest in your success.

A. Neglecting Internal Branding

Your employees shouldn't be just "bystanders." They need to be active participants in your personal brand's narrative. When they're disengaged or don't understand your vision and values, it creates inconsistency in your organization. Remember that your personal brand is only as strong as your internal brand.

B. Lack of Advocacy

When disengaged employees and stakeholders feel disconnected from your vision and values, they may not actively support or defend your brand during challenging times. They may even share negative experiences or criticisms about your leadership or organization with others. This lack of advocacy can leave you vulnerable and even damage your reputation.

Singer singing Bad Reputation
These lyrics may make for a catchy song but are terrible advice to follow.
"One of the most obvious and immediate risks of ignoring or neglecting stakeholder interests and concerns is reputation damage. Reputation is a valuable asset that can influence customer loyalty, employee engagement, investor confidence, supplier relations, and social license to operate." - LinkedIn

C. Let's take a look at some ways you can help engage your employees and stakeholders:

  • Transparent Communication: Keep the lines of communication open. Share your vision, values, and goals with employees and external stakeholders.
  • Empower Your Team: Empower them to share their insights and be part of the journey. When they feel invested, they become enthusiastic brand advocates.
  • Seek Feedback: Actively seek feedback from both internal and external stakeholders. Listen to their opinions, concerns, and suggestions.

In Conclusion

Your personal brand is the very foundation of your company and serves as a guide on how to keep it thriving. As we've explored the five common mistakes in personal branding, it's clear that neglecting your online presence, failing to communicate your vision and values, overlooking thought leadership, and ignoring employee and stakeholder engagement can have far-reaching consequences. It's not just about missed opportunities; it's about credibility, trust, and the legacy you leave behind. The key takeaway is investing in your brand and being an authentic leader who engages with their audience and those directly involved in their business.

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Laura Amarillas
November 29, 2023
min read

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