What’s your CEO reputation worth to you? What’s it worth to your clients? What’s it worth to your friends? And can you monetize it? The answer to these questions used to be, “It doesn’t matter because it’s all about who you know.”
Then when business networks of relationships got built, the answer changed to, “It doesn’t matter who you know, it’s about who knows you.” And then came the Age of Digital. An age where who you know and who knows you doesn’t matter as much because your brand is out of your personal control. Through countless mobile devices, it’s exposed to anyone with little privacy.
Your personal reputation is linked to your company’s actions, along with your friends, “frenemies,” competition, and co-opetition. With the swipe of a finger on a tablet, or a keystroke on a keyboard, what you do or don’t do on Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter has the power to either wipe out all that you’ve worked for or help you win more business. Online reviews about you as a manager that are posted by your staff can help you attract either the best employees in the industry or the worst C players.
Let’s go back to Miley Cyrus, who is a terrific case study in corporate branding (yes, Miley is a corporation, with millions in brand income, just like a brand of toothpaste). She began her career in 2006 as an eleven-year-old squeaky-clean teen idol in the Disney Channel television series Hannah Montana, in which she portrayed the starring character, Miley Stewart. After signing a recording contract with Hollywood Records in 2007, Cyrus released her debut studio album Meet Miley Cyrus. She became a wholesome global pop icon of whom parents approved.
But by 2013, she was ready to re-brand herself as an adult star. Miley hired Larry Rudolph, who had previously worked with Britney Spears, to be her new manager. Her 2013 CD Bangerz featured the singles “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball,” and she flooded the airwaves with racy videos and performances that collectively obliterated the Hannah Montana brand image. She’s very active in social media. In 2014, she had a reported 18.2 million followers on Twitter. In case you’re wondering, in that same year the reigning queen of Twitter was singer Katy Perry, with 53.7 million followers. She was followed by Justin Bieber (52.3 million), President Barack Obama (43.5 million), and YouTube (42.7 million). Yes, YouTube tweets — about news, music, and trends from its top channels. The top-rated actual human being who is a businessperson was Bill Gates, with 16.2 million followers.
Unless you’re happy to live in a cave or on a desert island, you need to invest time and energy into activating your digital personal brand, just like Miley Cyrus, President Obama, and Bill Gates.
By activating your online reputation, and building and promoting your personal brand, you can both dilute the power of unflattering comments and photos, and showcase accomplishments or experiences in the top results when someone searches your name.
LinkedIn. For business executives, LinkedIn has become a key site. Make sure that you craft a well-written, professional profile. Be honest, as it’s easy to verify or refute the information you provide. Then, you can leverage your account by setting up other accounts in places similar to LinkedIn such as ZoomInfo.com, Workface.com, Naymz.com, Plaxo.com, and BrandYourself.com. Copy your LinkedIn profile and then paste it into these accounts.
Adapt the text to fit the site’s specific format, and re-write the first few sentences so that the content showing up in a Google search result is different for each site.
Google+. Burnish your personal brand by setting up a Google Profile at Google.com/plus. Set up your free account, and then link it to your website and social networks.
Twitter. Create an account at Twitter.com and then tweet on a regular schedule. Refrain from tweeting about trivial things like what coffee you bought at Starbucks. Instead, share information that others value, such as articles related to your business or industry. Follow others whose reputations you respect, which in turn could increase your followers.
Facebook. Remove any photos that don’t show you in a positive professional light. Share information about your personal life, because that’s what people want to see on Facebook, but keep it innocuous. Your trip to Mexico? Fine. The subsequent attack of Montezuma’s revenge? Skip it — it’s TMI. And make sure to set your Facebook Privacy settings to help you control access.
Be careful when posting or communicating! The best attitude to have is to believe that every email you send and every online comment that you make can potentially become public. Don’t text a friend, send an email, post a tweet, or comment on an online post unless you’re sure that what you say is presented in a professional manner that anyone could read.
Monitor your digital brand. When was the last time you Googled yourself? (OK — if your answer is, “I Google myself every hour,” maybe you need to dial it back a notch.) Negative information spreads like a virus online, and you cannot leave your personal brand and reputation to chance. You can sign up for a free service that will notify you when your name appears online, such as Google Alerts or Mention.com.
The point is that if even you’re only marginally involved in your community or have a modest professional presence, you have a digital brand that may exist without your having created it.
It’s smart to activate your personal brand: get ahead of the curve and manage what others see about you and say about you online.
This article first appeared on the Smart CEO website. View it here.
Thought Leadership on Branding and PR from Gal Borenstein.
Mr. Gal Borenstein is a recognized expert and strategist in digital branding, marketing, social media, advertising, online reputation management and public relations matters. He is the founder and CEO of the Borenstein Group, a top digital marketing communications firm in the Washington, DC metropolitan area that serves clients locally and globally. Since its founding in 1994, the Borenstein Group has helped hundreds of startups, early-stage, growing, and mature companies optimize their brand promise and maximize their brand equity. Among Borenstein Group’s historical clients are trusted brands such as Forrester Research, IntelliDyne, Pragmatics, Enlightened, eMentum, Aquent, ADT, Airbus North America, National Air Cargo, TCOM, Supreme Group and Learning Tree International.