May 29, 2023

Building your CEO Brand

Shailja Sharma


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Savvy leaders understand that they must take control of their personal branding. Curating an intentional brand is an important step for a CEO. A CEO is effectively the spokesperson of the company and a CEO brand often transcends the business. If you are a CEO and you do not gain control over your branding, you run the risk of losing authority and becoming irrelevant. It is critical for you to build your professional reputation and establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

The first step to building your CEO brand is to embrace authenticity. Insincerity is difficult to hide and diminishes trust. By deciding to fully embrace yourself and engage in some introspection to identify your core values and beliefs, you will begin to form a firm foundation for your personal brand. Core values and beliefs tend to stay constant throughout a person’s life and act like a compass, guiding decisions and actions. They are also the key to unlocking genuine and deep-seated passion in your life. What drives you as a CEO? What do you stand for? What are you deeply passionate about? Passion is contagious and you can put it to good use to rally your followers to make a lasting and meaningful impact in the world.

The next step is to identify what differentiates you from others. Marketers have dubbed this phenomenon ‘your unique selling proposition (USP).’ Nobody will pay attention to a CEO that appears to be generic, spouting the same tired platitudes that have become mundane. A CEO is supposed to be a visionary figure with charisma and the ability to articulate opinions confidently. A CEO must be able to engage and inspire people. If oratorical fireworks are not your forte, you can still differentiate yourself by using passion and conveying enthusiasm for what you believe in. Shying away from public speaking and using social media will work against you. When you are thrust into the limelight as the company spokesperson, use these opportunities to talk about issues that are important to the company. If you are truly passionate about something, you may even end up forgetting about yourself altogether, and you will connect with your audience and shed your self-consciousness. Focus on the message you want to get across to your audience and you will grow in confidence with time. Your message is your brand story, it encompasses your values, USP and your vision for the future.

Once you have your message, you must find the right channels to get the message across to your audience. By conducting a brand audit and scrutinizing your website, social media profiles and digital footprint, you will be able to ensure your brand identity matches the image you are currently portraying to your audience. By creating a brand strategy, you can determine the best way to get your message across. This can include; media interviews, speaking at industry events, creating content, networking in your industry and across other industries, and publishing thought leadership articles. Lean into your experience and expertise when branding yourself as a thought leader. What is your niche area? What stories can you tell about your experience and what wisdom have you gained to pass onto others?

A brand image must be monitored and protected. Companies have social listening tools that they employ to digitally monitor conversations about their brands. In this day and age, reputations are destroyed at the click of a button and therefore must be monitored closely. Ensure that you walk your talk and that your behaviour matches what you say you believe in. As a CEO, your behaviour will be scrutinized all the time. When you embrace authenticity and become comfortable being yourself, you will not have to worry about being on ‘your best behaviour.’ When you act according to your values, you will naturally behave in a manner that will not destroy your personal brand.

One of the most important aspects to consider is defining your audience. Who is your business’s audience? As the company spokesperson, you need to ensure you map out your stakeholders. Who is listening to you and what perceptions do you want them to have of you? What platforms do they use? How can you reach them with your message? Marketing departments usually create customer personas based on the segments of customers they wish to serve to gain deeper insights into them. A customer persona is a detailed mock-up of a potential customer that aims to illuminate factors such as personal goals, issues of concern, needs and problems.

Finally, the key to good branding is consistency. Stay true to your personal brand once it has been defined. It must remain constant for the length of your career. Do not stop writing your articles, posting on social media or creating your podcasts and videos. With time you can attract a loyal following online and you will build a trusted brand name. Your personal brand will be amplified if you harness the power of social media. Captivate your audience with the right content strategy and use your influence for good.

Society is turning to corporate leaders to take leadership and provide guidance on important issues such as climate change and diversity and inclusion. Aim to serve society by using your position to be a force for good in the world. Customers want to give their business to corporations that mirror their values and take a stand for issues that are meaningful to them. CEOs can carve out lasting legacies when they make a positive impact on the communities they serve. You can use all the marketing bells and whistles to portray a sparkling brand image but if there is no substance behind it, the polish will fade very quickly. Actions speak louder than words, aim to create an impact. If you do this, your brand will grow organically and create all the publicity you need.

Article by Shailja Sharma, SBS Faculty Member and Marketing Consultant and Coach

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