As a company executive, are you serving as both the face and voice for your company? Are you actively engaged on social media? Are you consistently quoted as a thought leader in publications?
Chances are, if you’re a busy startup founder, you did not answer ‘yes’ to all of those questions. But, in an era when there is an appeal to entrepreneurship like never before, startup founders and C-Suites must establish their own ‘executive visibility’ strategy in order to gain share of voice early on and to stand out among the masses for the long run.
What is executive visibility?
Executive visibility is a strategy used to grow an executive’s presence and exposure in order to impact a company’s success. To accomplish this, an integrated communications strategy should showcase the executive’s subject matter expertise and industry leadership.
Studies have shown that a high percentage of a new company’s value is tied to its CEO. By harnessing your personal equity, you can not only help grow your business, but also help attract top talent and investors while increasing demand for your product. Executive visibility can help new companies gain the trust and respect of targeted audiences, establish brand loyalty and awareness, elevate industry authority and increase share of voice.
First, a solid strategy must be implemented, including:
- Media/journalist relations — Executives should be seen as thought leaders in their respective industry, serving as a regular contributor to trade and mainstream publications through op-eds or bylined articles. While building up this cadence does not happen overnight, the goal is to eventually become a go-to source for interviews on industry topics and trends.
- Social media — Not only do 55 percent of B2B buyers search for company information on social media, but 59 percent of journalists use social to research ideas for stories. By leveraging social channels, you can reach a variety of your key audiences (media, influencers, buyers), while authentically showcasing your aspirations, commitment and excitement about your company and industry.
- Blogging — It’s true what they say — content is king. To be an industry voice, leverage LinkedIn’s Publishing Platform to author short narratives and opinions. These posts become searchable outside of LinkedIn and permanently live as an extension of your professional reputation within your profile.
- Speaking opportunities — Speaking at events and conferences is a great way to demonstrate your thought leadership and increase credibility. In addition, speaking offers an opportunity to network with like-minded professionals and potential business prospects. For early-stage entrepreneurs, start small by identifying local speaking opportunities or begin filming yourself speaking to audiences internally. Once you have a few smaller presentations under your belt, you will make headway in securing larger opportunities.
- Award submissions — Collecting awards assists in increasing brand awareness, as well as lead generation. Awards are also beneficial for boosting employee morale and attracting top talent. As with speaking, the key here is to identify smaller opportunities first. That way you can build up your credibility over time before applying for national awards with tougher competition.
Need an example of a startup exec that has a solid executive visibility strategy? Look no further than Michael Tavani, founder of Switchyards Downtown Club. Chances are if you live in the south (particularly Atlanta), you’ve heard of Tavani. Not only is he frequently quoted in the media, but he has also won several awards, is a frequent speaker on startup topics and utilizes his social media channels to their full potential.
How to get started
You’re thinking that executive visibility must take a lot of time, energy and effort, and you’re too focused on your company right now to dedicate any time to your own brand. However, the process can be done efficiently and effectively. Here are five steps to get you started:
- Define your personal brand — This should be representative of your true self while also clearly defining the messages you want to convey about your company. Start by reworking your bio to make sure it tells your story authentically. Next, think about what you want people to learn from you and use this to begin building out your thought leadership topics.
- Conduct a competitor audit — Look at what some of your competitors’ executives are doing in order to benchmark and identify new ways you can stand out in a crowded market. Also take a look at companies you want to be like in five years to help understand your path to reaching similar status.
- Do deep industry research — Look for reporters who cover your industry and try to learn one unique thing about each of them. Get familiar with the events and trade shows that you could potentially leverage.
- Develop your messaging and content — Once you’ve done initial research, begin developing your key messages. Some of this should be decided during step one, but this is where you will pull all your content together to make an external communications plan.
- Set goals — Once you have some sort of calendar in place, seek to determine what you can realistically achieve in a designated time frame and set short- and long-term goals. How many bylines do you hope to see published per quarter? How many new followers would you like to have on Twitter? Monthly or quarterly, revisit these goals to see how you are tracking and determine areas that need more attention.
Cortney Johnston serves as account director at AR|PR, the Southeast’s fastest growing technology PR firm. Throughout her career, she has assisted B2B companies and executives in strengthening their executive visibility and corporate messaging, increasing brand awareness and share of voice, and identifying new ways her clients can make news and drive leads.