Agencies are under constant pressure to distinguish themselves from the competition in an increasingly crowded marketplace. The new secret weapon for agency executives to land new business and keep current clients engaged and loyal is executive branding that goes beyond vanity metrics and follower counts. A recent survey by Edelman and LinkedIn revealed that 55 percent of business decision-makers use thought leadership content to vet prospective partners while 61 percent said they’d pay a premium to work with organizations that articulate a clear vision through thought leadership.
This is not about becoming Instagram famous; it’s a strategic commitment by executives to drill down on the core values they want to share with the world. In the process, they humanize their companies, become thought leaders, create new real estate that can be leveraged for a variety of marketing efforts and gain the benefits of mobility throughout the agency world because of who they are and what they’ve done.
Think of it as a personal brand engine for executives with carefully crafted and an amplified multi-channel content that also creates newsworthy hooks, materializes speaking opportunities, boosts search rankings and ultimately drives revenue with more inbound leads and new clients.
Executive brands are powerful platforms
Increasingly, people gravitate toward brands with values that both the company and its executives live by. You may not agree with Yvon Chouinard’s opinions about the environment, but you almost certainly know that he is the CEO of Patagonia. It’s the same with John Legere, the T-Mobile CEO whose own brand has become so powerful that he has been able to define his competitor’s personal brands by their short-comings, and with Sara Blakely, the founder and CEO of Spanx, who created a whole new category of women’s intimate apparel and built an army of raving fans in the process.
Executive brands don’t need to deliver mass market level results, they just need to deliver the goods to the right niche audiences of prospects, customers, stakeholders and gatekeepers that are meaningful to the executive and his/her core beliefs. People want to do business with companies that are human and have a relatable leader.
New real estate amplifies the entire brand’s message
Executives must go full bore with multi-pronged strategies that help seed, promote and amplify their ideas with regular frequency: traditional editorial-run contributor models, branded content placements, native content publishing opportunities provided by membership communities. Used together, they create the foundation for a powerful platform.
Every piece of content has different uses and distribution points, so agency execs should think strategically. And just as agencies focus on demonstrable ROI for clients, the executive should define meaningful KPIs when crafting a personal branding strategy.
In some instances, it may be about being recognized as a good corporate citizen by aligning with a not-for-profit, putting a human face on the brand or earning more press around areas of expertise through a webinar on industry trends. An exec who wants more speaking engagements might publish a book while those who seek more press exposure should focus on contributions to prestigious media outlets to build credibility with journalists.
Equally important is sending the message to current clients that the exec is in the know and trusted. The Edelman survey notes that 55 percent of decision-makers were more likely to increase the amount of business they did with established thought leaders than with those that did not publish content.
Content-rich executive brands drive visibility and ROI
Agency execs should direct their content strategy toward vehicles that are most likely to generate new leads. Contributor and native content can help them rank on search engines for their expertise, positioning and biography. Those who appear on the first page of results for key topics that are relevant and timely and who have been vetted by trusted media sites are most likely to hold credibility for journalists, bloggers and executives charged with selecting speakers for conference and events.
The impact of this strategy can be measured by tracking social media engagement with personal channels, newsletter signups specific to executive leadership, number of booked speaking engagements or well-attended private prospect dinners or account-based marketing events. That’s followed, of course, by definable lead generation from such efforts and activations, inbound leads or partner inquiries, invitations to private communities based on increased public awareness and trackable links in digital outbound sales collateral. Look for Google search result rankings that improve upon organic traffic, all specifically linked to executive personal brands versus corporate channels, to get a better sense of progress, success and KPIs. This is a virtuous circle where one tactic helps push the others as long as the executive has something to say.
Executive branding isn’t an instant gratification effort. It may take years. But it not only helps agency executives attract new business and forge stronger relationships with existing clients, but it also gives them a unique and very visible persona that is transportable in the marketplace and rewards them with lasting credibility with media brands.