Executive Brand Building in the New Normal of COVID-19

We now live in a world where we are growing businesses virtually, forging relationships over a screen and sharing perspectives within a myriad of digital channels. With the downscaling of events and in-person meetings executives are looking for more executive brand building. They’re looking for more ways to lead and be part of the conversations that matter.

At SHIFT, this is something we work on every day — finding ways to share spokespeople’s perspectives, creating affinity for their brand in the process.

Here are considerations for how executives can get noticed in an incredibly overcrowded virtual world.

Re-evaluating online persona & increasing altruism

Company thought leaders — and the communications professionals supporting them — should begin by re-evaluating the persona they put forward online. To start, it’s imperative their tone be positive but not self-serving — a fine line to walk.

When it comes to the nature of content, right now we must all be very considerate that what we’re sharing or recommending is relevant. It’s okay to be controversial (if what you’re saying ties to your values) but be plugged into the broader conversations around this topic.

Another simple piece of advice is to “return the favor.” Thought leaders should not only promote and post their own content. They should follow others, commenting and sharing content where appropriate. The content should be reflective of stature and role, and executives should be specific about why it matters to them. Questions or polls are also great choices to spark conversation and build engagement.

Focusing on audio/visual content

Even though we are all exhausted by video calls, audiences are not yet exhausted by video content. Short-form videos (30-60 seconds) are effective at capturing attention. Teaser videos or animations are great at driving viewers to a longer form piece. Most users on social won’t watch a 10-minute interview, read a 2,000-word post, or listen to a 30-minute podcast on that platform. However, they’re typically happy to leave the platform to finish that content if it’s appealing enough.

We are also seeing high engagement with video commentary — messages from the CEO, official statements, notes from our president, etc. These should never exceed 90 seconds but can be effective in executive brand building by adding a human face.

Audio also remains hot. Podcasting is a terrific space to be, especially in niche industries. There are terrific opportunities with both established and emerging podcasts, but the research must be done to make the determination if this is the right space for an executive and their organization.

Balancing organic & paid

Right now, it’s key to make the right strategic choice about when to boost content (i.e. pay for visibility) or not. Boosting is an effective way to grow a following and engage an audience. However — in today’s highly sensitive environment — caution must be taken about how boosting (aka advertising) the message will come across.

If content is boosted, use the platforms’ ad managers to ensure the promotion is highly targeted and contains a strong CTA, links to relevant content on your website, etc.

Self-publish on LinkedIn

In many cases people also miss the opportunity to self-publish on LinkedIn. Why not write a three-paragraph piece and share it along with a strong graphic and monitor engagement? Sometimes, this can prove to be more effective than pursuing an earned media opportunity.

Understanding your audience & growing your platform

Executives often make the mistake of not paying enough attention to who is engaging with them and why. Analyze which content (and in what formats) gets the most engagement for insight into how to strengthen the thought leadership platform. Don’t fixate on volume but, rather, quality engagement.

Fine-tuning strategy and content around these insights will create executive brand building that lasts long-term, position an executive as an expert in their field and give people a reason to come to them for information, insights and inspiration.

A version of this post originally appeared on our sister agency National PR’s blog and was written by Tara Wickwire, Associate Vice-President and Cassey Deveau, Associate

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