Cult of the Influencer CEO

06 Apr,2021

 

By  Bhuvi Gupta

Bhuvi GuptaElon Musk. Anand Mahindra. Manu Kumar Jain. Anuj Sharma. Thomas Edison. Richard Branson. Steve Jobs.

 

What do all the above have in common? Well, a lot. They are all CEOs of companies, which have impacted the world via their products either technologically or pricewise. But what they also have in common is a strong personal brand, which was bigger than the company they led, and which helped that company more than a brand ambassador might have. If Edison, Jobs and Branson are anything to go by, what is noteworthy is that while digital has made it easier, carefully crafting and curating personal brands can have immeasurable impact on the company irrespective of how they have being built.

 

CEOs who have leveraged their personal brand to great effect to help the company have follower counts which compete with their company’s

 

The cult of the CEO has always existed. Digital access has made it easier to leverage it even as curating a personal brand remains as difficult. But with the sheer din of marketing messaging and competition for quality talent, companies are missing out if they don’t leverage their CEOs.

 

Firstly, because it is such a great source of gathering information from customers, and (junior) employees who communicate actual issues, which often a times get lost in Chinese whispers while going from middle to senior management.

 

Secondly, an active and engaged CEO as the face of the brand helps in building trust and credibility over and above celebrity brand endorsers who are endorsing multiple brands and on-hire for the highest bidder. Hence, while celebrities may help build brand awareness, they won’t contribute as much to help target consumers travel down the marketing funnel.

 

Thirdly, a responsive CEO makes the company and brand approachable. All consumers want to feel heard and a CEO who is willing to listen to feedback, compliments and complaints makes the audience all the more invested in the product and brand.

 

Anand Mahindra explains how much his followers on Twitter have helped him connect to both employees and consumers thereby enabling him to become a Big Brother of sorts to reward good behaviour and correct wrongdoings.

 

When the CEO gets feedback so freely it also reduces the need for traditional market research where extrapolated data and inaccurately curated focus groups can often result in wrong takeaways. Hence, a CEO who can remain connected to his audience can greatly help the company’s overall strategy and speed of execution.

 

Lastly, an engaged CEO acts as a great tool to build the employer brand. Having a strong personal brand (also crucial to help gain followers in the first place) will help showcase a company’s values and help attract talent which resonates much more than that ‘Great Places to Work’ Badge.

 

Using your employees as influencers – Employee Advocacy Programmes

 

While all the above reasons have high impact coming from the CEO, in 2021, with a socially connected population all employees have a sphere of influence that collectively can help a company via Employee Advocacy programs.

 

Creating a strong brand for a CEO requires the creation of a personal brand backed by a robust content calendar, ORM (Online Reputation Management), PR and public appearances.

 

Employees, if guided and empowered with similar tools and content, can become brand evangelists on social media, while also getting positioned as subject matter experts and create stronger personal brands.

 

A well-implemented employee advocacy programme raises brand awareness, improves customer satisfaction, saves money in marketing spending, and, ultimately, grows business in much the same way as an Influencer CEO albeit at a micro level.

 

It is very interesting to see the power that influence has on consumption. Whether coming from CEOs, celebrities, or content creators, social media in 2021 has made business & marketing come a full circle with influencers  launching their own brands and CEOs are becoming influencers.

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