If you are an executive reading this article, Google yourself. What comes up? Are you happy with what you see? Welcome to a partial view of your personal brand truths, according to the internet.
If you don't like what you see, you will wait a long time for Google to replace it with more relevant descriptions. There is an algorithm for that.
When I was a new VP of marketing, my CEO requested I alter some online content that mentioned him. Uh Oh! His request could only mean there was a problem.
He was quoted by a disreputable tech blogger. When you typed in the CEO's name, this blogger's posts were the first results seen by investors, partners, and potential customers. A black mark by association was the problem for the executive's online reputation.
How could I repair this nonsense reference? It wasn't as simple as burying the information with better coverage. The CEO's problem was not a quick fix. Building, cultivating, and refining a digital brand presence takes time and multiple communication forms.
There are no erasers for the internet.
The negative association faded over time with a little help from content marketing efforts displaying more current information.
Why executives should cultivate their personal brand
Dan Schawbel is founder of the Personal Branding Blog and author of Promote Yourself and Me 2.0. He says, "If you don't take ownership of your online reputation, your Google results will speak for themselves."
Another reason to focus on your brand is your perceived image will impact future career opportunities. If you are in the C-Suite, your customers, partners, and investors will make decisions to work with you and your company based on your reputation.
What is personal branding for executives?
When social media erupted as a business tool and marketing channels expanded, personal branding was on the rise. Schawbel created a short definition: "how we market ourselves to others."
While conducting a recent corporate personal branding workshop, one person offered "Branding is knowing who you are and who you are not." You gotta love the simplicity of this one.
According to Gregory Wade, a senior executive leadership advisor, "Executives can't hide behind corporate walls and hope for the best. They must look within and determine their leadership stance, seeking out avenues that amplify their message, perspective and connection to what is meaningful."
Parissa Behnia, an executive coach, has conducted research with C-level executives. She suggests an executive who knows herself will "crowdsource the team's intelligence" for the benefit of a company. She also believes ingredients of an individual's brand are evident long before they become an executive.
Five personal branding tips
Drawing from my experience designing and leading personal branding workshops for Fortune 500 companies, I offer the following tips:
1. Develop and deliberately refine your personal brand over your career, regardless of your title. Personal brand shaping is gradual, not instant.
2. Influence your brand from the inside out. You can craft intentional messages through self-awareness and through behaving in a consistent manner.
3. Your brand is also defined from the outside in; what others think of you or hear about you. You can't always control what is published by journalists, competitors, or other media. Stay the course with consistent words and behavior.
4. Complement the corporate brand and employer brand with your personal behavior. With this approach you will fortify the employer brand, helping to recruit and retain the best employees.
5. Be in alignment with who you are. Create talking points or messages in alignment with your values.
And as Oscar Wilde implied with a much longer version of this sentiment, "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."
• Marti Konstant is a workplace futurist and the author of Activate Your Agile Career. Learn more at www.martikonstant.com