When I’m first meeting c-Suite leaders who want to build their reputations, I often hear “I know I need to do this, I just don’t know where to start.” There are many executives locally and overseas who have built global reputations by being present online, sharing their knowledge, telling their organisations’ stories, and engaging with their customers. But no one starts with thousands of followers, so here are some insights that may help you start to build your profile with purpose and authority.

Sir Richard Branson

CEOs synonymous with reputation are known to most: Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk (but that’s a separate case study on the balance between CEO reputation and corporate reputation being out of alignment), John Legere, Naomi Simson, and Ariana Huffington, and many others. They all started somewhere and they approach building their reputation with purpose, patience and clarity.

Arian Huffington

Locally, The Australian has recognised ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott for using social media as “his quiet strategy of differentiation to his four pillar counterparts.” Elliott tweets, regularly posts video to LinkedIn and Twitter, is a Facebook Business Influencer, loves a selfie, and shares ‘day in the life’-style content as much as he supports ANZ company announcements by explaining what they mean to his followers. Probably one of his most notable social moments is this Facebook Live interview, which he filmed on the first day of the Royal Commission in 2018. The video currently has more than 43,000 views. I’d like to see Elliott share a bit more of his human side, but maybe that’s coming. Elliott says he finds social media fairly easy to fit in throughout his day.

ANZ Bank CEO Shayne Elliott

Here are some insights on how leaders can start building their reputation with purpose and authority:

  1. Every leader started somewhere
    Not even Elon Musk created an account on Twitter and woke up the next morning with 25 million followers. Don’t worry if you have 16 Twitter followers and most of them are old colleagues or family. Start sharing your knowledge and insights and your audience will grow. Just start. Start with one platform and one topic, if that feels right, and build from there.

    Elon Musk

  2. Tidy up what’s there
    This won’t be the case for younger generations as they join the c-Suite, but most of the CEOs I work with created a Twitter (for example) account sometime in the past 10 or so years, tweeted a few times and left it dormant. Delete those tweets, update your bio, upload a new profile and background pic, link to your website. Start following media, industry sources and groups, peers and institutions that help inform your purpose as a leader. Do the same for Facebook (if you’re on it), LinkedIn, Instagram or any other platform where you can see yourself comfortably engaging with an audience and sharing your expertise in a relevant way.
    Resourcing a CEO’s reputation strategy so that it doesn’t distract from your purpose as a leader is also a whole other post (or series of posts), so we’ll write about that soon. But this is where you can rely on your internal teams or trusted advisors to help you with this in a way that is natural and sharp.
  3. Know your purpose
    This is so important. Leaders today are overwhelmed with messaging that building a reputation is an imperative for their business and their profile as a leader. That you should be on social media. You have to be a thought leader on a topic no one else has thought of. All at the same time as leading your organisation, growing your businesses, engaging your board and shareholders, fostering your company culture, and taking a stand on social issues. Oh, and being a human, like having a family, spending time with friends and being part of your local community.
    Knowing your purpose for building your reputation starts with knowing your values and aligning them with your priorities as a leader. When you know your values and your goals, it’s easy to identify your purpose for building your reputation. From your purpose flows your content, your messaging and keywords, your sources of information and insights, and your position on relevant topics and issues.

    A family at the beach

  4. What is your career legacy?
    This one is closely aligned to purpose but it’s often overlooked when leaders feel pressured to start building reputation. If your reputation is going to be an asset that performs for the long-term, and is therefore worth the investment, you need to be clear on what you want your career legacy to be. This becomes the undercurrent of your reputation strategy – or your strategic vision – and will keep you on track over the long term.
  5. Map out potential issues
    Every leader has potential issues and downfalls that may result out of building your profile. If you anticipate what they are, know what your messaging will be and how you will respond depending on the event, you’ll be able to manage issues as they happen and move on. Ex-CBA CEO Ian Narev should be doing this now that he is joining Seek. Narev’s reputation is tarnished (some might say ruined), but with the right approach, more transparency, honesty and authenticity, he has the opportunity to move on from his downfall at CBA or he risks 2018 becoming his ultimate career legacy
Angela Cross is a reputation strategist who works with c-Suite leaders and brands to build and protect their reputations through PR, corporate social media, industry communication, stakeholder engagement, online optimisation strategies and effective issues management. If you would like to build your reputation with purpose and authority, email her here.
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