In-house leaders already in the c-Suite or on their way there are most likely to want to build their profile internally than externally according to a group of 40 senior leaders I surveyed recently.

Some of these people were already on the executive team, many are on their way there, and they come  from diverse industries – government to financial and professional services to tourism and infrastructure.

Almost 60 percent of these leaders were seeking a pathway to build their visibility with internal stakeholders, something that’s especially relevant since COVID relegated us to remote working and the in-office visibility that naturally happens when you’re sharing a space evaporated. Even when we return to the office, all of us will be navigating reduced visibility as we balance hybrid working.

Of this group, almost 30 percent are planning to build their reputation with internal and external audiences, and 15 percent are planning to prioritise external audiences only.

The February masterclass focussed on how in-house leaders can build their reputation to accelerate their career.

Research to date shows remote working has resulted in ‘visibility slippage’ for most professionals. Even when lockdowns aren’t in place, more professionals are choosing to work from home or combine  the office and home. A study published in Harvard Business Review found that Chinese workers who returned to the office rather than work from home when lockdowns were lifted were 20 percent more likely to be promoted.

When COVID first made remote working the norm in early 2020, some leaders said that when it was time to return to the office they’d let their team choose the days they would work from the office versus the days from home. But this creates an issue for teams and leaders that colleagues and their managers may never share physical space to work because their days in  the office don’t align.

Covid made working from home the norm for two years. Leaders can now address the ‘visibility slippage’ remote working has created.

The group of leaders I surveyed were given the option to respond with ‘Building my reputation is not a priority for me right now’. No one clicked this box, so you can assume visibility slippage is on leaders’ minds.

So how can you be visible as a leader –  internally or externally –  when you, your team and your stakeholders are balancing the style of hybrid work that suits them? In-house leaders wanting  to be more  visible, especially externally, also need to consider their company’s positioning on social media and approach to executive visibility. Eight percent of my survey group said they’d been burned before when it came to  being more visible at work.

1. Be visible online

Whether it’s internal or external people you want to reach, you need to be online in some way. For an internal audience you can give an update to the ELT or another department on the results of a project your team has just finished, or you can write an article on the same for your in-house blog. Externally, you can be active on LinkedIn and pitch yourself for being on a panel at an industry event.

A respondent said to me ‘I’m not ready for social media.’ It’s 2022 and that ship has sailed. If you  want to build your reputation as a leader it’s time to contribute on the platform that’s right for you. If this is you, a good way to get over this can be prioritise your internal audience first and once you’re comfortable in that space, expand your visibility to external stakeholders via social media as well.

Being visible as a leader on the right social media platform for you is essential.

2. Give it purpose

Many leaders know that being visible in their industry will benefit their career or the growth of their business, but if it doesn’t have meaning for you you’ll probably keep pushing it down your list of priorities. If it’s something you want to do, taking the time to figure out why and how you can do it so it has purpose for you will help you get greater results faster. Why? For one, you’ll start. Second, you’ll be more proactive because it’s important to you and you know why you’re doing it. Third, you’ll keep doing it.

 

3. Bring your company on the journey

Whether you’re an in-house leader, founder of a business or a CEO, bringing your company on the journey is essential. There is a way to balance sharing your IP and building a profile for yourself as a professional while also supporting your company’s brand visibility (and avoiding getting burned by the comms team if you’re an in-house leader). If you’re clear with the relevant people about what you want to do you’ll probably be given more freedom.

No matter the stage you’re at with your reputation, my advice is always to start simple. It’s easier to add visibility to your strategy as you go, rather than over-commit and disappear. Plus, this approach gives you the freedom to figure out what works for you – you might be a great speaker and enjoy giving ‘Town Hall’ style updates at company events or you might find the insights your sharing on the results the work you and your team are doing is right for you.

Hybrid working is here to stay. We’re learning to live and work with COVID and now that lockdowns, homeschooling and most restrictions look behind us, many leaders have capacity to look at their future again and incorporate this work on their visibility.

I’m presenting to a larger group of female non-executive directors from around the world later this month. It will be interesting to compare their priorities and barriers for building their reputation with this group.

 

Angela Cross is the founder of pilotPR and a reputation strategist who works with leaders, entrepreneurs and brands to build their reputations with purpose and authority. You can download her guide to overcoming the most common barriers to building your reputation here or connect on LinkedIn

In the time I’ve been in PR, the number of clients or prospects who’ve said to me, “I want to be a thought leader” or “I want the brand to be positioned as a thought leader” are many

While achieving thought leadership is a big goal, it also shows your commitment to being innovative, to sharing your knowledge with your colleagues, industry and the younger generations who can learn from your experience, while also contributing to the knowledge pool for your field to help it innovate and stay relevant. Done well, it also obviously opens business and career opportunities. It’s a way to establish a profile with media.

Simon Sinek is known worldwide as a thought leader.

So, what is a thought leader? Does it mean the same thing for everyone? Does it mean you have to be a household name? On the speaking circuit? Known to thousands?

The quick answer is no. What thought leadership might look like and mean for you might mean something totally different to the next person, and (IMO), that’s great and how it should be. Being a thought leader should align to who you are as a person, what you value and the business, people and industry you want to speak for.

In this article I’m breaking down what it means to be a thought leader to show that it might not be as unattainable as you think.


Being known as a thought leader can lead to speaking opportunities.

What is a thought leader?
A thought leader is an ‘expert among experts’. Someone people turn to for ideas, inspiration and guidance on a topic. Thought leaders are passionate about their subject. They are willing to speak openly, candidly and publicly about their beliefs. They either see trends emerging before the majority does, or they can comment on trends as they emerge and show how they are relevant to the industry they speak for.

Bill Gates

What does it take?
When we think of thought leaders, we think of people we’d pay to see speak in person. Who can comfortably speak in front of a vast audience. People who are called on by the media for interview. Who have their own podcast. They started blogging in the 90s or sometime when the internet was dial-up and you were still trying to find the Internet Explorer icon.

Bill Gates. Steve Jobs. Obama. Stephen Hawking. Arianna Huffington. Tony Robbins (love him or otherwise). Simon Sinek. Overwhelmed yet?

Tony Robbins is considered one of the founding modern thought leaders.
People love him or hate his approach.

This is the mainstream definition of thought leader. Maybe we can call it the definition of a ‘celebrity thought leader’. 

When you look back to the definition of the term, all you need is to have impact within your sphere. If you’re a biologist studying spinal neurones in chickens, you’re probably never going to have a mainstream audience. But if you’re a biologist studying spinal neurones in chickens, who cares? The audience who needs to consider you as thought leader are your peers, the journals that report on your research and those who fund your research. A smaller – but more achievable – pool of people to establish yourself with, right?

Scientist in a research lab

When you’re thinking about what it takes to be a thought leader, think about who you need to establish influence with and why. The audience will be smaller than you think and the prospect is less daunting and out of reach.

What are the benefits?
Now that we’ve established that to be a thought leader you don’t have to necessarily channel Barack Obama and head out on a stage to address 100,000 people, let’s talk about the benefits of being a thought leader within the sphere that will have the most benefit to you, your career, and the businesses you will lead.

Barack Obama addressing a rally.

When you’re a thought leader (in this instance, I’ll list some of the benefits of being a thought leader from the c-suite), some of the benefits are:

  • The people you lead know who you are, what you stand for and your plans for the business. They know what they’re working towards and how they can support the support the business to succeed
  • Being visible engenders trust. When your stakeholders feel they know you this translates to trust – trust in you as a leader and in your business
  • Writing content and sharing your insights and opinions online is how the media, event organisers, podcast producers, potential partners or clients all find you. If you want to be known, be active online
  • You will be seen as credible 
  • Your network will grow
  • You will eventually establish a platform to talk about the social topics you are most passionate about

I’ve been asked what’s the difference between a thought leader and an influencer. An influencer is about their follower numbers. Some people may disagree. A thought leader has a following because of their expertise and knowledge.

You don’t need to have the following of Ariana Grande to be a thought leader. 

What’s my point?

Don’t start out building your profile putting the pressure on yourself to be a thought leader from the outset. Being a thought leader doesn’t mean you have to have millions of followers on Instagram and four published books already. Being a thought leader is about providing insight and adding value to an audience that has value to your and your business. You might be a thought leader to a niche audience. Or a niche within in a niche. If that helps you be a better leader, helps you lead your business to greater success and means you share your knowledge with your industry so others can gain from you then that’s all you need.

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 profiling, stakeholder engagement, and effective issues management. If you would like to build your reputation with purpose and authority, email her here.

 

 

 

 

With WFH giving millions of professionals around the world their daily commute time back, while some leaders are experiencing a slow-down on projects while markets and economies wait for restrictions to ease and to see what the world looks like post-Covid, as well as no events, conferences, parties, weddings or family reunions to go to, some executives and leaders are using this extra time to start building their reputations. There are more posts on LinkedIn than I’ve ever seen* and new users on Twitter are up 24% in the past quarter. 

Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey

But is a crisis as far-reaching and devastating as this one a good time to start building your reputation? Or do you risk looking like an opportunistic exec with excess time on their hands who’ll return to the background when this passes?

It depends.

If you’re a leader (or aspiring leader) who’s had a voice in the back of your mind for a while now that you sharing your knowledge and insights may be valuable for your career, the people, and business you lead now would be a good time to start. It may give the people you lead and the audiences you want to engage direction and purpose at a time when many people are isolated and feel out of control.

If you’re considering using this time to start sharing your perspective, here are some things you can consider to help you embark on this journey with authority, purpose and a long-term view. Because if you’re not in this for the long-haul, there’s no point starting. You’ll be better off using the extra time you have at home each day to work on your homemade pesto recipe, doing science experiments with your kids or giving yourself a home haircut.

A very bad haircut

Can you add value?

We are experiencing an event that at times has felt stranger than fiction. And people are looking for information to give them clarity when they are isolated from their workplaces and many of the people closest to them. To know whether you can add value to a potential audience, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you know what you want to start communicating about and why?
  • Do you have a new or original perspective that no one else in your industry is talking about yet (or only a small group of people are talking about)?
  • Will sharing your perspective bring some clarity to your stakeholders and give them some direction or purpose at a time when people have felt overwhelmed and overloaded?

Will you be a trusted voice?

When coronavirus first emerged as a global catastrophe, highly regarded subscription-based news publishers like the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg experienced a spike in new subscribers. People around the world want to stay informed and up to date with Covid-19 and they want the information from sources they trust.

Building your authority as a trusted voice will take time and that’s ok. Actually, when it comes to trust, time is your friend and you should be preparing to step up knowing that you’re in this to play the long game. There are many, but here are a few ways you can build trust with your audience from the start:

  • Telling people the why as well as the what
  • Be consistent (if you’re going to blog, create a schedule that’s sustainable for you and stick with it)
  • Support your insights with data

Zoom call with a group of people

Can you help create a sense of community?

Our physical sense of community and the enjoyment we gain from being part of one has been put on pause while we try to stop the spread. Many people have openly shared how isolated they feel and to overcome this many have found ways to be part of a community online. As a leader, can you bring your people together even when they’re not? By sharing your perspective or insights on what is happening for you as a leader and for your business right now, you’re sharing your knowledge. By doing that, will you help your people, your stakeholders and your industry navigate this crisis as well? And can you communicate with empathy so that your audience will feel like they’re being heard or you’re talking directly to them? If your answer is yes, go for it.

Do you have a long-term view?

You probably already have a lot on your plate. And we all know that even though it may take some time, our lives will eventually return to a new form of normal.  So will you have time for this when that happens? You can make the time if it’s important to you – and if you set up the right processes so that building your reputation is sustainable and easy. You won’t be doing yourself or your audience any favours if you write three eloquent and insightful blogs in May 2020 and then it’s tumbleweeds from June onwards. Start slowly, and build from here.

*Scientific fact.

pilotPR newsletter subscribers receive these articles before anyone else. To be the first to receive insights like these, subscribe to the pilotPR newsletter here.

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 profiling, stakeholder engagement, and effective issues management. If you would like to build your reputation with purpose and authority, email her here.

When the distribution of misleading information is almost overwhelming depending on where you get your news, now is an opportunity for leaders to take on the responsibility of sharing the facts about what your business is doing at this time. Audiences are used to feasting on the buffet of information (or misinformation) that the 24-hour news cycle, online platforms and social media has served up to us. So, if you’re not giving the information to your stakeholders, your audience will fill the vacuum and get it elsewhere. 

The 2019 PwC Global Crisis Survey found that most view the management of a crisis – and communicating what you’re doing about it – as the responsibility of the c-Suite. Nothing new there. So, here are my thoughts on how leaders can communicate effectively and with purpose when stakeholders need accurate, human-to-human, rapidly distributed information.

  1. Just do it. And keep doing it.

    At a time when new advisories, laws, infection rates, travel bans, lockdowns, business cut-backs and (sadly) closures are being announced by the hour, people – whether they’re your employees, clients, partners or customers – are looking for information. And reassurance. And maybe some control. In our always-on news and information cycle, if it’s not you giving your audiences the information they need, they’ll get it from somewhere else. So it may as well be you and your business. Do it, and do it often.

  2. If you’re already doing it, review your scheduled content.

    social media scheduling

    If this point doesn’t apply to you because you’re a leader who isn’t actively communicating with a range of external audiences yet, skip to point three. If you are the leader of a business that schedules content, this step should have happened weeks ago, but I’ve seen several brands apologise recently after they posted scheduled content that is out of sync with what is happening right now.

    I’m stating the obvious when I say this erodes trust, makes you and your brand look like a machine, and disengages your audiences. These are some of the things you as a leader and your brand need right now. If you don’t have one already, create a template for activating a content review process as soon as an event like this starts to emerge. And revisit it regularly. Make the process (not a person) accountable, so nothing slips through due to human error and you’re communicating what’s relevant to your audiences at the right time.

    If you’re a leader who uses scheduled content for your own purposes, you should have already done this too. The post scheduled for next month that’s a ‘throw-back’ to you giving that keynote in X country in front of X number of people and talking about X future trend will do you damage right now. In fact, at this time, I’d say do away with scheduled content and post from the heart and when it’s right for you as a leader, your audience, and your business.

  3. Push past your vulnerabilities.

    If you’re a CEO who’s very comfortable in front of your team, but you feel vulnerable in front of external audiences (four in 10 CEOs rank this as one of their top three vulnerabilities according to PwC), now is the time to get over that. If this is you, use a platform that you feel comfortable on and use it well and regularly (if that platform isn’t video I’ve got bad news for you – see my next point). Just make sure you don’t hide behind that one platform or format, it’s vital that your audiences hear from a human right now. Use the platforms you feel most comfortable with initially and know you’re going to expand the platforms you communicate on and in what formats from there – very soon.

  4. Use video.

    video

    It’s human. It’s fast. It puts a face to your business. It makes you more real as a leader (less Wizard of Oz, more John Legere). If you take the time to film, use it on as many platforms as you can and get it to as many stakeholders as you think will benefit from the update. Record a few different versions if you need to, so you can engage internal and external audiences. Use empathetic, relatable language. Be direct. Keep them short. Make it brief (again, think Ardern not ScoMo). CEO of Goldman Sachs David Soloman held a virtual town hall meeting with his global teams, and then posted about it on Instagram and other social platforms to give external stakeholders an insight into how he is leading his people right now.

  5. Base your updates on data.

    The speed at which this crisis is unfolding combined with the media’s unending appetite for new information means that updates can be unclearly reported. Though I say that and note that there are many media outlets at pains to be factual and accurate. So, make it that you’re one of the leaders and businesses that arms your stakeholders with the facts about how you’re leading your business and how it will impact them. Use data to support the decisions you’re making and communicating truthfully. At a time when events are unfolding rapidly and messaging can be unclear, there is truth and security in numbers. Using data also enables you to tell your audiences not just what you’re doing, but why and why it has meaning for your business and them. Don’t use data reported from media stories, get it from the source. Choose several trustworthy, top tier authorities for your data and rely on only them.

  6. Know who needs to hear from you and don’t be shy.

    Now is the time to communicate broadly. Make contact with anyone who you think will benefit from either hearing from you personally or by receiving an update on what your business is doing about COVID 19. Tell as many stakeholders as you can and give them the option to opt out so they can if they want.

  7. Expand the platforms you communicate on.

    Only ever sent internal staff memos and presented at company town halls previously? Consider video. Haven’t shared your message on LinkedIn previously? Share a version of the updates you’re giving to close external partners there too so your industry and connections know what you’re doing. Tweet links to updates. Maybe now is the time to be on Instagram for video and picture insights. Send your updates to select media when it’s relevant to them. By doing this, you’re reaching as many people as you can, but you’re also making your information easier to find when someone goes looking for it. And they will.

  8. Be the voice for your industry or sub-set of your industry.

    This links in with the point about not being shy, but make sure the media, influencers, government stakeholders, industry associations and any other relevant or influential stakeholder knows what you and your business are doing about COVDID 19. While fact-based and empathetic information is what people need right now, you can view this proactive approach to communicating with stakeholders that may be beyond your usual sphere – especially external ones – as something you’ll maintain when this crisis is over. It will support you and your business’s recovery in the future, but more about that in another post.

  9. Be human.

    Video helps you be a human to as many people as possible. Show empathy and let people see how the human you is managing this crisis. It’s not BAU anywhere in the world, so don’t pretend it is. Show people how you are managing the emotional and mental impact – exercise, quality time with your children (or if you’re more realistic – the horrible mess your house is in because you’re #homeschooling), a glass of wine, cooking, Zoom with your extended family, reading – anything to show you’re human too. Just channel Jacinda Ardern with her lockdown video and you’ll be on the right path.

pilotPR newsletter subscribers receive these articles before anyone else. To be the first to receive insights like these, subscribe to the pilotPR newsletter here.

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 profiling, stakeholder engagement, and effective issues management. If you would like to build your reputation with purpose and authority, email her here.

 

This isn’t a post about how a c-Suite exec or leader should decide on their particular passion for sustainability and incorporate the topic into their reputation strategy (though if it’s a true passion you definitely should). It’s about how – as an executive with competing but equally important business goals, priorities and pressures – you can build you reputation in a way that’s sustainable for you over the long-term.

CEOs today are expected to be active and engaged publicly. You’re also expected to have a strategic online presence, so that when a stakeholder researches you they know your priorities, your achievements, your expertise and your passions. Basically, what this means is that who you are and what you stand for shows up, whether it’s on page one of Google, in the media, on LinkedIn etc. But many experts who recommend that a CEO is active on social media don’t talk about how a CEO can make this a reality. As the CEO, do you have to do it all yourself (many think they do)? Where will you find the time? Is it really a priority as much as the tangible goals and leading the people within your business are? How do you do it so that it has meaning?

Here are some tools and support available to leaders so that you can run an aligned reputation strategy in a way that helps you be a better and more engaged leader without distracting you from leading your business and your people.

Decide on the platform(s) that are right for you

Every social platform has its reasons for you being on it or not and different executives have had success with different platforms. Head of NIB Mark Fitzgibbon is embarking on Instagram in his “Fridays with Fitz videos. Through one-minute videos Fitzgibbon says he is engaging Millennials on topics he believes are important all people understand. So far he’s covered immunisation, Australia Day, immigration, global warming, and others. His following is growing slowly. An industry expert has told me he thinks the videos are the beginnings of Fitzgibbon moving into politics. Time will tell.

LinkedIn is a given for every professional. You might want to start with one platform and do it well and LinkedIn might be it. Twitter is an easy extension – or starting platform – and many CEOs find it the right platform to engage with customers in real time. Other CEOs prefer Facebook, and some (like Fitzgibbon) are emerging on Instagram. If you’re starting out, pick one and get it right. Start building an engaged audience. When you feel comfortable, move to your next platform.

In the US, CEO of T-Mobile John Legere is a social media titan, and while Twitter is his preferred social platform to engage and help customers, he also has more than 355,000 followers on Facebook and is known for his #slowcookersunday videos. Not typical CEO-style content, but it works for him.

Refine your style of content

LinkedIn is full of talking head videos because it boosts engagement and video is the future of everything (apparently). But if it’s not right for you yet, don’t start with it. You don’t have to do everything.

Look at thought leaders, high-profile executives and influencers you admire and analyse their content style. Some might only publish video. Others might only publish day in the life of style insights. Others might publish long-form written posts. Some might do a mix. Look at what feels comfortable for you and start with that.

Plan it out

You schedule most other parts of your professional and personal life, and your approach to building your reputation should be the same. Once you know where you’re going to start building your profile and how you’ll do it, plan your frequency and content-type across your platforms. Schedule it into you and your team’s schedule like you would any other professional priority. Mentioning your team takes me to the next important point – how to resource your strategy so that it’s sustainable and doesn’t feel like a burden.

Resourcing

This is so important. Despite CEO’s having numerous resources both within their organisations and the consultants who support them, many think they have to do every element of their reputation program themselves. This isn’t how it works.

Your EA can manage your daily schedule and be coached to draft short posts on your behalf. They can keep you on track each day and remind you what you need to post or the content you need to provide.

Your internal social/digital/marketing/corporate affairs and comms teams can keep you briefed on upcoming announcements that you should either make for the organisation direct to your social and brand platforms or incorporate into your daily posting to communicate to your audience.

You should also engage with an expert consultant to keep your stategy and positioning aligned with your purpose and long-term goals for building your reputation. They can point out new opportunities, brainstorm new topic areas, be available to advise you navigating an issue if it happens, and help you overcome any resourcing roadblocks to protect the sustainability of your reputation strategy.

Angela Cross is a reputation strategist who works with c-Suite leaders and brands to build and protect their reputations through PR, 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.