C-Suite Advisory

Personal Branding versus Corporate Branding: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Women in Business

Have you defined your personal brand?   Are you consistently living your personal brand every day? Do you know how to balance between your personal branding and your corporate status as a spokesperson and corporate ambassador? If you’re like most of upper management professionals, top level executives I have trained or met, chances are that your answer is probably “no”.

Developing your personal brand in today`s interdependent and interconnected business environment is not only an essential skill for those who wish to improve their career chances, climb the social ladder or improve the brand equity along the way, it is critical tenet of modern leadership.  Unfortunately, personal branding has become a tabloid subject devoiced and stripped of its core values and strategic implications. As a popular topic among talk show hosts, red carpet reporters, ‘personal branding designers`, the topic became infected with fashion and styling rhetoric. While business etiquette plays an important role next to golf swings, Machiavellian-based ethics must be avoided at all costs.

Women in Business

Rather than trying to duplicate few tips from tutorial tapes, personal branding blogs, and mass market workshops, it is crucial to take some time off to reflect on how you wish to manage your own entity. The one that will be conveyed and discussed through various communication channels to the board members, shareholders, stakeholders, company personnel, customers and the media channels. If building strategic blocks is an essential component of business models, it is just as important for chief executives to build their own value propositions and virtuous circles on sound blocks.

Over the years, the pent up demand for role models who succeeded in business and life has soared beyond the corporate spectrum. In fact the cult of business celebrities is no longer contained or limited to the business world or the financial markets. Whether you read highbrow or lowbrow publications, mass media journals, it is very obvious that Chief Innovation Officers, self-made billionaires and successful CEO are among the most veneered leaders. This paradigm shift in the rise and resurrection of white collar culture and ideology comes with a price. Being in the limelight or making headlines news week after week is not an easy task. It`s like selling your soul to the devil. Your executive performances, accomplishments, interviews, philanthropic actions and personal travels will not be scrutinized by Wall Street analysts, Bloomberg or BFM reporters, it will be shared liked or disliked by people from around the world who have no affiliation whatsoever with your line of business or line card.

Fact of the matter is, any person with a Facebook page, Linkedin profile, or Twit followers in his group, is a Personal-Public-Persona that will keep on expanding ad vitam aeternum and intertwine with other discourses that are neither autobiographical or authorized. If you think removing any negative notes from credit agencies such as Equifax or Dun & Bradstreet is a nightmare, try to erasing any negative link, misquote, or privacy breaches from Google pages. Unless you can afford the services of full time community manager or content marketing managers who could watch over your open source manifestations around the clock, your best bet is to abstain from over exposure and shiny packaging till you figure out exactly how to balance between your interior assets and your exterior design thinking models.

There are many challenges facing today`s top executives in senior management positions. Here are some tips from the world`s most respected and renowned business leaders and tycoons I have studied for over a decade.

Rule No 1 – Anything you say, you post might be held or used against you;

Rule No 2 – Personal branding is a lifetime commitment;

Rule No 3 – Personal and corporate branding is vey much like a Yin & Yan. They need to complete one another. The casual man in a black turtle neck had an impressive impact on the white Apple brand including its brand equity and followership. In other words, you may be like the legendary Janus (half personal/half corporate) as long as you know how to keep a semantic distance between you and the company you represent.

With customers, entrepreneurs, management students and professionals growing increasingly concerned with the day-to-day actions of corporate executives, each CEO has to articulate a clear vision of he or she intends to serve the corporation without undermining its “broadband“ power, premium or potential. Like any other corporate issues, personal branding must addressed with care to make sure the business goals are not underserved or shadowed by the senior executives who sit at the forefront of the media battle between rivaling CEOs. Senior managers are usually associated with crucial role in Over cannibalization is common mistake in marketing simultaneous products or brands under the same umbrella.

Rule No 4 – Be consistent. What you say in the boardroom and how you act outside the headquarters, online or offline are apriori non-linear but in reality they are inseparable. Brands associated with consistent core values are the most respected by consumers. In other words, if you wish to last like a landmark, treat your self-brand like a trade mark;

Rule No 5 – What you think about yourself doesn`t belong to you. Public figures, top executives, and leaders are publicly traded assets and topics (Public-Private-Persona). When the stock market analysts heard about Steve Jobs`s life threatening disease, Apple stocks tumbled;

Rule No 6 – Being fashionable, fashion conscious or the best dressed executive will not make you a corporate Icon or a lifetime legend.

Rule No7 – What you see is what you get. Being genuine, accountable and considerate towards your colleagues, collaborators, customer base and community is a fundamental quality.

Rule No 8- There is also a fundamental difference between communicating and making noise. Best brands might occasionally create a buzz or trigger a viral campaign like share a Coke, but executive leaders should stay away from recurrent appearances on entertainment or talk shows. Over exposure is a negative syndrome for long term reputation.

Rule No 9- Match your confidence with results. Donald Trump went from a best selling author to a tabloid caricature as he failed to notice the difference between bragging and self-branding.

Rule No 10- Learn to master the art of storytelling like Steve Jobs, Barack Obama or Bill Clinton.

Unfortunately, there are still many misconceptions about personal branding. Most of personal branding architects still look at this cross-channel competence, from a narrow angle whereas self-branding is a social semiotic and narrative skill. In fact, our extensive research on self-branding through biographies and success story telling indicate that biographical branding and integrated story telling play a major role in how we perceive successful entrepreneurs and self-made men. In addition to being an excellent communication funnel, telling stories create an emotional bond, an intimate feeling and a cognitive anchorage with large audiences far beyond the crafted commercial ads, television commercials and sponsored features.

Personal branding as I have learned over the years by deciphering hundreds of business biographies and corporate success stories is a complex project. It`s about managing the most subjective, holistic and sensitive asset: our own brand equity: a premium that cannot be commoditized or revamped, repositioned or rebranded as we please to suit market demand, or new emerging trends. Personal branding is not a business game that can be played on chess board with nine building blocks even if you add nine new floors on Ostewalder`s famous canvas. It is a lifetime commitment to managing the most valuable asset id est the selfless iLeader you wish to be inside and outside your current organization.

Perhaps the most far-reaching outcome from this research on the correlation between corporate marketing-communications, narrative branding and storytelling is the vital role that effective personal branding can play in forging deeper links between the business leaders, corporate officers, Chief Innovations Officers and their glo-cal communities.

Jamal Boukouray, Ph.D, International Consultant and Senior Professor at ESCA Ecole de Management (International Business School, Casablanca, Morocco)

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Dr. Jamal Boukouray, Ph.D
Dr. Jamal Boukouray, Ph.D, is an international retail management consultant, author, keynote speaker and VP Marketing at Multidev Technologies. Core Specialties include Market Share Development, Digital Transformation, Branding & Marketing, Open Innovation, Design Thinking, Change Management & Leadership Analytics. Dr. Jamal Boukouray is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.