Chief Executive Insights

Why CEOs need to step out from behind the scenes and focus on their personal brand

​Paige Velasquez Budde

How to use your personal brand as the key to your company’s competitive advantage.

Over the past decade we’ve seen personal brands carry more influence in the business world than corporate brands. Tesla would not be the same without Elon Musk, Apple would not have been the same without Steve Jobs, Spanx would not be the same without Sara Blakely. Why? People buy from people and it accelerates the speed of trust for consumers. In fact, Psychology Today identified that “consumers perceive the same type of personality characteristics in brands as they do in other people. And just like with people, they are attracted more to some personality types than others—attractions which are emotion-based, not rational.”

For many CEOs when I bring up the phrase personal branding, there can be an initial negative reaction. The reason this phrase tends to generate recoil from leaders is because they have seen many that have approached their personal branding in an egocentric way. If you approach it in that way, the challenge is it comes off as inauthentic and turns your consumers away. So when I mention personal branding as a CEO, the goal is not to lead with ego – it’s to make a bigger impact as a thought leader in your industry.

If you are a serial leader launching your next company or looking to extend your company’s reach, building a personal brand gives you a platform of differentiation among your company’s competitors. And, if done right, building a personal brand can be more cost effective than pouring all of your time and resources solely to compete with a corporate brand.

Building a personal brand can seem like an extensive and daunting task for those already working well over 40 hours behind the scenes while balancing personal responsibilities. The good news is you don’t have to boil the ocean to build a personal brand. There are three key building blocks you can start putting into place right now despite being busy that position you to be a trojan horse for your company.

Own the first impression

As you work to build a business, keep in mind that business leads often come from referrals—i.e., one of your contacts will refer you to a potential lead by your name, rather than your company. It’s important that you own the first impression. According to recent studies, “a person starts to form impressions of a person after seeing their face for less than one-tenth of a second.”

In today’s digital-first world, online assets are now the official first impression. As Harvard Business School’s Executive Fellow, Rachel Greenwald describes it “The ‘first’ impression of you isn’t when you actually make contact, it’s when someone pulls up your internet profiles and makes snap judgments from their screen.”

When somebody types your name into Google, what is the first thing they see? It’s critical to make sure that every entity that you can control is positioning you in a way that’s in alignment with your mission. A simple step you can take is to purchase your website domain so that your name is now your URL. Even if you don’t plan on actually building a website, purchasing your domain is the most precious digital asset that you can own today. A lot of times it’s a tiny investment just for peace of mind and the option to grow your brand if you choose to in the future.

As well, conduct a quick audit of all of your social media profiles to ensure quick credentialing that accelerates the speed of trust for any potential customers. From your banner images to your cover photos etc., make sure that your social media profiles align to your company and personal goals. For those social media channels that are still live but that you are not active on, consider taking them down or keeping those static, but make sure that they showcase relevant photos and images that align to your personal brand.

Use your content as an excuse to build relationships

Whether you’re creating social media posts, building your website or putting together a blog, webinar or podcast, it’s important to think of yourself as the editor-in-chief of your personal brand. Do not think like a marketer or salesperson – come to the table as a thought leader, teaching rather than selling. A good rule of thumb for your content is to divide it into three parts: you-driven (about 10% of your content), news-driven (about 45% of your content) and relationship-driven (about 45%) of your content.

With relationship driven content, the key is to really focus on the 25 key relationships that you need to build and put together content such as an interview series, a podcast series or even start your own clubhouse with these contacts. The key here is having peer-to-peer conversations. It’s about having a valuable conversation that starts building the relationship with this prospect while providing value to your core audience.

Diversify and upcycle your content

A key strategy to making headway without adding ten additional hours to your day involves upcycling your content into several other pieces of content. For example, a 30-minute video interview can be spliced into various two minutes clips that can be leveraged as content for several upcoming months. Once you go live with each piece of content, line up promotions on your social media channels and look for ways to repurpose each piece of content for additional assets such as your blog. It’s about getting smart with your content strategy and taking one piece of content that you can disperse in an insightful and engaging way on the different channels.

Building a personal brand to stand out among the noise

Building your personal brand can position you as a differentiated leader in your space, helping you to create credibility and thought leadership in a way that accelerates the speed of trust for your consumers. And, while it may seem like a daunting task, putting a few steps into place now including owning your first impression, utilizing your content to build relationships and identifying ways to become resourceful with your content can lay the foundational steps to help you develop a mission-driven brand. Keep in mind that when it comes standing out above the noise, your personal brand can be a key differentiator.


Written by ​Paige Velasquez Budde.

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Paige Velasquez Budde
​Paige Velasquez Budde is CEO & Partner at Zilker Media, an Austin-based agency building people-driven brands. She has been featured as a speaker on digital marketing strategy and led workshops at national venues such as Harvard Medical School, Austin’s own Alamo Drafthouse, and for organizations such as Women Presidents’ Organization and Camp Gladiator.

Paige graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, where she served on the alumni Texas Exes Communications Committee. She is a proud alumna and can be found cheering on the Longhorns at any sporting event and occasionally singing the National Anthem at Texas baseball and basketball games. Paige resides in Austin, Texas with her husband, Jordan.


​Paige Velasquez Budde is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.