14 Jun Be more Branson: the rise of the brand-centric CEO
People buy people. Whatever the business, if you are pitching for a new contract and your people do not measure up, you will not get the deal. We all have the capacity to learn a scripted sales pitch, but showing personality is something entirely different.
What is wrong with stepping away from ROI, KPIs and cost efficiency conversations for a moment to share a joke with the person you are selling to? Find out what they like. Tell them what you like. Build a relationship from the moment you walk in the door.
Working in the PR industry, I have come across companies that are reluctant to talk about their people, whether that be spotlighting team members that are doing well or building a profile around members of their leadership team. In my opinion, humanising a business and using a friendly face to communicate a company’s message should never be underestimated.
Leading from the front
Virgin. Tesla. Apple. Microsoft. Facebook. I bet you can name the CEOs of these companies. Some would even argue that a lot of their success has been down to their enigmatic and front-facing people. For these brands, their CEOs can be their biggest strategic assets.
Virgin is globally recognised and respected. CEO Richard Branson has a net worth of more than $5 Billion but claims his empire was built out of sheer ‘adventure and fun’ – something that you can see in the way he represents himself as a CEO. Branson is also an accomplished philanthropist, founding nonprofit foundation Virgin Unite in 2004 and pledging to give away half his fortune to charity. He has spoken widely about his struggles with dyslexia and the education system – would he be as respected if he’d hidden his challenges away? Would Virgin be a brand as loved as it is now if Branson wasn’t its face?
And he’s not alone. Microsoft’s ground-breaking innovations are more trusted with the intelligence and capability of Bill Gates. Facebook is a brand that we consider young and cool – perhaps because their CEO wouldn’t be seen dead in a suit.
Brands should not be afraid of showing and celebrating their people. Marketing a CEO’s opinions and personality can make a company seem more approachable and engaging to work with. People want to work with a company that they can know and understand, and companies want to work with people who know and understand them. Breaking the fourth wall in business is a sure-fire way to stand out in the crowd.