Personal Branding vs Social Exec Comms

Social Executive Communications (aka Social Exec Comms) and Personal Branding are two related concepts that focus on establishing and managing an individual’s reputation and presence in the digital space. They are similar but have some important differences, so are not to be confused. Here’s a quick introduction to both, their differences, and why you’ll be hearing a lot more about them over the coming years. 

What is Social Exec Comms? 

Social executive communications refers to the strategic use of social media platforms, including LinkedIn, but also messaging platforms and community platforms, by executives or high-ranking professionals to engage with their audience, share insights, and shape their personal and professional brand. It is primarily concerned with building an executive’s online presence and thought leadership credentials with the aim of furthering the business goals of their organisation. 

According to a recent report, in 2015 only 39% of Fortune 500 CEOs were active on social media. However, by 2022, this number had increased to a staggering 70%.  Of these, 97% were present on LinkedIn.  

 The key features of social executive communications include: 

  1. Thought Leadership: Executives use social media platforms to showcase their expertise, share industry insights, and establish themselves as thought leaders in their respective fields.  
  2. Engagement: Executives actively participate in online conversations, engage with their audience, respond to comments, and foster meaningful connections with their followers. It’s not by chance that “We create meaningful connections” is OSTs strapline.  
  3. Reputation Management: Social executive communications involve monitoring and managing an executive’s online reputation by carefully curating content, addressing any negative feedback or misinformation, and presenting a consistent image to the public. 

If you want to see how Social Exec Comms can successfully build a senior exec’s presence, read our case study for social exec technology sector 

For more information, look at our blog post on the definition of exec comms. 

What is Personal Branding? 

Personal branding, on the other hand, is a broader concept that encompasses the overall image, reputation, and perception that an individual cultivates for themselves, both online and offline. It involves consciously crafting a unique identity and presenting oneself as a brand. It is, by definition, more focused on the person than the organisation they work for. This can prompt questions about whether organisations should be funding personal branding programmes for their employees, when the ‘professional capital’ accrued primarily benefits the person, not the company.  

Personal branding focuses on: 

  1. Identity and Differentiation: Personal branding emphasises identifying one’s strengths, values, and unique attributes to stand out from the competition and establish a distinctive personal brand. Senior Execs how manage to express their values while also demonstrating thought leadership, tend to resonate.  
  2. Consistency: It involves maintaining consistency across various platforms, including social media, websites, professional profiles, and offline interactions, to create a cohesive and recognizable personal brand. Getting your visual image and tone of voice right across all channels is a particular focus.  
  3. Humanisation: Personal branding aims to resonate with a target audience by understanding their needs, interests, and aspirations, and tailoring content to meet these expectations. It also seeks to convey the personality of the Exec and help to humanise them. Many Fortune 500 CEOs fail on this point precisely because their content is written by committees of Brand and PR experts. 
  4. Career Development: Personal branding often extends beyond an individual’s current role or organization, helping to enhance their professional opportunities, attract new opportunities, and build a lasting reputation in their field. This is the bit that can raise eyebrows in boardrooms!  

“How you present yourself as a whole person matters. For some people, it may be showing a lot of their personal life. For others, it may be a closer view into who they are professionally. In general, people will be looking for a deeper connection even with someone they have never met. Transparency, authenticity and vulnerability will be key, regardless of how a person defines their “whole public persona.” – Sanja Licina, QuestionPro 

While social executive communications focuses specifically on an executive’s online presence and thought leadership within their industry, personal branding encompasses a broader scope, encompassing all aspects of an individual’s brand and reputation management. Both are important for professionals to establish their authority and create a positive impact in their field, but in most cases, organisations tend to be keener to fund Social Exec Comms than Personal Branding.  

Mirroring the rise in influencer marketing, which is impacting both the consumer and B2B marketing arenas, high-flying senior execs are becoming hot property on social media. Often, by investing in the personal profiles of their leaders, organisations can reach more people, more powerfully, and with higher engagement levels than their corporate channels.   

According to Sprout Social’s #BrandsGetReal report, 32% of consumers say CEO transparency on social would inspire them to buy from that business. And 63% of people say CEOs who have their own social profiles are better representatives for their companies than ones who don’t. 

“In the era of the Great Resignation, employees are craving authentic leadership that walks the walk and cares more about creating a culture of inclusion and engagement than maximizing the bottom line. We will see more leadership books, podcasts, videocasts and social posts from leaders to rehumanize workplaces.” – Kerry Siggins, StoneAge 

At OST, we expect investment in the personal social channels of senior B2B execs to outstrip spending on corporate channels within the next 5 years.  Make sure you’re ahead of the curve on this one.  

For an informal discussion about how you can develop an effective Social Exec Comms Programme for your leadership, please get in touch.  

Luke Brynley-Jones
Date: 13th July 2023
Category: Blog Exec Comms

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