CIOs and technology executives find themselves sitting in the catbird seat after having successfully transitioned their companies to operating digitally in the face of a global health crisis. Since then, CIOs, CISOs, CDOs and other technology leaders are seeing increased opportunities to work with the CEO and the C-suite to reimagine the business and drive new waves of innovation that can help generate fresh revenue streams. A survey of 150+ CIOs and technology executives conducted by HMG Strategy reveals that in assessing their current priorities, 58 percent of technology executives are applying greater focus to growing and reimagining the business while 31 percent of tech leaders are directing heightened attention to the CEO’s agenda.

As CIOs and technology leaders have elevated their roles in the C-suite, it’s a prime opportunity for CIOs and other CXOs to strengthen their personal branding in order to accelerate their career ascent. HMG Strategy recently caught up with George Sheth, Managing Partner at Diligent Partners, a national executive search firm based in Southern California. Sheth, who is a chairperson for HMG Strategy’s upcoming 2020 HMG Live! Southern California CIO Executive Leadership Summit on December 8th, shares his advice for CXOs to strengthen their personal brands.

HMG Strategy: Personal branding is critical for CEOs and other C-Suite executives, but most of this applies to those at all levels. What’s the first thing senior executives should know, George?

George Sheth: The first step is understanding your existing personal brand. Whether or not you’ve worked to develop it, you already have a personal brand. The problem is that it may not be the brand you want.

Your personal brand is defined by your reputation, and by other people’s perceptions of you. This is especially critical in today’s digital world, where trusting online information and resources is the rule rather than the exception. What kind of picture does an online search for your name paint?

Controlling your personal brand begins with awareness of the reputation that’s already out there. Your professional website, social media profiles, and published content should all reflect the brand promise you want to deliver to your customers. Without active participation in shaping your personal brand, it will be created for you—and you may not be pleased with the results.

While everyone has different on- and off-line personalities, ensure yours is professional and consistent across your website (if you have one), LinkedIn, Facebook, other social media, and especially with any online publications or videos.  Professionalism and consistency are key.  Conflicting or incongruent presentations can undermine or dilute your brand and raise doubt in the minds of your audience about your integrity.

After you’ve taken stock of your existing personal brand, what is the next step C-level executives should take?

GS: Defining one’s niche. You may know how to define a niche for your products or services, but what about your personal brand? The goal of personal branding is to sell your audience on ‘you’ as a professional, an expert, and a business leader. This means you have a target market, and it includes your business customers as well as your colleagues, strategic partners, stakeholders, and the thought leaders in your industry. Defining your personal brand niche means deciding who your ideal audience is and determining how you can best connect with them on a personal level.

What can executives do to elevate their brands?

GS: You can elevate your brand to some degree by association. As the saying goes, you are known by the company you keep. This holds true for personal branding, where a few strategic endorsements from industry influencers can enhance your personal reputation and allow you to be perceived as successful by association with known name brands.

As an executive, networking with influencers in your industry and gathering testimonials is a powerful way to build your personal brand and draw on the success of association.

Any final recommendations for these senior executives with regard to branding?

GS: Yes, arguably the most important part -- owning your brand. Even in an impersonal medium like video or the Internet, your audience can tell when you’re being authentic—and they can spot when you’re not. Your personal brand will not be successful if it’s not authentic. In fact, authenticity forms the foundation of a unique personal brand that helps you stand out. As writer and poet Oscar Wilde (who was a strong personal brand before the term was defined) said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Many CEOs and other senior executives fear the possibility of polarizing their audiences with a strong, authentic brand. But it’s essential to realize that, like your business brand, your personal brand won’t appeal to everyone—and it doesn’t have to.

Defining, shaping, and promoting your personal brand as an executive requires concentrated effort and some brand strategy inputs, but the results are worth the challenge. By maintaining a powerful and consistent personal brand that is distinct from, yet complementary to, your business brand, you can engage your customers and strengthen your platform for ongoing success.