So you’re a CIO. Considering what a pivotal role CIOs play at companies across the world, congratulations are in order. In addition to implementing information technologies, though, you want to make sure and implement a bit of personal branding as well.
Why? Because a personal brand belongs to you. It is separate from your company and will follow you wherever you go, for good or ill. Even if you’re deliriously happy at your current position, you might want a different challenge in 5 or 10 years, which means you need to start planning your brand now.
Keep in mind that creating a brand identity for a business is a little different than building a personal brand, so don’t confuse your own brand with that of your employer or startup. However, they both rest on the same basic idea: you want to paint a favorable picture of who you are to the world.
Now the only question remains, how do you build a positive, long-lasting personal CIO brand? Here’s everything you need to know.
Create a Mission Statement for Yourself
Yes, we know your current place of work already has a mission statement – or at least, it should. We’re asking you to create one that is completely separate from your work, though it can certainly relate to it based on your interests, industry, and so forth.
A personal mission statement tells employers, colleagues, partners, vendors, and influencers what you do, and why it matters. For instance, a CIO of a Fortune 500 company might write the following mission statement:
I help global companies uphold their good name with consistent information technologies across platforms and locations so that customers can always count on them for assistance, privacy and security.
On the other hand, the CIO of a small startup might read more along these lines:
My goal in life is to scale new ventures as quickly as possible, so they can bring their offerings to the widest audience in the shortest amount of time, all while instilling the highest levels of trust on the market.
Whatever your statement is, it should help everyone a) understand what you do at a glance, and b) feel good about it.
PRO TIP: If you are having trouble coming up with a mission statement, ask your CEO or someone else in the C-Suite what they think you do in a sentence or less, then build off that.
Put Your Mission Statement in All Your Profiles
Now that you’ve got it in hand, take your mission statement and plaster the internet with it. No, this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to copy and paste it word-for-word into every social media bio and professional profile (although you could). Instead, you can:
- Create a shortened version of it and put that in your handle
- Insert your mission statement into a post, then pin it at the top of your social feed, like you can on Twitter, Facebook and TikTok
- Use it as your summary on LinkedIn, then rework it for job descriptions throughout your profile
- Put it at the top of your resume, where future employers or partners will see it
- Use it in the bio of your guest posts or thought leadership pieces on blogs and other publications outside your company
- Weave it into your company bio on their official website
- Use it on the About page of your personal website
If nothing else, this exercise helps you get clear on what you do and why so that you have a ready answer at cocktail parties. As the Roman philosopher, Seneca once said, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Prep now and you’ll have the best chance of big wins later.
PRO TIP: It’s helpful while writing your statement to pull out smaller pieces and put them in a different document, so you can use them to write truncated versions of your mission for socials.
Get Branded Content Out There
Once you know what your mission statement is, you need to get it out into the world. Maybe you’re trying to build trust on behalf of your company; maybe you’re building street cred for yourself so you can one day go out on your own.
It doesn’t really matter. The point of this exercise is to build awareness of who you are and what you do. To that end, you should participate in as much thought leadership as you have time for. That means speaking at events if you’re invited, attending trade shows, and writing articles.
If your company has a well-funded marketing department, there might be someone to help you do this. If not, you’ll have to find those opportunities yourself.
PRO TIP: Keep an Excel spreadsheet of running ideas about who might want your expertise and what the guidelines are for trying to partner with them.
Manage Your Online Reputation Carefully
It’s important that you stay on top of your image on the internet. That means making sure you always know what comes up if you Google your name and take proactive steps to address anything less-than-ideal.
Everyone always assumes that, if they live morally and don’t steal cars for pleasure, the internet will look upon them favorably – but that is rarely the case. When people get “busted” for something, it’s often not even that big of a deal. Think AOC dancing on a rooftop. It’s not that the dancing was bad; it’s that she was the one dancing.
Old photos from college parties might not age that well if you work for a company that relies on the trust of the elderly. Photos of you in questionable clothing might be something to take a look at; on the other hand, if you work for a body positivity company, that might be great. It’s all about what your brand rests on – and only you can decide that.
Once you do, though, make sure what pops up online aligns with your intentions. If you see negative content, you can try to get it taken down. If that’s impossible, your best bet is to “bury it” with good content through your company, a personal blog, guest posts, and meaningful contributions to the social media sphere.
PRO TIP: Set a Google alert for your name, so every time you’re mentioned online, you can take action. This is also helpful if you have a common name, so you can see what else might come up for someone else.
Associate with Strong Brands
There’s a reason name-dropping is a thing: because humans trust what other humans trust. If you can associate with brands with solid reputations and show they have faith in your abilities, your stock will rise.
Accordingly, pick your speaking and guest posting opportunities wisely. As a CIO, your thought leadership will likely be in the IT, data security, and customer management sphere, or related areas. Make sure you only lend your expertise to companies that already have a good reputation, that have not suffered from privacy concerns, and that have not had any scandals – unless how they’ve handled a scandal makes them somehow more trustworthy, which does happen.
PRO TIP: Make lists of the companies and brands that you trust, then work toward relationships with them by seeking them out at trade shows, corporate events, or online.
How to Get Started Building Your Personal Brand
Not sure where to start building your own personal brand? It’s tough, especially when you’re creating something for yourself rather than for a company. In many ways, businesses are easier to design for, because they have a lot of resources to throw at the job and because they have clearly defined themselves for their customer base.
If you haven’t yet, you can do so by combing through the above ideas and picking a few with which to start. Then you can work with a designer to see how your mission statement and personal ideas can be represented in design. We find this gives CIOs and other professionals the confidence to share about themselves more freely at networking functions, reunions and stakeholder meetings. That in turn helps build up that brand day after day, week after week, year after year.