Branding business leaders may be just as important as branding businesses.

By Megan Shroy

Most business leaders know the importance of having the right branding and marketing strategy for their company. But have they considered branding for their CEO? Does the marketing team have a strategy for thought leadership and positioning executives as experts in their respective industries?

For many business leaders, the answer to these questions is no. It may be because running a company doesn't leave much extra time in the day. Or perhaps leaders are not comfortable expositing their opinions or think it sounds too "self-promotional."

But executive branding can be an asset to a company's marketing strategy and when done right can become an essential part of business development.

Executive branding strategies help companies and organizations go beyond their products and services by establishing executives and leaders as experts in their field. Through showcasing a CEO and executive team's thought leadership, insights, points of view and experience, leaders have the opportunity to put a face to their organization and build a more human connection with customers and other stakeholders.

Here are some key elements for successful executive branding strategy:

A defined persona
The first step in developing an executive branding strategy is to create an online persona. This includes drafting key messages about the leader (including business and personal life), noting past experience and expertise, updating resumes and LinkedIn profiles and creating specific social channels for the company's use in executive branding.

Key points of view
Executives should also make a list of key industry topics on which they can offer a unique point of view. This can include commentary on industry trends, solutions for common problems clients or customers face and opportunities to promote philanthropic causes supported by the leader and the organization.

Multiple strategies and tactics to showcase executive strengths and leadership
Successful thought leadership campaigns bring together multiple strategies and tactics to showcase the strengths and leadership of a CEO and the executive team. Look for opportunities to write blog posts and submit articles to key publications about the identified points of view. In addition to publishing good content, leaders can pursue media opportunities, awards, speaking engagements and social media marketing to continue to promote their thought leadership.

Finally, executive branding does not have to be time consuming. Most business leaders are passionate about what they do, and many are already blogging and posting their thoughts and insights on social media. Other times, these responsibilities can be assigned to a marketing team or outsourced to an agency. Developing a strategy for executive branding is the perfect place to start.

Today's consumers are looking for personal connections and authenticity-not forced advertisements just meant to "sell stuff"-and this makes establishing a company's executive as a true industry authority more important than ever. Consider taking your business' thought leadership to the next level and enhancing the organization's existing brand and marketing efforts by positioning your CEO as an industry trailblazer.

Megan Shroy is founder and president of Approach Marketing, a boutique public relations and marketing agency specializing in public relations, crisis communication, executive branding, social media and marketing strategy. She can be reached at megan@approachmarketing.com or 614-507-6203, or on Facebook (@ApproachMarketingPR), Instagram (@ApproachMarketing) and LinkedIn (@ApproachMarketing).