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How Corporate Executives Are Building Personal Brands and Why It’s Working



how to build a brand

Reality television captivated audiences back in 2009, with shows like Jersey Shore and Mob Wives, it was the golden age of trashy television drama and we couldn’t get enough of it. Fast forward to 2019, entrepreneurs, influencers, and most recently c-level executives, are using those same tactics (minus the trash) to build large followings, and grow their personal brands.

Technology has given every small and large business owner, employee, or student the ability to make a name for themselves across media platforms. It has only been within the last five years, that we have really seen a growth in entrepreneurs hiring a single individual to follow them around with a camera, and create content specifically for their brand.

According to the Bureau Of Labor Statistics, Overall employment of film and video editors and camera operators is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. The number of Internet only platforms, such as streaming services, is likely to increase, along with the number of shows produced by these platforms. By now we all know that creating content in the form of word, audio, video and picture is a necessary part of doing business. The phrase “content is king” still rings true. What’s so different then about corporate executives getting in on the action, and why do we love it so much?

Reality television and why we love it so much

Psychology Today reportedly conducted a detailed study of 239 people to find out exactly why Americans seemed to be hooked on reality television. The largest contributing factor between someone just watching a show once, and someone who watched the show religiously, was that they fantasized about being famous, successful, or having large amounts of attention.

Entrepreneurship and business had been a top contender for audience attention as early as 2001 when the reality show Dragon’s Den first started, followed by its successor, Shark Tank in 2009.  The Apprentice, Undercover Boss, The Profit, and Hotel Hell, are just a few others that prove business deals and a successful journey to the top are something people also fantasize about and want for themselves.

Now, we have reality television 2.0. We are able to see real people, running real businesses, operating on a daily basis, in real time. We actively watch startups document each sacrificial moment, each failure, each glorious victory and cheer them on as we witness the birth of another amazing company.

Executives used to be just the faceless individual behind the business, making plans and implementing ideas from the top while the employees on the front lines were the one’s really engaging with the consumer. Today, executives are realizing they are more than just indoor leaders. They have a unique message that is truly embedded in the company culture, and it’s one that consumers love to see.

I interviewed Claude Silver, the Chief Heart Officer of VaynerMedia to talk about her content, values, and vision. As the CHO she oversees anything that involves people such as: recruiting, culture, talent management and employee experience. Her role offers her many opportunities for speaking engagements, HR forum appearances, and genuine blurbs of wisdom, which all contribute to her growing content and following.

She recently started working with Rich Cardona, a retired Marine Corps aviator turned interviewer/video editor, to create content for her personal brand, an overall reflection of VaynerMedia. Rich didn’t have formal education in videography, but he came with leadership development, kindness, true grit and used those skills to teach himself.

Finding and nurturing exceptional talent is something that has given Claude much of her success. When asked why she chose to work with Rich she said “Because I think Rich is untapped talent and he is a veteran, there is so much courage in that, he risked his life for our country and I trust him…I can trust to record my video’s with him.”

VaynerMedia’s Co-founder Gary Vaynerchuk started building his personal brand the exact same way, hiring a videographer named David Rock to document his entrepreneurial journey, which has now spun off into multiple shows like DailyVee and Trash Talk, a show about flipping merchandise for cash.

VaynerMedia isn’t the only company recycling the tactics from reality television. Sue Ellen Watts, founder of an HR company called Wattnexts, documents her business life in a vlog titled The Unconventional Life. So, What can executives, managers and small business owners expect to see if they adopt the same method? See below!

1. Turn your consumers into die-hard fans

When Steve Jobs appeared on stage to launch the first iphone in 2007, he had already created an army of adoring Apple fans that couldn’t wait to buy it. Jobs had built a brand around both the products and himself. Much in the same way that I first consumed Claude Silver’s content to become a fan of her, business owners can expect the same reward if they are consistent and honest about the video’s they share across platforms.

Reality television had drama, today we see it represented through celebrations and failures when a leader is brave enough to share them. Claude Silver recently posted a video of her newborn child on Instagram and fans celebrated along with her. “I had been posting a lot on Facebook, sharing my thoughts on it, and Gary is one of the biggest influencers out there, there’s no better person to take example from, so when I started at VaynerMedia naturally my content increased.” said Silver after being asked why she started documenting.

2. Create an open-door policy with the world

A recent Gallup survey reported that only 41% of employees strongly agree that they know what their company stands for. If more than half of your employees aren’t sure what the company’s values are, how can your customers? By documenting your values and process as a leader, your employees can watch and learn, whether they are in the same office or in another country.

It also gives consumers a chance to offer feedback and make requests on a product or service almost immediately. In the same way, it produces a more positive work culture. If employees can see a leader that keeps their values consistent between their professional and personal life they will be encouraged to do the same.

3. Find talent by reverse engineering

By documenting the daily life of your business, your consumers become fans, and fans share their gratitude by showing you their talents. If your business is looking for the next customer service star, videographer, social media expert or sales rep, there’s no better place to look than within the group of people that are already invested in your mission and already committed to your brand.

They’ll be able to watch what’s happening with the managers, executives and front line workers in real time by watching a vlog or piece of content on social media and understand the culture, even before they step through the door. Reverse the role and top talent will be knocking on your door asking to work with your business.

Taking consumers and fans behind the scenes is an approach we can expect to see continuing to rise in popularity. For executives or owners that have yet to begin documenting, it might be beneficial to note that branding at it’s core means connecting with your target audience on an emotional level.

Hiring a videographer to film ‘a day in the life of’ will create deeper connection, brand longevity and increased revenue if done correctly. No-one wanted to be Angelina on Jersey Shore but everyone wanted to be Pauly D. Keep your content real, relatable and genuine. Rich Cardona said it best “no one cares about the company anymore, everyone cares about the people behind the company.”

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