Executive visibility and the recognizable executive brands

These days, executive visibility attracts managers’ attention and inspires lots of leaders. Indeed, if any company wants to succeed in its business, it has to understand it very well. This article sheds light on the concept of executive visibility and tries to explain what the recognizable executive brands are by some practical and current examples.

When it comes to corporate reputation, your executive visibility strategy can make or break your brand. Indeed, when you hear the names of top leaders like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, the corporate brands that they have helmed quickly come to mind. Their reputations and their businesses are intricately intertwined. Executive visibility can be defined as “a strategy used to grow an executive’s presence and exposure in order to impact a company’s success.  To accomplish this, an integrated communications strategy should showcase the executive’s subject matter expertise and industry leadership”.

Why does executive visibility matter and what it can do?

“If the world has a brand, it must be a chaos. In fact, chaos is everywhere and in every sector, and it is the new normal, people are uncertain about the future!” Jody Sunna – Vice President, Corporate Communications at Philip Morris International. When the leaders across the world are called to embrace voices and thoughts boldly, then personal voices and thought leadership can be a key for brands to break through the chaos and the noise. An executive visibility program, which speaks both to a company’s values and to an individual, can strengthen corporate awareness, reputation, and trust.

Why does executive visibility matter today?

Sunna tried to answer this question in simple words. The reality is, people want brands and CEOs to be personally visible! According to data points from the Edelman trust barometer in their recent 2022 survey, 80% of people want CEOs to be personally visible when discussing public or work policy of work their company has done to benefit society. CEOs are expected to shape conversation and policy on jobs and the economy. Sunna argued that companies or individuals can play a critical role in society and make social impacts. For example, when we talk about gun issues in USA, lots of companies have had to do something , we find Levi’s and levi’s CEO have a strong in their position against gun and gun rights and his voice and his feedback been “I may lose customers but it’s important for us to do that”. That is a risk and that is where it really starts to play a role in defining and shaping something important. In fact, sometimes a CEO can say something that’s more provocative than a corporate position and can take a larger stance and be heard but companies and their employees are looking for individuals who are doing that today.

Anyway, everything related to executive communication is reflected in the brand. Sunna tried to explain that by giving many examples for different recognizable executive brands, and by these current examples the concept of recognizable executive brands should be clearer to us:

  • Richard Branson: Billionaire firebrand

Sir Richard Branson built a billion-dollar business with entrepreneurial flair. He is known as a “business storyteller”. Branson was one of the first billionaire CEOs to embrace executive visibility – his publicity stunts have included bungee jumping off Victoria Falls or leaping from a Las Vegas casino. Thanks to his efforts, the Virgin brand is strongly associated with his rebellious, anti-corporate image. He has evolved with the times – Branson is an authentic thought leader; his “voice” on social media is his own. He engaged with his followers, rather than using his social media presence as a one-way broadcast tool.

  • Indra Nooyi: Leading with purpose

For a dozen years (2006-2018), Indra Nooyi led PepsiCo through a period of increased sales and profitability, as well as growth into new geographies and product categories. As the first immigrant and woman of color to run a Fortune 50 company, Nooyi was an early adopter of leading with cause and purpose. She used her executive visibility to amplify the ways in which PepsiCo was working to make the world better, and she was making advances in social responsibility initiatives long before it became popular to do so. The list is growing every day of executives who are making headlines for operating with purpose, and in an age of chaos, there’s no shortage of causes to work toward.

Last example that Sunna gave about recognizable executive brands is the company where she works at “Philip Morris International (PMI)”. This company is leading a transformation in the tobacco industry to create a smoke-free future and ultimately replace cigarettes with smoke-free products to the benefit of adults who would otherwise continue to smoke, society, the company, its shareholders, and other stakeholders”. PMI’s statement of purpose: Deliver a smoke-free future by focusing its resources on developing, scientifically substantiating and responsible commercializing smoke-free products that are better alternatives than smoking, with the aim of completely replacing cigarettes as soon as possible. While not risk-free, these innovative alternative products do not bum tobacco, do not create cigarette smoke and therefore generate significantly lower levels of carcinogens and other toxic substances compared to cigarettes. But does an executive visibility really important for PMI? Sunna answered that question and she said that a well-crafted executive visibility plan will:

  • Support our broader communications objectives.
  • Humanize PMI and personalize our narrative.
  • Expand reach to audiences, conversations, and channels.
  • Help amplify our message and enhance its credibility.
  • Establish our executives as recognizable subject matter experts.
  • Counter efforts by detractors, putting forward a human face and name.

As a conclusion, this article discussed the term of executive visibility and gave some examples for recognizable executive brands to understand how they work with executive visibility. So, it showed the importance of executive visibility for various companies and in different spheres such as business, management and marketing. Therefore, if any company wants to work in a professional way and succeed in the market, it should pay a lot of attention to this topic!