Being a Truly Digital Executive

Posted on 05/31/2014

Slide1Digital channels have forever changed the role of an executive. No longer can you hide behind your PR person, chief-of-staff or other handlers. You are a real person and what you say and do does matter to your employees, customers, investors, the media and more. So… do you have a digital footprint that helps both your company and personal brand?

If your primary bio is only a PR-laden page on your company’s website then you have a problem – you look dated, out of touch and aloof. These are not characteristics that will win you favor long term.

Many executives frown on personal digital marketing whether it is Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or blogs… they don’t understand the potential positive impact or worse simply dismiss these channels as being for more junior people in an organization. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Think about it for a minute… who would you rather do business with: a company with executives that stay ahead of the curve on new technologies and new ways to communicate or ones that cling to history and the past? What an executive does says a lot about their company so if the executive is clinging to the past then how forward looking and “future proof” will their products actually be? If you’re trying to hire the best talent why would they choose to work for a company trending to the past versus building the future? The expectation is that an executive at a minimum stays current on trends and nowadays these trends move quickly therefore so must you.

If you need a little inspiration or think only executives from start-ups or smaller companies use digital channels, then take a look at LinkedIn’s list of top CEOs using digital channels.  Notice the range of companies and channels people use from Tumblr to Twitter to traditional blogs. The point is to choose channels that reach your target audience and that fit your personality. Not everyone is pithy enough for a great Twitter stream but may be truly brilliant at traditional blogging for example.

Another good example of an executive embracing digital channels for a variety of reasons is Jean-Philippe Courtois, President of Microsoft International. Needless to say, his job is huge and the revenue impact he garners is significant. Jean-Philippe Courtois uses a combination of Facebook and Twitter to highlight some of the community work Microsoft does; showcase his engagement with his teams around the world and add his take on some Microsoft news. Jean-Philippe is authentic in his social media which makes the appeal of his posts that much more compelling. If you Google (or Bing) his name you’ll see a combination of press mentions, his official company bio and many posts and profiles he uses in social media. This is an example of a well rounded digital footprint for an executive.

Many of these executives do have some help. They have help researching topics and curating trends, often done within their marketing or PR teams. So yes, you can enlist help but you still need to be active in your own profiles and know what you’re saying and when. You should actively seed and grow your digital presence to get the full benefit of your efforts over time.