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Build Your Executive Brand Online

Becoming a thought leader can strengthen your organization's employment brand—and boost your career. Here's a step-by-step guide to creating a compelling, brand-building message.

The old saying goes, “People join companies but leave managers.” But in today’s media-dominated landscape, people are often joining companies based on the company’s online brand—or the brands of their executives.

As a leader, you can help strengthen this effort. Your personal executive thought leadership brand is a powerful tool to establish your organization as an employer of choice and to establish yourself as a knowledgeable, go-to person in your industry.

By sharing your experiences and insights in various content forms—particularly on LinkedIn—you can become a prominent voice in your industry, one who shapes industry trends and drives meaningful conversations related to your field.

By proactively addressing industry challenges and actively contributing to public discussions, you can also enhance both your personal reputation as an executive thought leader and that of your organization—both of which will foster trust among customers, partners and stakeholders.

Why Become a Thought Leader?

The increased visibility of your company’s executive team, including the CHRO, can profoundly impact your organization’s talent management processes, leading to improved employee engagement, satisfaction, retention and recruitment. It is ultimately how you will be able to align the vision of your organization with the future. Here are three other benefits:

1. More visibility = more (and better) applicants. The great majority of HR professionals say they’ve had trouble recruiting talent in the past year. Establishing an employer brand is one strategy to help overcome this challenge. Companies that actively promote their unique culture, values and vision stand a better chance of becoming the go-to
destination for top-tier professionals.

Four out of every five job candidates say they research company leaders when considering joining an organization. This makes executive thought leadership a potential game changer in talent attraction, acquisition and retention. With greater visibility and authority in your industry, you will attract larger pools of qualified candidates and create a compelling employee value proposition.

2. Raise your company’s profile. A full 90 percent of employees use social media every month. And 80 percent of employees expect their company’s leaders to communicate on social media, especially when a crisis hits. This points to one thing: Your employees—and your potential hires—want to hear from you online. The better positioning you and other execs have online, the more likely it is that your team, potential candidates and clients will view your company as innovative, credible and forward-thinking, which improves brand reputation and loyalty.

3. Empower your workforce. An engaged employee feels committed to their company’s mission and invested in its growth. Improving your executive communication is key to driving that high employee engagement. And when executives become thought leaders online, that sets an example for employees.

Plus, studies show that when executives post on LinkedIn, the first people to engage are the actual employees of the company. That knowledge has led Walmart to begin reposting its internal employee and investor updates on its CEO’s LinkedIn page. 

Climbing the career ladder. Digital technologies and education. Art collage.

Ideas for LinkedIn Posts That Can Help Elevate Your Employment Brand

  • Celebrate employee milestones to highlight company retention.
  • Spotlight client successes.
  • Post about job openings and career opportunities.
  • Publish thought leadership content or tips (either original or republish it from executives or the company’s platforms).
  • Share employee stories and quotes.
  • Make a “day in the life” video of your workplace or specific jobs.
  • Showcase company news and statistics.
  • Shed light on corporate social responsibility efforts.


What Should You Share?

Great thought leaders are great storytellers. They use stories to inspire, motivate and push for positive change. How can you tell your story and become a thought leader who drives the business forward? Follow the rule of the three P’s.

Purpose: Uncover your “why.” Find your purpose. Think back on your career and find out what drives you to do what you do. By uncovering your “why,” you will be able to start building an effective communication and thought leadership strategy. Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, serves as a good beginning that will help you reflect, brainstorm and kick-start your journey.

Personality: Identify your voice. Figure out your tone of voice, communication style, visual aesthetics and, most importantly, your unique value. What unique characteristics do you have that differentiate you from others?

Promise: Figure out the value you bring to audiences. Once you’ve found your purpose and personality, start thinking of your audience. Get to know them by asking yourself these questions:

  • Who is your target audience? What are the positions and roles they are in or aspire to be in?
  • What specific challenges do they encounter in these roles?
  • Where do they strive to build their careers or make an impact?
  • What conversations or hashtags do they follow?
  • What (and who) are they following online and in real life?
  • What are they reading? (books, blogs, newsletters, etc.)
  • And most importantly, what value do you promise to provide them?

By figuring out what content is relevant to your target audience and actively joining the discussion online, you will be able to increase your visibility in your field. And the key to maximizing this impact is to do it consistently. Consistent delivery of your promise increases your credibility and ultimately drives social media algorithms to push out your content.

First, Improve Your LinkedIn Profile

Building your online presence starts with the basics: your LinkedIn profile.

Reconsider your headline. Did you know the first thing people notice on your LinkedIn profile is the headline that runs below your name? This means you need to translate your promise into a well-crafted LinkedIn profile headline that includes your current position, any notable achievements and your previous role (if relevant or prominent). Just a few words should highlight what you want to be known for. 

Choose the right profile photo, one that is professional yet approachable. Add a background photo related to your work, and include your articles in the “Featured” section of your profile as highlights. The purpose is to showcase your credibility and expertise in your field.

Turn your “About” summary into your story. Why? People are naturally inclined toward stories and narratives, mediums that have the power to resonate with emotions. When you appeal to emotions, readers are more likely to engage with you, remember you, relate to you—and mainly, connect with you.

Consider other ways to optimize your profile, including customizing your LinkedIn profile URL so it’s easier to send, using SEO-friendly keywords in your headline/summary and connecting with people who are relevant in your industry.

executive brand arrow chart


7 Steps to Create Compelling Content

When pushing out your thought leadership posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or another social media platform, follow these steps for maximum exposure:

1. Choose the Right Format

The best thought leaders can tell their stories through multiple formats, such as text, video, audio and images. Each format contributes to expanding your reach:

  • Using text and photos increases your reach by 1.3 to 1.7 times beyond just text.
  • Carousels—which show multiple images in one post—increase your reach by 1.3 to 1.8 times.
  • Videos increase your reach by 0.8 to 1.5 times.

If you’re tackling simple concepts or announcements, a basic one-image graphic or carousel may be sufficient. But if your content is complex and requires in-depth explanation, a video might be more suitable for effectively conveying the information. Carousels can also tell a sequential story through a series of images or slides.

Research your target audience to understand their preferences. Do they engage more with images, videos or interactive content? You should also consider the platform’s predominant content format.

2. Use a ‘Hook, Line, Sinker’ Structure

A good structure for your content is divided into three parts: the hook, the main body and the engaging ending—also known as the “Hook, Line, Sinker” framework.

Hook: A full 50 percent of good writing is the “hook” or the opening of your post. Why? A reader’s average attention span is eight seconds. Your introduction needs to be engaging enough to grab their attention and spark their curiosity and anticipation. It is how you make them want to read more and, ultimately, increase your engagement.

How can you write a good hook? Here are some tips:

  • Keep it short.
  • Have a bold or intriguing statement.
  • Ask an engaging question.
  • Leverage storytelling aspects.
  • Use statistics.
  • Create a sense of urgency.
  • Make it personal.

Main body: The main body of your post is where you tackle enough of the subject essence. Always remember to bring value to your reader, have efficient explanations and keep it clear.

A grabber ending with a call to action. To end your post, encourage the reader to engage. Ask thoughtful questions, not only to push your readers to respond but also to keep them thinking. Include a call to action. Show your audience what you want them to do. Do you want them to sign up for something? Watch a video? Read an article? Tell them!

A CTA guides your audience and pushes them to engage with you. The most compelling CTAs will evoke curiosity, use action verbs and inform the reader of the value they will gain. Keep your language simple, clear and to the point.

3. Pay Attention to Layout

Layout affects your content reach and engagement more than you know. It plays a major role in the readability of your post. If your layout is bulky with long paragraphs and sentences, you create a poor user experience that overwhelms your reader and discourages them from engaging with your content.

When writing your content, remember to use a well-spaced layout that incorporates white space, one-line sentences, bullet points and short hooks. It makes your content more digestible to the reader, ensuring they can easily read through it.

Also, keep in mind that your audience generally skims information, rather than reading content thoroughly—they are pressed for time! A cluttered layout makes it difficult for them to quickly grasp the key points from your post.

Great thought leaders are great storytellers. They use stories to inspire, motivate and push for positive change. How can you tell your story and become a thought leader who drives the business forward?


4. Avoid the ‘Curse of Knowledge’ Trap

Your audience does not know your lingo or acronyms or framework. Instead of saying “our product,” be specific and name it. Instead of saying “PPC,” make the idea clear and say “pay per click.”

I have seen executives use complex industry terms in their content to position themselves as experts. But if your post is hard to understand, you actually push people to scroll past it. To avoid the “curse of knowledge”:

  • Simplify your content. Stick to simple and clear language.
  • Make it easy to digest. Use small paragraphs, short sentences and a spaced-out layout.
  • Push people to want to know more. Meet your audience in the middle. Spark their curiosity on new topics, while still keeping your content easy to understand.

5. Post on a Consistent Basis

My advice is to publish around one to three posts per week. Committing to regular posting means you are regularly delivering on your promise to your audience, which ultimately increases your credibility and visibility. Be consistent and you’ll watch your engagement rates, brand awareness and loyalty increase.

executive brand donut chart

6. Remember the Hashtags

In every post you make, you should use between three and five hashtags. This is how you can start meaningful conversations, as well as reach people who are interested in your field and would value your insights. Tip: Avoid obscure hashtags—pick ones with a follower number between 1,000 and 10,000.

7. Follow the 4-1-1 Engagement Rule

Posting on your company and personal social media pages is important, but it’s also wise to become part of existing conversations on social media platforms where your target audience actively spends time. Connect and strike up conversations with other thought leaders in your industry, comment on their posts and share your twist on the topic.

You need to build meaningful connections and a strong network of like-minded people. Not to mention, this also allows you to grow your audience and leads the way to many business opportunities.

Here is a golden rule for engagement: the 4-1-1 rule. For every piece of content you post, you should share one update from another source and four pieces of content written by others.

To make engagement simpler, here are some practical do’s and don’ts:


  • Research when your target audience is online and post during those times.
  • Connect with people who are relevant to your industry and objectives.
  • Publish long-form content—and use it to start conversations through engaging questions and bold statements.
  • Search relevant hashtags and engage in trending conversations.
  • Maximize your engagement during the first 90 minutes after you post.
  • Add links to receive higher engagement.
  • Create polls on relevant topics.
  • Join LinkedIn industry-specific or relevant groups.


  • Be the first to comment on your posts.
  • Edit your post within the first 10 minutes after putting it up.

Remember, establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry takes time and consistent effort. Focus on delivering value, building relationships and engaging with your network to establish yourself as a trusted and influential professional.   

Roy Abdo

Roy Abdo is a digital marketing consultant and the CEO of Digital Revamp, a marketing and advertising agency that creates digital communication strategies for organizations. He previously worked for Gallup, directing communication and social media campaigns.