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July 19, 2012

Effective Online Networking Tactics for Financial Executives

Executives in any industry need to carefully craft their online brands. Most financial executives may be considered more introverted then the typical marketing, sales or other C-suite executives. Recently I spoke to a robust group of financial executives at the Financial Executive Networking Group (FENG) in the Raleigh, North Carolina, hosted by David Bass of Arena Capital Advisors. I invited some very savvy marketing executives to attend the meeting with me and also contribute content to this article – Kathi Bentley, Jeff Greene, Linda Lindgren, and Christina Motley, all past or current members of the American Marketing Association and branding experts themselves. They believe that a personal brand should mimic aspects of a corporate brand. These fine folks served as my editorial content providers to the discussion and this blog. Here are some of the key notes from the meeting that may apply to your executive career whether you are in a career progression or transition.

Forums for Building Your Online Branding Can and Perhaps Should Be Comprehensive and Not Just Limited to Linked In. Others include but are not limited to these forums: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook (personal and business). Naymz, Simple Email Communications, Newsletters, Stories, Articles (Authored and Source Content), Bio or Profile Sites Associated with Your Company or Volunteer/Non-Profit Work, Personal Information. Many financial executives remain a bit too enclosed. Humility in progressing your career should be measured. A key to promoting a brand for us is that all executives including financial executives should NOT “throw things out there” and “see what sticks” but that’s how most people bumble through their personal or professional branding.

Financial executives possess a unique, highly analytical and risk averse mindset that often can keep companies out of misstatement of facts and other troubles. CFO’s have been known to generally run companies and often are asked to or run the human resources department. But that analytical introspection may not be the best way for marketing executives or other executives to do what is necessary to progress, refine and proactively build their brand.

What is a brand according to online sources like Wikipedia? A brand is a “Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”[1] Branding began as a way to tell one person’s cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp. According to Wikipedia, a modern example of a brand is Coca-Cola which belongs to the Coca-Cola Company. Marque or make are often used to denote a brand of motor vehicle, which may be distinguished from a car model. A concept brand is a brand that is associated with an abstract concept, like breast cancer awareness or environmentalism, rather than a specific product, service, or business. A commodity brand is a brand associated with a commodity. Got milk? is an example of a commodity brand.

Here is the core breakdown of on an offline brand elements. Typically they are made up of various elements, such as:

Name: The word or words used to identify a company, product, service, or concept.
Logo: The visual trademark that identifies the brand. In personal branding this is your picture and the picture and any other visual elements of you.
Tagline or Catchphrase: “Can you hear me now” is an important part of the Verizon brand. How would you like to spoken of in key conversations?
Graphics: The dynamic ribbon is a trademarked part of Coca-Cola’s brand. You are associated with the brands you represent.
Shapes: The distinctive shapes of the Coca-Cola bottle is the trademarked elements of that brands. It’s the physical you, how you look and dress.
Colors: Owens-Corning is the only brand of fiberglass insulation that can be pink. Colors matter.
Sounds: A unique tune or set of notes can denote a brand. NBC’s chimes are a famous example. This depends but we talk about your voice.
Scents: The rose-jasmine-musk scent of Chanel No. 5 is trademarked. Yes.
Tastes: Kentucky Fried Chicken has trademarked its special recipe of eleven herbs and spices for fried chicken. Think broader. What brands do you promote or look to support?
Movements: Lamborghini has trademarked the upward motion of its car doors. How do you walk and carry yourself?

My marketing research and team agree that their are many misconceptions of a brand. Here are three:
– It’s Cute Like a Tagline or Logo
– Branding is for Products
– Online Personal Branding is a Fad

If you are a financial executive you probably have not examined these core brand questions (but you should):
– How Do I Want to Be Known Now and in the Future to Progress in my Financial Career?
– What are the Words I Want Said About Me to Other Financial Executives or Key Contacts?
– What Do I Want People to Say About Me When I Am Not There?
– What Would My Reputation Be Without My Title or Company?
– How Will I Be Held Accountable to My Value Proposition?

Financial executives need to be convinced that there are many good reasons to refine and cultivate their brands even if it does not seem like an immediate ROI. Here are four:
– Creating and Cultivating Your Value Proposition
– Career Insurance
– It’s Long Term vs. Short Term
– To Create Your Career Destiny
– Reputation Management and Growth

Four Reasons You Think Are Good (But Will Waste Your Time):
– Others Do It and I’ll Imitate Them vs. Taking Specific Advice About Cultivating Who You Are Online
– Get Stuff Out There vs. a Disciplined Activity Schedule for Branding Online
– Get Noticed for Activity vs. Getting Noticed for Good Content and as a Resource
– Jumping on the Latest Thing vs. Consistent Branding Across Appropriate Platforms
– Getting Followed, Noticed and Popular vs. Creating an Authentic Value Proposition Over Time

Now let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Here are 5 Ways to Define Your Brand (Before Taking It Online):

1. What are your work life vision and how would you like to be known – personally and professionally?
2. What must you do at work, outside of work and in your life to build your brand?
3. Interview others on your top brand attributes and hire a career coach or personal branding specialist.
4. Define the audiences of your work life.
5. What would happen if it was just me?

So why should a financial executive consider cultivating an online brand? Let’s look.

Benefits of Online Brand Differentiation as Financial Executives:
– Your Peers Are Behind in This Area
– Lower Anxiety in Your Career Progression or Career Transition
– Developing a Premium Price for Your Talent
– Increases Exposure and Credibility with Your Target Audiences
– Never Look for a Job
– Differentiates You From the Masses (or Competitors Who Do Branding Piecemeal)
– Online Discipline of Marketability Over Time

What’s the bottom line? Hiding behind your good work can be a fine way to build credibility but financial executives should put thought into how they come across in person and online. Take charge of your career. Financial executives usually should not be shouting about themselves from the mountaintop during a career progression or a career transition but they need to build their branding case clearly, consistently and authentically.

 

Image Credit: instantshift.com and Google.com

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