You know those executives that seem to be everywhere? They’re the ones you see giving keynotes at SXSW or Davos, or rubbing shoulders with creatives at Sundance. They wrote an op-ed that’s being shared widely in your networks, and you just saw an announcement that they’re the newest board member of an emerging start-up. That kind of visibility—where you’re in the zeitgeist and leading cultural conversations, where the public knows your name and the company you work for—doesn’t just happen organically. It’s the result of a concerted effort, and it can pay major dividends for you and the company you work for.
“Executive visibility requires senior leaders to leverage their expertise, networks, and public personas,” explained Silicon Foundry Partner Sehr Thadhani, who previously co-founded and ran an executive advisory firm. “When executives tell their stories to the right audience, growing their networks with intention, and showing up in the right cultural and professional spaces, they can successfully raise their profiles.”
Leveraging Executive Visibility to Build Trust
When executives are recognized for their expertise and known and trusted by the communities they care about, their companies benefit. Corporations want to build lasting, positive relationships with consumers and stakeholders. But they can feel like faceless behemoths, and it’s hard to gain consumers’ trust. Executive visibility, Thadhani says, can help solve that.
“People won’t just buy from trusted brands anymore, but they will buy from trusted people,” she explained.”They’re looking for alignment, representation and connection with an organization’s leadership to make decisions about which companies they trust and where they want to spend their time and money.”
Brian Salzman, founder and CEO of RQ, an agency that works with brands to foster long-term relationships with people of influence, agrees.
“There’s so much value in humanizing your brand by raising the visibility of its executives,” Salzman said. “Pulling back the curtain and showing consumers who’s working at your company drives influence from the inside and creates authentic emotional connections with consumers.”
“We live in an age where executives are expected to be seen,” Thadhani added. “If there’s not much out there about you, then it’s easier to get dragged through the mud if something goes wrong. But if you show up consistently and demonstrate that you’re a thoughtful, culturally competent leader, it becomes much easier for you to navigate through growth, crises, product launches, and other big moments in your business.”
At Silicon Foundry, we’ve learned that effectively boosting executive visibility requires much more than a PR firm and a social media presence. We recommend this five step framework for elevating your profile and driving true thought leadership and recognition.
Step 1: Decide What You’re About and Develop Your Narrative
The first commandment of visibility: know thyself. Effective personal brands are rooted in real identities, and building a public persona requires executives to identify the passions, causes, and ideas they care about.
“Personal brands encompass who you are and where you’re going,” Thadhani explained. “What’s your story? What makes you unique? What legacy do you want to have? What’s driving you to be visible? Answering those questions is how you shape a personal and authentic public facing narrative.”
No matter what your story is, Thadhani says, it’s critical to stay rooted in what’s true and resonant for you. “Consumers crave authenticity from the thought leaders they listen to,” she said. “That’s how they build connection with your story, and that’s the self you want to show.”
Step 2: Align Your Personal and Corporate Stories
Once you’ve decided on your public persona, determine how it ties into your work and fits into your corporation’s overarching narrative. Positioning yourself in relation to your company’s story helps you serve as an effective ambassador and brand champion in a way that’s authentic to you.
“Think about how you as a leader are poised to address big questions facing your business,” Thadani advised. “What’s your innovation roadmap and where are you experimenting? Are these cultural, technological and business challenges that need to be solved? When you articulate the challenges and opportunities your company is facing and identify how your unique experience equips you to take them on, serving as a spokesperson feels much more natural.”
Step 3: Conduct Targeted PR Campaigns
Now that you’ve built your story, it’s time to get it out in the world. While it may be tempting to get published in big-name outlets, it’s important to remember that not everybody needs to know who you are. You’re trying to reach the people who matter to you, and that’s where strategic PR comes in. Identify the publications, platforms, conferences, and groups that your personal and professional audiences pay attention to and trust, and then figure out how you can be visible in those spaces.
“Put yourself in situations where you get to share your insights and unique point of view with the right people,” Thadhani advised. “Your audience gets to know you when they read your op-eds, hear you on a podcast, and listen to you speak at events. Those are the types of venues where you can share your story and earn recognition and respect.”
Step 4: Expand Your Sphere
Growing your network is critical to being known. Thadhani points out that when you surround yourself with the right people, a two-way flow of opportunities and knowledge transfer inevitably follows.
“Think of building your network in the same way that a business builds an ecosystem,” she advised. “Make a list of you you want to know, and who you want to know you. Who are the advisors, mentors, mentees, and champions you’d like to surround yourself with?”
Brian Salzman of RQ recommends meeting five new people per month who care about the same things you do.
“When you forge meaningful connections with the people that matter, it helps authenticate your mission and values,” Salzman said. “It’s also a way to increase credibility through association and up your visibility through a shared audience.”
Step 5: Show Up to What Matters, In a Way That Counts
Creating an executive presence starts by being visible in the cultural and professional space that resonate with you, your company, and your audience. Depending on your industry and interests, those can be conferences, fundraisers, sports games or invite-only groups and clubs. But it’s essential to remember that how you show up is just as important as where you go and what you say.
“Executive presence requires charisma, gravitas, and the ability to connect with people and make them feel comfortable,” Thadhani explained. “It’s informed by your physicality—the way you walk, talk, what you wear, how you act. Depending on who you are, you may want to blend in, or you may want to stand out. Either way, our goal is to make sure you can command the room and project confidence.”
Executive visibility is increasingly critical as consumer demand for values-based alignment and transparency from corporations grows. At Silicon Foundry, we help executives leverage their personal brand on behalf of their companies, grow their networks, and show up with authenticity so they can elevate their profiles—and grow trust in their brands in the process.