Branding: Be Yourself, Earn Engagement

Oct 21, 2020

In public relations, there’s a lot of talk about a company’s brand and its messaging – the ideas and public image of the institution and its representatives. The value cannot be overstated.

Messaging and branding give a company its identity, making it appear “human” in the eyes of people. It gives anyone interacting with a company or organization an identity they can latch onto and work with.

A loyalty to your messaging and branding as a company is important. However, things are changing. If you’re an individual, even a CEO, the rules are not quite the same.

I want to direct you to the Twitter feed of Elon Musk, CEO and Founder of Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and other companies that revolutionizing their respective industries:

Did you notice anything? Elon is in touch with the companies he runs and the branding of those companies, but he is operating outside that sphere as an autonomous person.

Be it a Karl Marx meme that he drunkenly puts out to make people laugh, or his ill-advised tweets about Covid, he is just being himself. He talks about his products and his brands when they are doing something interesting, but he also posts stupid photos, trolls his followers with snarky comments, and sometimes says inflammatory things intentionally to get a rise out of people.

Basically, he is your crazy uncle on Facebook. And that’s fine, because his engagement level is through the roof.

He has 39 million followers and each of his posts earn thousands of replies, retweets, and likes. Elon is in touch with the times and realizes that corporate branding is great – but not for people. He comes off as a genuine individual, and that’s what makes him so popular.

I look at the Twitter feeds of other CEOs and business magnates and they tell a different story. I see nothing but links to blogs with bland statements, on-brand messaging, company news, and the occasional nod to a competitor.

It’s boring. It feels pre-planned and doesn’t contain anything worth seeking out and engaging. Sure, these business people (who I won’t point out specifically) do have followers and people who engage them, but it’s almost assuredly no one outside of their immediate sphere.

Their engagements are low, and their image is that of their company. No one sees them as a separate entity, a real person.

Yet, despite how popular social icons like Elon Musk  — and others, such as “crazy” billionaire Richard Branson – are, most others still choose to play it safe, opting not to express their personality.

Granted, there is some risk of saying the wrong thing, making someone mad, etc. But, in the case of Elon (and probably Branson as well), short of saying something overtly racist or homophobic, or short of a criminal scandal of some kind, their brands will march on because the public views them as genuine characters. Their flaws are part of their charm of being a regular person, which is something people value.

If you want to draw attention to yourself (and thus your company), you can’t be afraid to just be yourself. Don’t overthink it. Just go for it.

Remember, the President of the United States of America is a reality TV star and WWE Hall of Famer who wrestled another Fortune 500 CEO in a Hair vs Hair Match at the Battle of the Billionaires. That’s a fact. Google it.

It’s fair to say the formalities of banal corporate speak and a bland, “proper” image don’t resonate with the public like they used to. Don’t be afraid to separate yourself from your corporate brand – the followers, engagements, and media interviews will follow if you reveal yourself to be a genuine person with interesting things to say.

And if you can’t take the first steps, a good agency and marketing team will help you make it work.