While the majority are silent, others are experiencing great achievements as a result of their CEO-branding

“I had no idea what I was doing, and I was forced to do it”

These are the opening words of the article: “Amateur is leading the social media path for the CEO” from the media F5 in which Niels Ralund, CEO of The Association for Danish Internet Trading, explains how he after serious pressure from the chairman of the board finally and very reluctantly creates a LinkedIn profile.

In complete ignorance apparently, it took 2.5 years to build what most people today consider an enviable platform for both CEO and organisation. With 29,918 followers, Niels Ralund is now able to get in contact with politicians and many people already know him before they actually meet. In his own words, a membership of the association is no longer so far away as it may have been before.

“What once was an irritating duty is now a permanent part of the CEO’s everyday routine, and it’s a duty he performs with pleasure. At the same time, the association that once was missing a direct telephone line to its members is now equipped with a megaphone that sounds so loud that it even draws new members.” – excerpt from Jeppe Nybyes article, “Amateur is leading the social media path for the CEO”.

The CEO from FDIH has found the perfect manual for his personal CEO-branding.

Successful CEO-branding requires that the essentials are in place

Maybe Niels Ralund wasn’t aware of it when he started his LinkedIn career, but today I think he is fully aware of how he should continue. Since the beginning, he has been focusing on two essential components creating a successful CEO-branding which has resulted in bringing a little, previously almost invisible, association into the center of the public debate:

  1. Some very specific key issues
  2. Being authentic in his way of communicating

Your key issues need to be important to others than yourself

Key issues – messages – fields of interest; call it what you will, a pet child has many names. All organizations have several issues and conditions that affect them positively or negatively, and they are either worth fighting to keep or worth trying to change.

This is where the leader of an organisation has a unique platform from which to enter and communicate from in order to influence the state of things.

The best organisations, companies and associations choose between key issues that are significant for their business, but at the same time extend beyond their own narrow interests. Hereby, they enter a scene that is larger than themselves and their own interests, and many enter areas that has societal importance.

The CEOs, who are good at giving examples of the subsequent consequences of the issues or conditions they are addressing, have an even better chance at achieving the desired attention and action.

And that is exactly what Niels Ralund is good at. Most recently in relation to how Amazon will affect the Danish Internet trade – and how it will affect you and me.

Managing Director Marianne Dahl Steensen from Microsoft Denmark express it perfectly when she says: “In my opinion, communication is not just an extra duty on top of my normal job – it is one of my core tasks.”


CEO-branding isn’t personal branding

Personality and authenticity are important! Richard Branson from Virginia is known for his very personal style, which has been a beneficial part of his success creating many businesses and projects. Steve Jobs were synonymous with Apple for many years. Elon Musk is trying to keep the wheels turning at Tesla and Space X. And back home in Denmark we have the colourful Christian Stadil from Hummel, who in his own words isn’t a typical CEO. Branding and public relations matters.

But how colourful should a CEO be?

In my view, CEO-branding is nothing like personal branding. It’s a completely different discipline that works well for certain types of people, but just not for everyone.

We all have a professional role we must fill in our work life and that must be respected. A CEO of a large listed company on the stock exchange with shareholders, a board, customers and employees in other countries and from other cultures must, of course, take this into account. Their scope of action is different than others, but not necessarily smaller.

But good CEO-branding is not done without personality. You just need to use your personality the right way to create focus on the important key issues.


The value of a CEO Super Brand – and why the CEO needs to have a strong voice

Informedia’s annual CEO Super Brand report focus on the CEOs of the biggest Danish companies:

“There is no doubt that a CEO with a strong brand creates great value for the business. In fact, studies show that today as much as 50 percent of a company’s reputation is attributed to the company’s CEO. This being so, there is a great responsibility on the shoulders of the man or woman standing at the helm. He or she is largely responsible for the management and value of the organization’s brand.”   

The demands on a modern CEO is very much different today. It is no longer enough to just use your own media when you communicate to shareholders, customer and employees, only spiced up with the occasional visit to the press with this year’s figures and strategies.

Today, a CEO must communicate much more than economy and strategy. Reputation is more than that. Reputation is also about visions, morals and ethics, attitudes and people. The CEO must be the one that stands in front of his business, showing the way forward and protecting its reputation. Both in the press and on social media.

The benefits of a strong CEO Brand

When a CEO actively contributes to the business in a strong and personal style, they will experience several benefits, including:

  1. Social media impact is without comparison – Due to the rise of social media, access to the surrounding society has never been bigger. Nevertheless, only a few CEOs choose to use social media as a platform to communicate from. It is thought-provoking when you know that this is the place where most news break and the subsequent debate takes place. Whether a CEO is on social media or not, their company may very well be at the center of attention and debate. Without a voice, the invisible CEOs will have no chance of joining in public debate or influence the conditions of their businesses.
  1. A likeable CEO attracts people – A strong and sympathetic CEO provides a company with so much more than visibility. They are key in defining our view of the company, and preferably as a place that has both brain and heart. Because that is what we like. This is what attracts customers, employees, investors, business partners, and offers a company some very outstanding opportunities.
  1. A strong brand can better withstand opposition – If the day comes where things are going downhill and the rosy picture turns grey, then a brand known for more than its good earning capacity is much more likely to receive forgiveness. And the employees of a company under fire will be able to relate to criticism with their an head held high, if they see that their CEO is out defending the company in a good way.
  1. An overwhelming share-of-voice compared to the competitors – Elon Musk has made a big show of his marketing budget being zero. It can be discussed whether this is true or not, but no one can doubt that he and his companies get a great deal of free publicity – and far more than a grey eminence behind the helm would ever experience. It is difficult for competitors to catch up and gain similar visibility.

Like everything else, CEO-branding requires thought and consideration. However, the advantages are not to be discarded.


  • Infomedias report, CEO Superbrands, 2017.
  • Article by Jeppe Nybye from the media F5, ”Amatør viser den sociale medie-vej for direktøren”.
  • Informedia article, “Christian Stadil om sit farverige brand”.