How to Launch a CEO

How to Launch a CEO

The CEO’s personal brand can have a dramatic impact on an organization’s overall brand (and vice versa). When you think of Jack Welsh, you think of GE; think of Virgin Atlantic and it brings Richard Branson to mind.

The “changing of the guard” is an important time, and the communication about a new CEO can be critical to the continued success of an organization (and to the new CEO’s career!). Now, before you stop reading this article because you are not a CEO, let me assure you that the conversation also has relevance to your career. Understanding the process can be instructive for you if you get a new job, a promotion, or if you are responsible for the hiring of others.

One of my clients is the oldest and largest charitable organization in the city where I live, and recently I was involved in publicly launching the new CEO to the community. Ultimately, this is a matter of personal branding and requires an evaluation of target audiences and key messaging. In this situation, the team had to think about all the different constituents that would be interested in this change–donors who care deeply about how the new executive would carry on the mission of the organization, the employees who will now have to work for this person, and the larger community who will be impacted by this new executive’s leadership for years to come. Every CEO has a vision for his or her organization, and communicating that vision broadly and clearly can help further that vision dramatically. Here are some of the activities we focused on:

• Reviewed and refined key messages over and over again until we felt we had them nailed down.

• Set up internal meetings with employees

• Sent special email announcements to donors and other key constituents

• Facilitated media interviews to launch this new CEO

• Made introductions and set up meetings with key players to begin to build the long-term relationships necessary to his (and the organization’s) success

• Designed and reviewed the new CEO’s personal stationery package to ensure it expressed his personal brand while also holding true to the company’s brand standard

• Recorded a video of the new CEO, and posted it on the website so that interested parties could get a sense of what’s important to him and what he’s like

• Reviewed his LinkedIn profile, knowing that many people would now be checking him out.

In addition, his appointment launched a national conversation about succession planning in other charitable organizations around the country, so we had to actively participate in that online dialogue.

Typically, the outgoing executive has had a long and distinguished career, and it’s important to acknowledge that person’s contributions even as the new exec is ushered in.

So what does that have to do with you? You may not be a CEO, but the steps we took to launch this executive in his new job can be instructive for you. If you are job seeker, or newly in your position, or if you are the manager of someone newly hired, you’ll want to think through these very same steps in establishing yourself or your employee to ensure a successful career launch within an organization. While you may not be giving media interviews to the press, you should think through how to best communicate to relevant parties what value you’ll bring to your job. While you may not be meeting with public dignitaries, you should nonetheless evaluate who the key players in your world will be and how you can begin to build those relationships. What does your business card and personal stationery say about you? What does your LinkedIn profile look like? What about your Facebook page? It is guaranteed that people in your company will check you out.

The same evaluation and thoughtful planning should be done if you’re a manager and have recently hired professionals for your team. With whom do they need to meet? Who needs to know about them or about their background? How do you announce their coming, and if they are replacing someone, how are you graciously ushering the new employee while being properly respectful to the outgoing personnel?

Whether you are a CEO, new to your job or managing new hires, launching a new career takes time and thought, but the benefits are well worth the effort. Oftentimes the littlest incident can play a major role in success (or misstep).

I’d love to know: What key actions played a major role in your launching your career or the career of others on your team?


Rahna Barthelmess is a branding strategist and author of the soon-to-be released personal branding bible Turbo-Charge Your Career. You can find out more about branding and personal branding at http://www.turbochargeyourcareer.com/

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