cmo, Personal branding


Developing your personal digital brand

​As a marketing leader, you’ve embraced social media as a brand-building tool for your company. But are you shaping an online brand for yourself?​

Deloitte LLP CMO Diana O’Brien shares her perspective

Our world is increasingly digital, and our digital interactions are increasing. Two-thirds of adults use social networking sites to get and share information about everything from their favorite sports teams to parenting advice to their most personal health questions.1 And the average user spends up to two hours a day on social networks.2 These online interactions are transforming how we learn, think, communicate—and build brands. Branding is no longer about broadcasting a message or being in control. It’s about being present and comfortable in a 24/7 conversation. Brands must now be actively created and lived.

As marketing leaders, we must understand this transformation, be conversant in the transforming technologies, and be willing to engage ourselves. We’ve embraced social media as a brand-building tool for our companies but can be resistant when it comes to ourselves. To non-digital natives, social media can feel time-consuming, overly self-promotional, and risky.

When I became chief marketing officer (CMO), I knew people would expect me to be a leader and role model in using social media. The problem? I wasn’t, and I was nervous about getting there. But colleagues who understood the power of social media shared an important lesson that got me started. Social relationships are just like relationships you have in person. They are built on shared interests, genuine respect, and care. The real you has to show up on social or you won’t build trust.

For me to build my profile and be authentic, I spent time thinking about my past—who I am in my professional and personal life, what is important to me, and what I get excited thinking about. Then I reflected on who I am when my best-self shows up. I recognized that gratitude and service are big parts of what I needed to share.

Some might suggest that cultivating a personal presence and brand via social channels isn’t for everyone, but I think it is a requirement for every leader. You don’t have to be a social media guru; even someone new to social can connect with clients, partners, and colleagues, engage in discussions, and share thought leadership. I know it’s been helpful for me in creating new connections outside my current network and deepening relationships I already had.

So how can business leaders build a personal brand online? Consider the following:

Think about the things you care about most. Maybe it’s your company, your family, your hometown, a hobby, or a social cause that’s important to you. Whatever those things are, you likely have a lot to say about them, making them potential topics for your posts.

Consider your message and your voice. Be authentic; don’t try to be someone you’re not. Are you inspirational, funny, authoritative—or all of the above? Spending a little time answering this question may help you hone your message and your voice. Then, talk about the things that are important to you in your posts.

Don’t be shy about asking for help. Just because you’re a marketer doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers when it comes to your digital brand. When I started, I asked many questions and talked to a number of colleagues and subject matter specialists at Deloitte. Social platforms change often, so it’s important to be a perpetual student. If you have tactical questions about posting, ask a social expert—I’m guessing you know a few.

Finally, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and make mistakes. It’s part of being authentic. Learn from every misstep, and share what you learn. It will not only help you get better; it will also be a powerful way to help others and deepen your connections.

As marketers, our top priority should be and will remain the corporate brand. But, as I’ve learned, developing a personal digital brand made me a better leader and those rewards extend beyond me personally to the brand I watch over. I hope to see you on social channels soon and learn about what’s important to you. Reach out to me @DianaMOBrien, and let me know how you’re developing your personal digital brand.


1 Andrew Perrin, “Social media usage: 2005-2015,” Pew Research Center, Oct. 8, 2015,, accessed on June 2, 2016.

2 Shea Bennett, “Twenty-eight percent of time spent online is social networking,” SocialTimes, January 27, 2015,, accessed on June 2, 2016.

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