Advice for CEOs: Use Your Brand As a Bridge

New CEOs face tremendous pressure to succeed. In his book “The First 90 Days,” author Michael Watkins says nearly 60 percent of new executives hired from outside the company fail in their new position within 18 months. That’s a fraction of a career.

Whether hired from within, or new to a company, the challenges any new CEO faces are huge. Atop the list, a new CEO must manage the expectations of a wide array of stakeholders, present fresh ideas to maintain and quite often accelerate growth, and bring together a culture that may have been left fractured by loyalty to the previous CEO.

How do new CEOs communicate authenticity, rally their employees around a fresh vision, and gain the confidence of those they serve, both within and outside the organization? One valuable way is to use branding as a bridge.

No Time to Waste

The first 30 to 60 days are critical for a new CEO. They need to fill someone else’s shoes and hit the ground running. Right out of the gate, they are expected to lead. But, to lead where? As renowned author and CEO Coach Tommy Weir says, “The CEO’s role is simple to define, yet complex to execute.”

CEOs who conduct successful transitions start by becoming familiar with every aspect of the organization, from the people at its heart, to the brand and its promise. What is the brand identity? What does it mean to the marketplace? What does it mean to the people who work there? To the customers and clients? To the competition?

By embracing the existing brand, new CEOs can show the same kind of respect they hope to gain. Concentrating on the equity a brand has amassed before they arrived makes a great starting block, because the race is on.

Every Structure Requires Support

Hiring a new CEO signals a significant change. Just because people expect change doesn’t mean they welcome it. At a time when creating support is crucial, it is better for a new CEO to show up driving a bandwagon than a bulldozer.

In any industry, communication is the key to creating support and loyalty. Even the best message risks failure if it can’t be communicated in a way people will understand. Great leaders are also great communicators. They have the sense to know that effective communication requires the ability to speak, and to listen.

While the brand promise is the foundation for the new CEO’s branding bridge, people are its framework. Will the existing framework support a new vision? Listen to what people inside and outside the organization are saying about the brand. Then, build support by letting them know they are being heard.

A Bridge is a Purposeful Connection

Just as a bridge leads people from one place to another, so does a brand. It connects a company with its employees. It connects consumers with a product or service. And a brand that no longer serves as a connection is a bridge to nowhere.

To this point, a new CEO has started strong. They’ve worked to transform uncertainty into support. They have hinted at a new vision, and tested the waters by listening to the people who must live that vision, but they haven’t jumped straight into the deep end.

It is time to turn that bridge they are working to build into a purposeful opportunity. It is time to take the brand forward in a dramatic way.

Is a rebrand the appropriate cure? First, examine the symptoms. For a rebrand to be purposeful, it has to address one or more symptoms the new CEO has been brought in to diagnose and treat, such as being overtaken by the competition, or a change in scope or culture, or a weakness in name, message or image. In each case, a rebrand can be the most appropriate means for new CEOs to build their connection to their organization, and the rest of the world.

Feeling is Believing

New CEOs must lead with passion. Vision is more than just seeing what is best for the future. It’s about feeling it. Everyone involved must feel the authenticity of a brand or it simply won’t lead anyone, anywhere.

A rebrand can be the bridge to connect a new CEO’s vision with the emotional support necessary to have a tremendous impact upon the future. It is the opportunity to re-engage your audience – and to be certain they are feeling about your brand precisely what you want them to feel


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