how executives balance authenticity and brand-related content

How Executives Can Create Authentic Brand-Related Content

Creating and maintaining an online social media presence is crucial for today’s executives. After all, research shows that over two thirds of consumers believe companies with a social CEO are more trustworthy. This is because many users feel that individuals, like C-suite executives, are much more approachable and relatable than general brand accounts where they do not know who the individual is that they are interacting with. When executives create content for their social media account(s), publishing business-related content can be an effective way to deliver brand-related content and updates.

However, one of the biggest mistakes executives make on social media is creating brand-related content that is overtly self-serving or promotional. In this article, we will discuss how executives can seamlessly balance an authentic tone with brand-related content to achieve their business goals, as well as some tips at the end of the article on how to implement authentic content of your own.


Brand-Related Messaging: Casual or Formal Tone of Voice?


The notion of authenticity on social media can be subjective. For the purposes of this article, we will use this term as a way to frame how executives can offer meaningful content to their followers in a way that both aligns with their tone and personality, while also helping drive towards business goals. Executives must strike a careful balance between the two. Adopting too much of a marketer’s tone can alienate users who may be more familiar with the executive’s own personal voice. On the other hand, for a brand-related post to be effective in driving towards business goals, the messaging must be clear.

One way to create authentic brand-related messaging is to understand the executive’s personality and tone of voice. Some executives use a more formal tone throughout their social content, such as General Motors CEO Mary Barra.

Here is an example of a brand-related tweet from her Twitter account:


When posting on social media, executives can use “We” and “I” to connect themselves more strongly to their company. Using “I” gives the content a more personalized tone than “we,” although the latter may be more appropriate in certain situations, such as in the example above. Executives must also be careful not to sound too similar to their brand’s social media content. In order to be effective, brand-related content delivered on an executive’s social account should sound like it came directly from the individual, rather than the brand’s marketing team.

Other examples of executives that use a formal tone include Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, and ENGIE North America’s CEO, Gwénaëlle Avice-Huet.

On the other hand, some executives are much more casual on social media. One example we recently covered in our previous Executive Spotlight article is actress and CEO of Pattern Beauty, Tracee Ellis Ross. Because the majority of her social media shows off her personality, how she portrays the brand also takes a similar tone.


Her brand’s core messaging is being true to yourself, which means the candid approach in marketing her product on her social media aligns effectively with the broader marketing message. Another example of an executive with a casual tone is Elon Musk.

Lastly, can executives mix a formal and casual tone? In general, the majority of executives will utilize one primary tone, however, we have seen a few executives use both tones successfully. One example is Anand Mahindra, who uses a casual tone to discuss humorous content, his personal life, and daily events. He uses a more professional tone to discuss brand-related content and other important topics. Below are two examples.



How Often Executives Should Discuss Their Company on Social Media?


How often executives post brand-related content depends on the overall goal of having the executive on social media in the first place. Some executives may be working with an in-house or external digital marketing team in order to create content with a specific goal in mind. On the other hand, some executives have very little input from marketers and may be curating content on their own. Regardless of whether brand-related content is developed by a marketer or the executive themselves, in order for the messaging to remain authentic it must be delivered by the individual or include their personal input in some way. Below, we outline three strategies executives use in terms of how often they deliver brand-related content.


Majority of Content is Brand-Related

On one end of the scale, executives like Gwénaëlle Avice-Huet; Rick Steves, founder of Rick Steves’ Europe; and Delta CEO Ed Bastian post almost exclusively about their company with very little to no content about other topics. From a marketing standpoint, this type of executive is very effective at driving towards business goals since nearly 100% of their content will be related to their company. However, one potential pitfall of having an executive post exclusively about their brand is that they risk alienating social media users who are looking to connect to the individual, rather than a brand. Brand-related social media content needs to have an authentic message that comes from the executive.

One way to work around potential issues with user engagement is to use a wide mix of content that are brand-related, such as video interviews, behind-the-scenes photos, and posting third-party articles. All of the brand-related content should be personalized so that the tone and messaging comes from the executive, not the brand as a whole.



No Brand-Related Content

On the other end of the scale are executives that rarely or never post about the company they work at. Instead, the majority of their content comes from third-party resources (such as articles) or their personal life. Examples include Paul Polman, who typically posts about important social causes. From a marketing perspective, it may seem odd to position an executive on social media and not have them post about their brand in any way.

However, not posting brand-related content can actually be an effective strategy. By focusing on content that is important to the executive, other social media users will learn more about them as an individual, rather than simply as a company leader. These executives are generally more approachable and relatable than executives that exclusively post about their brand. By sharing their own perspectives, thoughts, and personal life on social media, executives can still draw a lot of attention from other online users. With best platform practices in mind, executives that do not post about their brand can still generate increased brand awareness, such as linking to their brand’s Twitter profile in their bio.


A Mix Between Brand and Other Content

The majority of executives on social media will fall somewhere near the middle, with some of their content being brand-related, while other content may have no connection to their business at all. Examples include John Legere, Basecamp CEO Jason Fried, and Thrive Global CEO Arianna Huffington. Similar to the previous category of executives, individuals with a mix of content types tend to draw increased engagement among social media users because they are providing their followers with content that covers a variety of topics. In other words, they are not just focusing on brand-related content. From a marketing standpoint, this allows marketers a great deal of flexibility to both build the executive’s online presence through relatable content while also sharing brand messaging from time to time.



Weaving in Brand-Related Content


How can executives weave in brand-related content on their social media? While every executive will have a different social media strategy, here are some of our tips:

1. Consider how brand-related messaging will be delivered.

This includes looking at the type of messaging and the format the brand-related messaging will take. For example, if there is an executive that is known for promoting social causes, having them speak about the brand’s new climate change initiatives is an effective way to weave in brand-related content that aligns with the executive’s established content mix. This will come across as authentic since users already know the executive is passionate about similar causes.

The format of the branded post will also come into play. For example, videos where the executive is speaking present a more candid feel.



If the brand was highlighted in an article, an executive may want to link to that article and give a comment alongside it. Linking to articles about the brand serves to showcase how the business is noteworthy, while also allowing the executive to put a more personal spin to the content.

A subtle way executives can connect their content to their brand is by writing an article and posting it on their company’s site, such as in the Rick Steves tweet shown below. This not only gives readers insight about Steves himself, but effectively drives visits to his company’s site.


2. Cross-posting brand-related content.

A common way for executives to share brand-related content on their own social media feed is by retweeting or sharing content posted on the main brand’s account. This gives the business visibility on the individual’s feed. However, we do not recommend sharing or retweeting too often as this can make the executive’s social feed look cluttered and less original. Most of the effectiveness of an executive’s online presence stems from the original content theypost.


3. Narratives about a brand are more effective when delivered by an individual.

One study found that when a brand’s employees post about their company’s product or service, 45% of consumers said they were more likely to research it. However, having an executive post about a limited-time sale at a retail store is not the most compelling content for social media users. This type of content is better suited for the general business social account. Instead, marketers can have executives focus on telling a cohesive story about their company.

One way executives can discuss specific products or services is to talk about why the company developed the product and why it is important to them (the executive) to share it with their followers. Sharing the story behind a product or service can often be an effective way to build a connection with potential consumers.


The COVID-19 Crisis


Over the past few weeks, we have seen massive changes to businesses across all industries, with many shutting their doors temporarily. When a company faces obstacles, clear and timely communication must be delivered by its executives. One survey found that 80% of employees expect their CEO to communicate using social media during a crisis. How executives deal with a crisis varies. Some will use social media to show examples of solidarity and what their company is doing internally. An example is Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, who used his LinkedIn article section to share an email he wrote to internal employees.

Other executives will speak directly to their audience through video, which we mentioned can be a more personal format to deliver content. An example includes an Instagram post by Arianna Huffington where people can text the number she provides to receive “microtips” on how to deal with COVID-19.

In some circumstances, executives may want to discuss their service or product offerings in conjunction with speaking about a crisis. For obvious reasons, this should be done tactfully. Brand messaging coming from an executive should not seem as if it is capitalizing on or making light of the situation. One effective example is Hootsuite’s CEO, Ryan Holmes, who took to Twitter to announce that he will be making Hootsuite Professional available for free for small businesses and nonprofits.


Regardless of the method the content is delivered, creating a thoughtful message with the public in mind is part of what makes crisis management more authentic and ultimately, more effective.




Today, digital marketers have a variety of options when developing their online strategy. While it is clear social media users want to connect and interact with executives online, developing a targeted strategy that uses an authentic tone can be an obstacle many marketers face. One of the most effective ways to include brand-related messaging is to incorporate an authentic, relatable tone that is delivered by an executive on their own social media account.


For digital marketers who are ready to use organic social media content to reach their business goals, be sure to download our guide on how to position your company’s leaders online and develop a strong social presence. In the meantime, connect with us on Twitter to get the latest leadership news and more.