Chapter 24: Establishing a personal brand. How Richard Branson has built his personal brand

More on the topic of business chiefs and personal branding…

I didn’t have space in the book version of Brand Journalism to say all that I wanted about personal branding,

If you’d like to think more about this subject, you’ll find further material – on both Branson and other major business players, below these links…


These links take you to the source material for this chapter in the book version of Brand Journalism. They are here to make it as easy as possible for readers of the print edition to refer to sources and further reading and research material. All links were active when the book was researched and published. If you find a boken link, please let me know at

1 Richard Branson, quoted in Wealthy Matters

2 Burston-Marsteller survey on CEOs’ impact on company image

3 Spice For Life magazine on brand image. UPDATE: This link is now dead and no alternative is available.

4 Richard Branson, quoted in Wealthy Matters

5 Six Pixels of Separation on CEOs and social media

6 Virgin Trains story: thank-you to staff

7 Virgin Trains story: official statement for media and others

8 Branson post on climate change

9 Branson post: Watch Kira the dog swimming with wild dolphins.

10 Branson post on losing passport

11 Virgin YouTube video on 35th anniversary of the release of the Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen, on Virgin records

12 Branson’s Ask Richard feature

13 Branson on LinkedIn*1_*1_%2F20121019130632*5204068115*5why*5aren*5t*5more*5business*5leaders*5online

14 Branson on LinkedIn on: Why aren’t more business leaders online? UPDATE: This link is now dead and no alternative is available.

More on personal branding

Richard Branson’s profile is such that media outlets want to feature him in stories even where Virgin is not the main player. One example: when CNN did a feature on the oil crisis, Branson was a major contributor, even though his renewable fuels initiative was not yet running at full capacity.

“That,” said Spice or Life ( “is CEO branding at its finest. When you are being interviewed about what your next project is, this indicates a high level of awareness and trust in your service. As a result of Branson’s CEO Brand, all relevant stakeholders and potential stakeholders for the company are aware of what Virgin offers and its reputation.”

Example of Branson practising what his personal brand promises

He makes himself available to those he would like to help – and indeed anyone – by inviting questions on Twitter and answering them via YouTube videos. He gives advice in interviews too, such as in this one with Entrepreneur: “LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter all provide opportunities for you to meet and interact with fellow entrepreneurs, experts in the field and innovative newcomers… you’re also going to need a network of peers, so don’t be wary of making friends with your competition”

When Branson invites young entrepreneurs to get in touch he means it  ( NYU student Stacey Ferreira saw a tweet inviting students to meet him for cocktails when he was in Miami. She got in touch to say she was too young for cocktails, but they met anyway, and Brandon funded her start up, MySocialCloud, a secured, online storage site for user logins and password information.

But many CEOs and other executives haven’t even taken the first step into social media. Six Pixels of Separation reported ( “Less than 30 per cent of the Fortune 500’s top executives have (at least) one profile within a social media channel and the vast majority have none.”

“Here are some of the fascinating data points taken from this survey:

  • 5 of the 19 CEOs on Twitter have never tweeted.
  • 25 of the 38 CEOs on Facebook have less than 100 friends.
  • The only social network that these CEOs outdo the US public on is LinkedIn (129 of the CEOs have profiles vs. 1/5 of Americans).
  • Only 4 CEOs are on Google + (and that includes Larry Page).
  • None are on Pinterest (which has, according to this report, 12 million American users).
  • Only one CEO blogs (Whole Foods’ John Mackey). That blog has not been updated since November 2011 (so does that even count?).”

But should CEOs be busy on social media, or are they legitimately too busy running their companies? The Branson case study would suggest that they can and should, but not everyone agrees.

Scott Monty, social media chief at Ford, posted this comment on the above post: “I’m not so sure that this is a requirement of all CEOs. I mean, how many CEOs do we fault for not picking up the phone and having conversations with customers all day? The responsibilities of CEOs are significant, and their number one priority is to run the business. If there are a number of other employees who are engaging with customers regularly, I don’t think it matters if the CEO is personally tweeting on a regular basis.

“The way we’ve worked it at Ford is that we set up periodic Q&A sessions with our CEO via our corporate Twitter account. That way, people get access but he’s not tied down to an account that has to be managed on a daily basis.

“I’m sure things will work a little bit differently in the future, but trying to balance the multitude of incoming messages, from phone to email, tweets to blog mentions, Facebook comments to the suggestion box and more, is a major challenge.”

I think the fact remains that if you want a personal brand, you need to work to build it.