CEO Branding

Ascendant client Scott Petinga featured in Forbes as part of CEO branding visibility with Ascendant

In a recent Forbes article on cause conscious efforts Scott Petinga was referenced for the final point around
establishing a foundation exemplifying above-and-beyond efforts and intentions. See the full article here –

A long-time client of Ascendant, Scott Petinga, has overcome numerous hardships, including a battle with cancer, to enjoy massive success as an entrepreneur and now author of the book No One Ever Drowned in Sweat.

A proponent of B Corp and sustainable philanthropy as a business model, Petinga proves profit and philanthropy can go hand in hand. Businesses and entrepreneurs can do the same by becoming a certified B Corp.

The process involves meeting higher and more rigorous standards in the realms of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency as set by B Lab, the founding organization behind the B Corps concept. Status as a certified B Corp helps enable businesses to achieve B Lab’s stated goal of aspiring to “use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems.”

Ascendant Group has been Awarded the 2016 Corporate Brand Strategy Firm of the Year for Excellence in CEO Branding by Wealth and Finance 2016 Business

Following extensive voting and research conducted over the past two months, Ascendant Group was awarded the above achievement for excellence in what it does best: CEO Branding

Wealth & Finance International ( is a monthly publication, dedicated to delivering high quality informative and up-to-the-minute global business content.  Developed by a highly skilled team of writers, editors, business insiders and regional industry experts, Wealth & Finance International reports from every corner of the globe to give a global circulation of 130,000 readers the inside track on the need-to-know news and issues affecting banking, finance, regulation, risk and wealth management in their region.

The Team at Wealth & Finance International interacts with many respected and successful businesses on a daily basis, internationally as well as close to home.  As a result, they have set up a team of in-house professional judges to research businesses all around the world before awarding the above prestigious award… and this year, 2016, Ascendant Group had the privilege of receiving this honor.

By winning the 2016 Wealth & Finance Business Award, Ascendant Group is being recognized as being a business that as a result of using “innovative methods and outstanding results, (Ascendant Group) is changing the way we view their industry and seeing them surge ahead of their competition.”

As Wealth and Finance International themselves state: “Rest assured that only the most deserving nominees will walk away with one of our prestigious awards.” 

So what exactly does Ascendant Group do that garnered the above recognition?

Since 2004, inspired by trust and built on referrals, Ascendant Group specializes in CEO branding.  We’ve delivered significant results for a variety of corporations, from multiple-billion-dollar companies based in China to mid-sized U.S. companies and even early stagebusinesses with high growth potential.  We do that by employing a mix of media outreach and strategic social media, leveraging the likes of LinkedIn.  We have also helped broker strategic alliances, producing signature events and negotiating a book deal. 

Raoul Davis, CEO of Ascendant Group, explains: “A strong CEO brand in today’s society helps to give emotional staying power to the company in a time when it is harder to differentiate a company’s services or product than ever before amongst the crowd of similar products, fast followers, and even those who will clone quickly.  They want to give their business to a company with a great reputation… and that reputation begins with the person in charge.” 

We would love to be the team that helps you reach your next level of success.  Let us share details of how our creative and technical teams develop and drive comprehensive branding efforts that will raise your profile and attract the attention of others that share your vision, accelerating your longer-term career or business goals. 

With offices in Newark and Wilmington, Delaware and Cairo, Egypt as well as plans to continue to expand further internationally into the Netherlands, let Ascendant Group help you succeed.  

What Americans Think About CEOs Speaking Out – Important CEO Branding Takeaways

A recent report on the topic of CEO Activism recently came out and it has huge takeaways regarding CEO branding.  Here are some highlights.  Contact us with your questions about CEO activism and its role as part of the mix in building a strong CEO brand.

CEO Activists Reap Rewards; But Not Without Incurring Risks

Nearly 40 percent of American adults believe that CEOs have a responsibility to speak out on hot-button issues, according to a new survey, “The Dawn of CEO Activism,” released today and commissioned by global communications and engagement firm Weber Shandwick in partnership with KRC Research.However, the survey also showed that chief executives need to show caution with the topics about which they choose to speak out on, as three in 10 (32 percent) of those adults have a less favorable opinion of CEOs who speak out on issues that are not tied to their companies’ respective line of business. With CEO activism in its early stages, companies and their leaders need to proceed with a healthy dose of caution if they engage deeply on issues that are squarely and controversially in the public realm.

“As more CEOs begin to take public stands on current hot-button issues, we wanted to take the pulse on where Americans stand on this revolutionary shift,” said Micho Spring, chair of Weber Shandwick’s Global Corporate practice. “We gathered data to better counsel companies on how to engage and protect their brand health and reputations.”

CEO activism has at times been very effective. In the past year or so, a number of CEOs have spoken out about social and environmental issues such as climate change, income fairness, same-sex marriage, immigration, gun control and discrimination – all issues that are not necessarily tied to the bottom line.

This onrush of public announcements has been so evident that one CEO declared a “third [political] party emerging in this country, which is the party of CEOs.” (Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, CNN, June 12, 2015) Such activism by America’s business leaders has the potential to shape not only the reputation of CEOs but also that of their companies and the likelihood that consumers will buy or not buy their brands.

Activism Encouraged But Not Always a Plus 

As noted above, a sizeable segment of Americans (38 percent) believe CEOs have a responsibility to speak out on hotly debated issues.

The belief that CEOs carry such a responsibility is most likely to translate to favorable opinion toward CEOs who do speak out. When respondents are asked their opinion of CEOs who take public positions on hot button issues, the scales tip in favor of the CEO (31 percent more favorable vs. 22 percent less favorable). Yet, when the issues are not directly linked to a company’s bottom line, the reverse is true and Americans feel less favorable (32 percent less favorable vs. 20 percent more favorable). Favorability is thus dependent on how strongly an issue’s link is to the bottom line, the data showed.

CEO Activism Influences Purchase Intent

A CEO’s stance on controversial issues can also work for or against the company when it comes to sales. While four in 10 Americans (40 percent) say they are more likely to buy from a company when they agree with the CEO on an issue, a comparable segment (45 percent) say they are less likely to buy if they disagree with the CEO’s position. Since a CEO’s external stance may affect behavior as basic as buying a product, companies need to have a firm understanding of the attitudes of key customers and other stakeholders before CEO activism goes public.

Americans Unsure of Motivation

The public does not fully credit CEOs’ motives for taking public positions on hotly debated issues. Americans believe the top reason for CEO activism is “to get media attention” (36 percent). Four other reasons tie for second place with 21 percent of respondents saying each of the following: “to build a CEO’s reputation,” “to sell more products or services,” “to be open and honest about how the issue aligns with company values” and “to be open and honest about how they personally feel about an issue.” Among these top five cited reasons, only the last two demonstrate trust in CEO activism motives. Adding to the skepticism, only 14 percent cite “to do what is right for society” and fewer (11 percent) cite “to speak up on behalf of the company’s employees and customers.” At the bottom of the list is “to attract and retain the best employees” (7 percent). Clearly, if CEOs want to signal that the well-being of employees is at the heart of their activism, their message is not resonating loud enough.

Media attention, of course, may not necessarily be a total negative since activist CEOs are attempting to bring attention to an issue that they wish to influence and about which they feel passionately. Still, many Americans think that CEOs speak up out of self-interest, whether it be seeking media coverage or building personal reputations. CEOs need to make their rationale for participation in this type of public dialogue crystal clear in an attempt to alleviate such doubts about CEO motives.

According to Weber Shandwick’s chief reputation strategist Leslie Gaines-Ross, “As the world grows more complex, polarized and politically-charged, our research provides an early roadmap for CEO activists to consider when speaking up on pressing societal issues. It is understood that CEOs have to carefully balance many constituencies but they will find themselves increasingly in the spotlight as they try to make a difference in a world that requires them to stand up and be counted. This new strain of CEO activism requires leaders to articulate their positions in a straightforward, unambiguous and meaningful way in order to be fully understood.”   

Millennials Are On Board More

Millennials (18-35 year olds) are the generation more inclined to favor CEO activism. They are more likely than other Americans to be aware of CEOs having taken public positions on controversial issues, to feel favorably toward CEOs who speak out, and to say that they will buy from companies whose CEOs take a public position they agree with.

For companies looking to appeal to the next generation, CEO activism might just be the right course of action.

Guiding Principles for CEO Activists

Without a doubt, companies and their leaders need to deliberate whether to speak out on controversial issues of the day and to decide which issues should be addressed. Weber Shandwick’s report provides 12 guidelines for leaders and their companies to consider. Following are several rules of the road:

  • Recognize that CEO activism is an emerging dynamic that is only going to increase as CEOs become more deeply engaged in the new world order.
  • Carefully evaluate the impact of the CEO’s stance among key stakeholders.
  • Establish a link between the issue and the company’s values and business.
  • Consider employees. Assess how it will impact them and gauge their support. If some employees disagree with the CEO’s stance, will they feel excluded, less productive, less loyal?
  • Look in the mirror. Make sure there are no skeletons in the closet related to the issue. This is a good time to put one’s house in order.
  • Consider the channels, messages and tone of voice used. Ensure that the reasons behind the public stance are clearly and transparently articulated and voiced over time, not just one time when the issue first appears in the news.
  • Have a crisis preparedness plan ready for a media, stakeholder or social media backlas
  • About the Research

    The Dawn of CEO Activism was an online survey commissioned by Weber Shandwick and conducted by KRC Research. The survey sampled 1,027 U.S. adults 18 years of age and older and interviewed them in May 2016.

New CEO Branding Book Coming June 2015

Dr. Marc Fetscherin is an Associate Professor of International Business and Marketing and a Cornell Distinguished Faculty at Rollins College, Florida, USA. His expertise is in international marketing with a specialization on marketing strategy, marketing research and branding. 

He asked Ascendant CEO Raoul Davis to contribute to his new book  "CEO Branding: Theory and Practice" (2015).which includes some of the top experts on branding.  Davis elected to write perhaps the books most practical chapter on CEO Branding:  How Perception Defines Reality.  Davis provides a tactical tool book on how to build a CEO brand.  In contributing to the book Davis says "Dr. Fetscherin has put together the most comprehensive book on CEO branding to date.  It covers it from a practical and academic perspective.  Anyone interested in understanding how a CEO can impact the perception of a company should pick it up."  

The book can be purchased at

The power of confident CEO branding

A CEO represents a company in many ways, including serving as a driving force for increasing internet presence among interested clients. When working with a global executive search firm, all of the previous elements of a business' particular branding efforts might need to be considered.

Raoul Davis of the Young Entrepreneurs Council recently contributed a piece to Forbes where he outlined the ways that companies might become more visible through a CEO who matches the brand. The benefits are tangible: Davis notes that high-profile and well-managed CEO brands can lead to book deals, awards, and positive PR for the company.

This is especially important now that there are more ways than ever to see the performance of a CEO and notice how they interact online. In a piece for the Huffington Post, the CEO of analytics company FirstRain, Penny Herscher, described the importance of having a CEO who treats their various activities as part of their job and corporate presence.

"With this "age of complete transparency" being what it is, anything, whether a recorded off-color remark or a campaign donation, can be shared and seen by millions in a matter of hours," she writes. 

Even someone who has a good public image and a strong presence in social media could be seen as hurting the brand by not reflecting it to some people, as with the recent controversy over Lululemon's new CEO.

Businesses might think they've found the right CEO candidate because he or she appears to be a good fit in some ways, only to find out some other unexpected aspect of their personality that is made public later. That's why it's crucial to have the right background information before any hire.

Finding people is easy, but finding the RIGHT people is not. YES Partners helps companies FIND the right people – for all company functions, across many industries and globally.

How to develop a strong CEO brand

CEOs with strong reputations and the know-how to promote their accomplishments (that is, CEOs with strong brands) have a
significant advantage over their competitors. Having a powerful CEO brand can put your company in front of its target audience in a way that the corporation alone cannot.

Why? Simple: Businesses don’t do speaking engagements, businesses rarely “emotionally connect” with audiences, and outside of CNBC/Fox Business News, they are rarely profiled on TV. And when media is looking for a great business-related story, they often focus on how the CEO/founder built the business or how a new CEO reshaped it — because people love human interest stories. They want to emotionally connect with your company. Hearing your vision gives them an affinity for your product.

As a result, brand loyalty to a product can be trumped by brand loyalty to a CEO. For example, I’m a U.S. Airways frequent flyer. I get upgrades almost every time I fly. But because I’m such a huge fan of Richard Branson, and Virgin now has flights available out of Philadelphia, I’m planning to use them next time I fly cross-country. Remove Branson from the equation, I’d have no interest in Virgin.

Similarly, I recently had a client who had developed a business service focused specifically on assessing new product development at corporations. As a result of the traction he got with his book and his reputation as a speaker, he gave a paid keynote to one of the largest corporations in the world. Executives listened to him intently, and the next day several met with him to learn more. He also won the Governor’s award in his state for best small business.

But none of that would be possible without a strong CEO brand. So how do you do it?

  1. Develop a CEO brand strategy. This includes analyzing your brand strengths and aligning them with the corporation’s. In other words, emphasize the portions of the CEO brand that also ring true for the company.
  2. Determine which audiences you want to go after and what message will connect with them the most. This differs from a corporate strategy because you are looking at a more indirect message to get people to resonate with the CEO. The CEO serves as the bridge so that the customer will gain interest in the business.
  3. Determine the tools you will use to get the message out. Will it be speaking? PR? Social media? A book? Strategic advertising with the CEO message?
  4. Determine how to measure your results. What benchmarks are you looking for? Increased leads? More website traffic? Determine the metrics that make the most sense for you.
  5. Assess the results. Analyze your results utilizing the metrics you’ve developed plus some bottom-line items such as revenue growth, close rates, and increased pricing. Adjust your strategy from there.

Start utilizing these techniques now, and soon you’ll have a CEO advantage that will last the rest of your career. The best thing about a CEO brand is that, when done well, it is portable — as you think about starting future ventures, your CEO brand will follow you.

As the greatest success expert of the past 100 years, Napoleon Hill, said in his famous book The Laws of Success, “People buy personalities as much as merchandise, and it is a question if they are not influenced more by the personalities with which they come in contact than they are by the merchandise.”

Seventy-five years later, these words have never rung more true.

How To Develop Your CEO Brand And Become An Industry Leader

We’ve all heard of certain companies: GE, Virgin, Berkshire Hathaway, FUBU. And I bet you know all their most famous CEOs’ names, too. Jack Welch, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet, Daymond John: You know those names thanks to CEO branding.

CEO branding isn’t only for the founder of a company. People like Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks and even Angela Ahrendts — who built such a strong CEO brand at Burberry that Apple elected to make her an offer to lure her away — have all reaped the benefits of CEO branding.

Ultimately, a CEO brand is simply a straighter line to increasing top-line revenue because well-known CEOs get access to more deal flow and bring in bigger dollars. It’s accomplished through the process of getting the right message directly in front of your target audience using a strategic blend of social media presence, speaking engagements, book deals, awards and savvy PR. When executed properly, this strategy will develop your CEO brand and position you as an industry-recognized leader.

Here’s how:

Social Media

CEOs are expected to have profiles on LinkedIn, but trying to have a social media presence across every major social network is a mistake. A scattershot attempt at covering all your bases will be far less effective than a focused approach. Find out which social media outlets your target audience spends the most time using and focus your efforts there. Use those outlets to reach and connect with that audience.

Speaking Engagements

Nothing establishes credibility, and helps build your reputation as an industry expert, the way speaking engagements can. Ask anyone who has ever given or attended a TED talk. When you are physically in front of your target audience, you have the unique opportunity to connect with that audience in a very real, immediate and personal way. If possible, take the time to have a Q&A session after your talk to give audience members a chance to get to know you.

Book Deals

Writing a book and securing a book deal — though not necessarily in that order — is another great way to establish credibility and showcase your expertise in your industry. Adding “published author” or better yet, “New York Times Bestselling Author” to your CV immediately raises your stock as an expert. Books are also a natural launch point for promotional campaigns such as social media outreach and speaking engagements with book signing events.


Getting an award is one of the most powerful demonstrators of trustworthiness. What many people don’t realize is that you don’t have to wait and hope someone will just give you one. Many awards are very attainable; however, you need to apply for them. Finding appropriate awards to apply for can be done with an Internet search or by hiring a firm such as Influence & Co.


Local and national coverage in media outlets such as radio, television, the Internet and even print can help build instant credibility through third party validation. Coverage in the industry periodicals that matter most will also position you as an expert within your field.

No example is clearer in terms of how a well-planned CEO brand can impact a business than that of one of our clients, former NBA player and no. 5 draft pick Jonathan Bender. Bender went from top draft pick to taking a four-year forced retirement due to injuries. Not one to let an injury keep him down, Bender developed the JBIT MedPro, a therapeutic device that not only helped heal his injuries but made it possible for him to come out of retirement and play stronger than ever.

Bender wanted to share his revolutionary device with the world, and so undertook a multi-pronged approach of social media outreach, speaking engagements and PR to leverage his personal brand as an athlete. This strategy resulted in astronomical growth of over 700% in retail distribution over the next six months. Bender’s company has also realized exponential growth of 60% month over month, and established a direct sales pipeline-based forecast of 40% growth through the end of the June.

Building a CEO brand is one of the most beneficial things you can do for the future of your company, as leveraging the CEO brand can accelerate your company’s success. The investment of time you sacrifice strategizing your CEO brand by doing the interviews and speeches is well worth it when you watch the rewards roll in.

Raoul Davis helps CEOs become recognized industry experts at Ascendant Group.

As CEO, Are You Putting Your Best Face Forward?

Your product or service isn’t the only thing you need to be promoting. As a CEO, one of the most powerful exposure and revenue-building tools your company has is, in fact, you.

CEO branding is the new corporate branding. People want an emotional connection to the brands they are invested in, so it’s important for those brands to have a face — and that’s where CEO branding comes in.

CEO branding is the process of aligning your face with your corporate brand. This process includes public relation activities, media interviews, philanthropy, articles, books, speaking engagements and employee treatment. It requires integrating the CEO’s brand DNA into how the company is viewed publicly. In a competitive marketplace, it is a differentiating factor. Though it happens naturally, CEOs need to be forward-looking in strategizing their brand — or reactive in managing it.

Consider these survey results compiled by Burson-Marsteller, one of the world’s largest PR firms. that illustrate the importance of a CEO’s reputation to the success of the company. The results indicated that, based on a CEO’s reputation:

  1. 95% of those surveyed decided whether or not to invest in a company
  2. 93% would recommend a company as a good alliance or merger partner
  3. 88% recommend the company as a good place to work

Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx and the world’s youngest female billionaire, is a walking example for the power of CEO branding. In her company’s early days, she had no money for advertising, so she hit the road with her new product. She was the heart, soul and face of Spanx. Blakely took her passion and propelled Spanx to phenomenal heights.

Blakely also stands firmly by her personal beliefs about how business should be done. In the recent CNBC Town Hall Event, “Getting Back to Business,” Blakely responded to venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary’s statement, “Business is war,” by saying, “I have only been focused on my own quality – what can I offer that’s the best and give value.” It’s not just the words, but also the CEO behind them that the audience responded to so enthusiastically. Her authenticity is noticed by customers, investors, employees, and the general public, and it influences their readiness to connect to the Spanx brand. That’s the power of CEO branding.

As a CEO, you can harness this power and create a bond with customers and investors alike, ensuring that they care about your personal brand and in turn, your company. Here are 4 ways to kick-start your CEO branding strategy:

  1. Define and live your mission. Not only must you have a personal mission in line with that of your company, but you must also live out that mission. Clearly define what it is you stand for, and then the specific actions you take on a consistent basis supporting that personal mission.
  2. Reach your target audience. To deliver your brand directly to your target audience, you need to get out of the office. Attend events and speaking engagements in alignment with your personal and corporate mission. Research associations and events in which your target audience participates. Write articles in publications that your target audience reads to gain recognition for your brand.
  3. Maintain a positive presence. Before people consider doing business with a company, they often quickly research the CEO online and make a strong correlation between the CEO and the company. Make sure your name turns up at least two pages worth of positive search engine results, and speaks positively of your work.
  4. Share your vision and your victories. When you share your story with your customers and shareholders, it helps create and foster that strong, personal bond CEO branding is all about.
Raoul Davis is the CEO of Ascendant Strategy, a firm focusing on strategic branding for leaders. He has built a private executive client list that includes Fortune 50 executives, multimillionaire entrepreneurs, major media personalities and NYT best-selling authors.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC leads #FixYoungAmerica, a solutions-based movement that aims to end youth unemployment and put young Americans back to work.
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