By Lewis Hackney, Founder of, Etch’d
In today’s hyper-competitive markets, connecting with your stakeholders in an original and authentic way has never been so vital to gaining credibility and winning trust.
This rings true for both start-ups and established conglomerates alike. Small businesses need to authentically connect with potential customers as a means of getting their voice heard and gaining a competitive edge. Established corporate players – especially in industries such as finance and investment – need a human voice that emotionally resonates in what could otherwise be considered soulless, steel grey sectors.
Yet many businesses continue to operate with very little of a human face. SME founders will push their product as the next best thing without any insight into their personal backstory or journey. Corporates will issue statements from a generic spokesperson. Those being chased for an invoice by an accounts department will have no insight into who those people in that department are, and how delaying payment on that invoice could directly impact their livelihoods.
The human brain does not want to interact with a corporate machine; the human brain wants to interact with other humans. This is especially relevant to investment businesses, who – with the number of scams and bad investments on the rise – need to go that extra mile to secure credibility and trust. Turning your business from a faceless business to a faced business allows you to do just that.
For generations gone by, despite the lack of internet and social media, it was arguably easier to establish and maintain a face for your business. Many more businesses 50 or 100 years ago were family businesses, passing from generation-to-generation, which afforded them a considerable degree of trust. With so many family businesses having died out, this isn’t the case anymore.
Today, businesses in the US (of all shape and size) have become much better at ‘forging a face’ than us in the UK. CEOs and founders in the states take it upon themselves, as a responsibility, to create their own visible brand. This offers both a human dimension to their business, but also enables them to serve as role model and inspiration to young people – something that is hugely important in an age of C-list celebrities, get-rich-quick gurus and TikTok ‘influencers’.
In recent times Elon Musk has become one such example, with his unique vision, quirkiness and colour building his portfolio of companies a unique audience. American property and business entrepreneur Grant Cardone is another example; Cardone isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but through his own personality and face managed to raise the most money ever through a social media campaign.
What is the secret to their ‘face’ success? Authenticity. Both Musk and Cardone are themselves, irrespective of the audience. Of course, when on stage for example, I would recommend any business owner to try and be as polished as possible. But visibility coupled with authenticity – authentic visibility – are excellent principles upon which to establish your business’ face.
Building a face to a business needn’t be overcomplicated. The first thing to start with is the core story – who you are, what you do, how you do it, but perhaps most importantly why you do it. What is your mission and purpose? What is your inspiration? What have been your struggles along the way?
Conveying this journey through the eyes and voice of the CEO (a human) rather than through the voice of the business (non-human) makes you personally relatable and adds trust, and therefore by extension makes your business more relatable and trustworthy.
Doing so can be as simple has having the picture of yourself (or involved team members) on a proposal document. Making sure your website has photos and bios of your staff helps foster a warm family image and is another way of increasing visibility and transparency. Having yourself and team members contribute to business podcasts, blogs, business advice pieces and social media also all helps build a human aspect to the business. These are the first baby steps towards establishing a respected business face that every business should be taking.
Personal brands and faced businesses do take time and money to grow. You need to be constantly creating content, although as long as you are being authentic and not looking to create a forced persona, content ideas should come (at least to a degree) relatively naturally.
As you start to scale up, you can start to think about videographers, copywriters, project managers and ad managers. Whilst it may seem that a professional and personalised marketing operation like this can be costly, adding this personalised face to your business can unlock other revenue streams – such as speaking opportunities and new introductions.
Even in the case of public businesses, whose heads have to fit into a narrative that has already been pre-set before them, and whose identity and message has to resonate with the shareholders: being yourself, being visible, and being authentic – even if a little unconventional or rough around the edges – will resonate better than any anonymous corporate robot spokesperson ever could.