Thought leadership

Employer branding: CEO thought leadership that recruits love

CEO thought leadership is key to powerful employer branding, argues Rhys Marks

CEOs at companies of various sizes face numerous challenges. They must perfect their products and services, adhere to strict budgets, cope with economic headwinds, and most importantly, attract top talent who will build their business.

If CEOs don’t have the right employees, they’ll often spend a considerable amount of time re-hiring when appointments don’t pay off, which is not only costly but hinders growth.

Yet, powerful employer branding can make all the difference by creating an environment employees love to be a part of.

So, how can CEOs build a powerful employer brand? One answer could be thought leadership.

What is employer branding?

Employer branding is the process of creating and promoting a company's brand to attract and retain talent.

  • It might promote a company's benefits, including training, perks, and career ladders.

  • It could highlight a company's progressive work culture and how it differs from others in its sector.

  • It might showcase an enjoyable and supportive workplace environment.

  • Otherwise, it could celebrate achievements within a business, such as awards or testimonials, to show that the company is successful and that staff enjoy working there.

Ultimately, employer branding helps a company appear as a more attractive work environment than any of its competitors.

Oftentimes, HR, marketing, IT, and recruitment teams will work collaboratively to ensure a company's employer branding is strong. And on some occasions, CEOs will shoulder the responsibility themselves.

Why does employer branding matter?

Some CEOs might stop and question whether they have the time to commit to employer branding.

But this is always a bad idea.

A company with poor employer branding will never fulfil its full potential.

Rhys Marks

When you consider that most businesses continue to face talent shortages, it’s clear that employer branding should hold precedence over anything else, especially if you're a founder focussed on building a start-up.

A strong team will provide the backbone for success, and companies must always do their utmost to attract and retain the very best talent.

Quite simply, the more effort a CEO puts into employer branding, the faster their business will grow.

How to use CEO thought leadership in employer branding.

Thought leadership is a powerful tool that engages stakeholders with a topical conversation to cement a CEO's expertise in a particular field.

The best thought leaders benefit from improved visibility, credibility, and trust, which can be essential to attract investment or secure more clients, as well as strengthen their company's employer brand.

Reaching audiences will often involve utilising various channels, including blog posts, social media, multimedia content, and earned media coverage. Or even a combination of all channels to maximise impact.

CEOs attempting to improve their employer brand might write a blog about their companies research, post on social media about the importance of mental health, shoot video content of them talking about the culture of their business, or speak to a journalist about the importance of DEI initiatives.

However, in order to have a positive impact, CEOs will always need the well-coordinated strategy.

Rhys Marks

Without a strategy, CEOs can risk saying the wrong things that either upset employees or de-motivate new candidates to join their business.

Below are some basic dos and don’ts for CEOs to consider.


  • Regularly engage with employees and the public through regular communication channels like social media, blogs, and public speaking.

  • Take advantage of media opportunities to subtly hint at the company’s expertise, achievements, and influence within its sector.

  • Leverage storytelling and personal anecdotes to connect with audiences and make messages more relatable.

  • Highlight and celebrate the successes and contributions of employees to foster a sense of pride and community within the company.


  • Avoid being inconsistent in your messaging, and stick to your objectives.

  • Never make false promises, and back up your statements with action.

  • Avoid speaking about sensitive topics, including cultural, social, or geopolitical issues.

  • Don’t neglect any mistakes you have made, and always publicly acknowledge them. 

How CEO thought leadership can improve employer branding in practice.

Here are two scenarios to illustrate how CEO thought leadership can improve employer branding in practice.

Scenario 1.

An emerging start-up is looking to build its team but is conscious of competing with larger corporates during the peak hiring season.

To maximise its chances of securing the very best talent, its CEO has taken the opportunity to speak to the media about its recent investment round, citing the technologies and projects the business is working on.

A week later, the CEO's Google search populates with news coverage portraying them as an innovative leader while positioning the company as a forward-thinking business, offering stability, and excellent progression opportunities.

As a result, the company receives an influx of visitors to its website and an increase in high-quality job applications, which then helps the business expand over the coming months.

Having learned from the experience, the CEO continues to be transparent about the company's progression, and its employees decide to stay with it for the long term.

Scenario 2.

Lots of investment companies within the financial sector have come under fire for neglecting their mental health obligations to their employees.

A CEO in one company is aware of the reports and trending conversations on social media. She is concerned that employees within her company may feel a similar way.

To settle any anxieties and ensure that her employees understand that she takes the mental health of her staff very seriously, she schedules a company meeting to address the industry's shortcomings while expressing her commitment to fostering a supportive work environment.

She announces a new mental health initiative, including counselling services, mental health days, and workshops focused on stress management and work-life balance, and promotes everything on her LinkedIn.

This all about taking real action rather than making empty statements.

Rhys Marks

Internally, employees feel more valued and supported, leading to increased job satisfaction and productivity.

Externally, the company's reputation as a caring and responsible employer grows, attracting top talent who are looking for a workplace that prioritises their well-being.

Statistics: How visible CEOs boost recruitment.

Research carried out by Profile recently looked to explore how visible CEOs might improve recruitment.

In a poll, 2,000 British adults across all genders and age groups were asked about the importance of undertaking thought leadership PR.  

The results showed that nearly three in four people (74%) would prefer to work for a company with a visible leadership team.

Rhys Marks

With these results in mind, it’s clear that CEOs who don’t invest in thought leadership to improve their visibility and boost their employer branding are doing themselves a massive disservice.

Becoming a thought leader.

For CEOs that decide to become a thought leader to improve their employer branding, here are five important factors they must always keep in mind.

  • Update all social media and online profiles. Showcase relevant information, achievements, recent images, and video content to ensure you make a positive impression when people search for you on Google.

  • Outline your media positioning and objectives. You want employees to immediately grasp your areas of expertise, your beliefs, and what your company stands for. So, keep things simple, have a clear goal in mind, and approach the media with a plan, communicating no more than 4 to 5 key messages.

  • Invest in media training. Media training is essential if you want to appear on a podcast or broadcast television. You will be under pressure if it’s your first time and you’ll want to appear as confident and composed as possible, especially if your goal is to attract the very best talent.

  • Build relationships with the media. Always prepare for any media opportunities as best you can to avoid wasting the time of journalists and ensure that they enjoy working with you. The better they perceive you and your business, the better chance you will have to secure favourable coverage in the future.

  • Don’t neglect social media. Ensure you are regularly posting your thoughts and ideas about prominent industry issues to engage your audiences, and always share your media coverage. If your LinkedIn is dead, you won’t attract a large following, and you'll never be recognised as a credible thought leader.

These steps should provide the foundations for a CEO to become an impactful thought leader, attract the very best talent, and create an employer brand they can be proud of.

For additional insight about perfecting thought leadership strategy, you can read more here.

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