Power of Personal Branding for Business Leaders With Wandia Chiuri

Wandia Chiuri 10:28

You know, I had an incredible boss. His name was Bill severe. And he was just, I mean, the world’s best boss. And, you know, those tips today that I still use, I think I had amazing training as a salesperson. And he, you know, very harshly set very high standards, but you feel supported through it, right. And so part of what I loved about him was that he was super calm. But things like things in sales have also taught me about leadership and have really supported it . Things like you influence the temperature of the room by your energy, right, and you can see it in those moments. You’re, you know, there’s busy doctors, you’re kinda they’ve been seeing sick patients all day. 

And you come in, and he was like, Hey, I remember the first trip I went on, I was really timid and very scared, and just Oh, my God, I’m interrupting them and just trying not to make them try not to, you know, take up space. And he goes, Did you just see what you did there? And I was like, No, and he’s like, you know, you are the thermostat, not the thermometer, you come in, and you create the temperature. And it was like, right, then I was like, You know what, I’m gonna go give it a try. And I went back into that office. I’m like, It’s a party. And the same, it was like, literally the most amazing split test, you could have. You know, same exact person, same exact office. Totally different reception. So that was an invaluable lesson for me that I’ve carried throughout my life.

John Corcoran 11:49

Yeah, I’d love to hear how you impart that on others. Before we get to that, while you were at Eli Lilly. So were you like, utilizing social media platforms, geographic data to help make sales? 

Wandia Chiuri 12:05

Absolutely. So That’s what I was.

John Corcoran 12:07

Okay. I was expecting no answer on that. Because that’s what your next thing was? Did you find a company based on that? 

Wandia Chiuri 12:13

Yeah. So as a pharmaceutical rep, you’re not allowed to go in and speak to patients. So a lot of times, the doctor would say, you know, and yeah, I like you, but I, my patients prefer this, your competitor, because it does XYZ. And so. So I went in, and I was like, but what are patients really saying? And so, you know, I would, I would look through the social media feeds, and try to see what they were saying, as opposed to us as competitors.

John Corcoran 12:39

And being talking about your product and talking about your competitor’s product.

Wandia Chiuri 12:43

  1. Yeah, exactly. Okay.

John Corcoran 12:45

And this is early days, this must be a user we’re talking about this is 2008 2009. Twitter’s not what it was today. Now, X.

Wandia Chiuri 12:53

Yeah, 2007. Like, I was the most excited when it was founded. Because I was like, this is just mind blowing, I was just so thrilled about the platform, being able to just search conversations, understand what’s happening, it’s a lot of what is kind of building our tech stack today, those types of insights and analyzing trends. So we’re very data based. Today, we help executives build their brands using data based insights, we have an excellent data science team that drives that it’s not, you know, there’s a creative aspect which we love. But we make sure it’s informed by data science. And just our lead is amazing, the team is incredible. 

And so So that’s part of some of those insights straight coming from there, you know, at the time the API was open, you could grab a lot of information, or use that to build with traffic Pro, which was about seeing a heat map, you could see on, you know, on a map where your market is moving. So it’s like, we worked with musicians and with, you know, Warner Music, and you could see, like, hey, for this new artists, New York is your first market, LA is probably your second and down to you know, Miami might be your third so you can almost plan your concerts in a way that builds up momentum revenue. So that really came from my experience as a pharmaceutical rep.

John Corcoran 14:06

And how did you get this thing off the ground? Did you raise money? Did you bootstrap it? Did you code it yourself?

Wandia Chiuri 14:13

You know, I certainly did the sand hill walk like a lot of investors. And you know, at the time I learned a lot. I learned a lot from the experience. It was certainly not easy. But I am grateful. I learned a lot. I ended up bootstrapping it. And learning how to code along the way and understanding a lot about code. I lived in hackathons, every single weekend. I was at one hackathon or the other. I mean, it’s it that was entirely you know, all those years are a blur. 

John Corcoran 14:48

But how did you leverage the hackathons? Was it there other people there that would help you to develop it or how did that work?

Wandia Chiuri 14:54

Yeah, that was the power of hackathons back then is like you’d have the smartest people from all kinds of companies didn’t in tech and Twitter and, you know, a startup, Twilio, there was just all kinds of people like sitting around you and help you understand, like, you had to create something functional in three in less than three days. And so it’s really like you learn quickly, you get something going, but you understand how to make some of this work. And so I enjoyed meeting the people. I enjoyed interacting, and I enjoyed learning the technology behind the, you know, code. 

John Corcoran 15:30

Yeah. Now, it’s a different world now than it was back then. But I know that some of these platforms, Facebook, Twitter, you know, YouTube, these social media platforms have gone back and forth with shutting down API’s. And when you have a company that’s built just on one platform, that can happen, right, like your whole business can be wiped out overnight. Did that keep you up at night at all?

Wandia Chiuri 15:52

100%. I think that first business, truthfully, running that first business was probably some of the hardest years of my life. I loved it. I loved learning. I enjoyed that. But yeah, I just learned a lot by trial by fire. And this was certainly something that kept me up at night a lot. But it was also I mean, it was exciting, because you learn about the capabilities, well, you know, build relationships with folks who are in those companies as well. So we established partnerships, and some of those partnerships are still helpful today.

John Corcoran 16:23

Got it? Got it. And so you moved into social media, digital marketing, I guess, seemed like kind of a natural evolution, given your understanding of social media lands and landscape, you know, back in 2010. Yeah,

Wandia Chiuri 16:39

so I was four, I went into Johnson and Johnson, which is another just remarkable company to work for, learned a lot about, you know, it was at the time, one of the world’s top brands, I still is, I think, in some ways, and the exciting part is I worked in the health care, you know, it was an easy kind of transition from diabetes to the diabetes division. But as part of that, I also worked with a consumer group and thought about the full care of a person from you know, head to toe. 

So Ginger has all this kind of consumer goods as well. So that was a really exciting experience, learning about the kind of branding aspects, but also the back end of what makes a large company work. And so, you know, I had the corporate experience, the startup experience, I learned a lot there and I think I really honed in my digital marketing skills. 

John Corcoran 17:28

While I was there, yeah, for a huge company, so a lot more resources than, you know, bootstrap small company. Did you know at that point, like a lot of founders, after the execs exited, they have an array of different emotions. Did you know at that point, after you sold your company that you wanted to start something again.

Wandia Chiuri 17:47

I did, I knew I was I was, I was certain that I would, I just didn’t know what it was. And I felt like there were certain things I would need to get to, to the next one. And so that took 10 years. Finally, finally, I’m super excited. I think the lessons of those, you know, like, like Steve Jobs said, the dots connect backwards, and you’re like, oh, my gosh, all the relationships I built became some of the customers we have now. All the connections, the lessons, even those really tough times starting that first business and all the way back to Lily, right? Like all the lessons from sales have made running this business just so much more fulfilling. But for me, I think what lights me up is seeing an executive just super happy with their brand and just seeing them light up as, as we support them, as we see them actually, we are able to help them both just communicate so powerfully and also effectively, you know, move business perception and move business performance. Those are things that just absolutely make me thrilled. 

John Corcoran 18:52

Yeah, It can also be challenging, working with big egos, big personalities. That’s not so easy. How have you been? You have such a great disposition, you’re so positive about everything. I can’t imagine it getting you down. But, you know, that’s not an easy one to navigate, especially when you’ve previously had a tech company where it’s like, you know, you’re in front of a computer screen a lot of times, right. 

Wandia Chiuri 19:14

You now, I realized that this was a natural fit for me. I really enjoy working with executives. I enjoy you know, you’re working with the world’s top leaders and they come in all kinds of different personalities. They come from all sorts of different backgrounds. And I enjoy getting to know them, understanding what makes them tick and really helping them move their goals forward. So I am so blessed I wake up every morning just absolutely thrilled. doing what I love doing working with some of the world’s greatest minds. And every day I just kind of get blown away so I think you know little people have bad days people have good days, right? 

Like so they might for whatever reason is going on. I just I just I don’t take that personally and I think on Another thing I love is just they appreciate us over and over and over again, they just say how immensely, how much they appreciate us. And that’s, you know, a testament to what we built. But the team that we have is just absolutely brilliant. I’m so fortunate to have, I think, the world’s best team. I’m kind of blown away every time having worked at, you know, some of the largest companies at Google at Samsung j&j. I can say, Barton on this is one of the best teams, from a smarts effectiveness. 

John Corcoran 20:31

Just perspective, I’d love to hear like a specific example, if you have one, like a case study, it can be anonymous, if you’d like, have an executive that you worked with, that maybe was, you know, initially skeptical about stepping out there, so to speak, sharing their personal brand, and what it can do to drive business performance, how that how that leads to actual results for them. Is there one that comes to mind that you worked with?

Wandia Chiuri 20:58

Yeah, I mean, there’s so many, I think, you know, my brain is kind of sorting every single one comes with a different with whatever, you know, we identify what the goals are really, you know, initially and iterate, we have, you know, where we look at several, we have a very, we’re very process oriented, and we are constantly iterating, to make sure that we’re meeting that person’s specific goals. Okay, I can tell you an aggregate is about I’m just going to pull up some overall percentages, you know, from from, I’d say about 89% have, okay, I’m 69% had been promoted, my eyesight is going, just joy being this age, love. But 69% have been promoted within six months of working with them. 

This is 48% of the security executive board positions. 65% have had successful product launches, we just recently did one that like outsized impact in terms of the reach and the and with a whole new they were expanding into a new market. So we were able to connect with customers from there. And so that was really exciting. And every single one, I would say, has reported that participation in social media has been a vital way for them as a leader to communicate. And particularly, while we’re facing uncertain times, just having a leader and being able to articulate those values in an authentic way really rallies the team and reaches customers, which are stakeholders. 

And so we’ve seen it tangibly drive business performance. I particularly love working with CROs and sales, sales, VPs of sales, because we can actually go, you know, dollar for dollar kind of think about how they’re reaching their customers and bringing them into the fold.

John Corcoran 22:52

Yeah, and obviously, I’m a fan of creating content. I’ve been doing my podcast for 14 years creating content around it. But what do you say to an executive who hasn’t been creating content, whose you know, they have 100 connections or less on LinkedIn, they haven’t been pushing out content like that. Maybe they’re within a corporate bureaucracy. So they’re worried about what other people will think. What do you say to them to reassure them that this is a good idea?

Wandia Chiuri 23:16

Well, I mean, when we were skilled at this, we’ve been doing it a long time. We know you know, we know how to work, we know where the landmines are, right. So we understand how to help you build such a successful brand without kind of learning into the landmines. Having said that I experiment all the time, I’m okay with landing on the landmines. Myself, our team is constantly experimenting, but executives were extremely cautious. We know we will protect their brand, we understand their personality, we understand some of the the constraints that they might have as a leader, over, you know, having worked on this for, for for, you know, I started, we started, the company had been in operation for a while, but then officially, you know, was incorporated in 2020. 

The other piece is, you’ll get that what we’re seeing very clearly is how they’ve been left behind. We’ve seen a CEO, and their two competitors, just one being completely surpassed, right. This was a technology leader who was cautious. And we kept saying, Hey, I think you should consider, you know, we’ll support you. And then in this big one event, all their competitors were showing up, and they weren’t. So that was a missed opportunity. Because it’s not like a tap. It’s not like paid ads, you can just turn on and turn off. It takes time to build momentum and build a structure. So you want to certainly build it long before you think you need it.

John Corcoran 24:35

Yeah. You mentioned earlier about sales and your revelation that it was about bringing enthusiasm into the room. How do you convey that to your team? How do you do it or is it something where you can’t really train them and you just look for people that have that natural charisma like you do?

Wandia Chiuri 24:53

Not at all actually, most of our team are completely different from me, and I deliberately hire a diverse team with diverse skills and just diverse capabilities, because I feel like you know, the fingers on our hand, we all are different. And we all bring different aspects from us. The one thing that is very similar is 76% of our team have a STEM background, so some sort of engineering data science, science, background, engineering, uh, you know, background. So so so and it’s just that I think, it is really powerful, and some are just really good communities, some came in because they’re really good communicators. 

But I would say, you know, for me, it’s not about walking into the room, I think it was a powerful lesson about, you know, your power as a leader, constantly leading learning, and that, you know, the power of curiosity as well. But I would say, the big thing that I impart is adding value. It’s all about how do you what, how do you just wake up everyday and think, How do I add massive value? And I think, John, that’s a lesson that you embody, I mean, you’re just, you know, you walk in, I’ve been with you, you know, we serve on the board together, and I just every single time you show up, you add value. And so it’s just wonderful to witness that from you. And, and it’s one of the big things I impart on our team. But, you know, it’s almost like I’m preaching to the choir, because I think that’s the power of our team.,

John Corcoran 26:23

Yeah no, I mean, I’m totally in agreement with it. I think the challenge is, when you come across someone who doesn’t see that, or doesn’t, you know, tries to kind of connect the ROI to it. And it’s one thing if you’re working with a CRO, and so they can drip connect it directly to sales. But what if you’re working for someone in a different department? It could be HR, it could be, I don’t know, IT services or something like that. Some other departments, it’s not directly tied to sales. And it’s hard to like, paint a direct connection between having a more visible presence online, creating content, that sort of thing? How do you convince them of the merits of doing it if you can’t point directly to sales? 

Wandia Chiuri 27:07

You know, the truth is, we don’t. The good news is there’s a lot of demand for this. A lot of leaders, today’s top performing leaders see the connection, right, beyond dollars and cents, which dollars and cents are extremely important. But there are other metrics that you know, why executive branding matters. You know, we’ve done a survey, we’ve seen the service supported by McKinsey and, and several, like, you know, there’s the highest poll for CEOs. 81% of people believe that executives who engage in social media are better equipped than their peers to lead in today’s world. 97-98% of consumers want to see a figure they trust and believe in that leader and that actually influences the product that they buy. 82% trust a company whose leadership engages in social media, so the stats are there, they’re very solid, they’re very strong. And most thankfully, most leaders we work with see it like it’s not, it’s not a huge sale that we have to make. And if someone doesn’t see it, you know, they’re probably going to be in my opinion, and they might be left behind. That’s how you become, you know, in some ways, a dinosaur, but I certainly respect where they’re coming from. We just don’t spend a whole lot of time convincing. 

John Corcoran 28:23

We come in when you’re ready to go to the external senses. Yeah. Yeah, there’s some people that just can’t be convinced. Right. 

Wandia Chiuri 28:28

And I will also say, I think the biggest fear is the fear of failure, the fear of time, the time consuming, the fear of, you know, just how they will be perceived. And we are extremely skilled at solving those problems. So when those are the problems are so easy objections to overcome.

John Corcoran 28:45

Yeah, and in terms of that, like when you get into down to the the individual posts, the individual content that you’re posting up for them, you know, writing in their voice, which I imagine you’re doing in many cases, and you got to be busy executive who’s, you know, let’s be honest, is probably not going to look through a spreadsheet of you know, this is the tweet we’re going to do on Tuesday. This is a tweet we’re going to do on Wednesday, how do you get them to trust you enough to speak in their voice? 

Without, you know, after the fact, being highly critical of the end product that comes out? Or is it also, again, another instance of, we just need to screen in advance whether this is someone who’s going to trust us or whether it’s someone who we, we get a suspicion that they’re not going to trust us to speak in their voice?

Wandia Chiuri 29:29

You know, we listen very carefully as we go. As we kick off as we work as we work with executives, it is a collaborative approach, but we’re very mindful of their time. But I think part of what blows me away most , like I said, a large part of my team is in Kenya, but the professionals, their professional ability to really listen and hear the nuances of how the executive communicates and what’s important to them. It just kind of blows me away how often we are able to capture that we’ve Not, we’ve had maybe one or two executives, maybe three who are like, You are not quite capturing my voice. Others, you know, are very kind of like, hey, let’s work together so you can capture my voice and then we roll up our sleeves and we get it done right. But it’s not that we’ve been really fortunate. 

I think it’s a testament to just my team’s capabilities of thinking three steps ahead, really listening, I mean, down to like, the way they move their energy, like their spirit. And we’ve created this amazing brand exercise that can hone in on a person’s personality really quickly. So we’re able to understand how they move in the world and how we should communicate with them. And thankfully, I mean, we get content approvals really, really fast, I can delve into the details of exactly what we do with executives, we do a wide range that goes beyond just simply creating content. We work on executive special projects too and we’re thinking about if they’re looking for how to turn my idea into impact? We have teams that are just innovation or expert execution teams, right? But in this core function, which I’m really passionate about, I think we get it right, about 98% of the time.

John Corcoran 31:13

That’s right. It’s pretty amazing considering some of the powerful people you work with. All right, the second last question, as someone who founded a company, twit traffic pro built around Twitter 15 Plus, or so years ago, what’s your assessment today of Twitter now called X? And I’ll go even beyond that. So I won’t paint you into the corner and force you to only answer on that, but social media broadly as well, back then 15 years ago, and we pretty much had Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Now there’s many others. There’s, there’s Pinterest, there’s next door, there’s reading it, there’s these other things that are emerging. So what’s your assessment of the landscape now?

Wandia Chiuri 31:52

I think it’s still a very powerful landscape, I felt that then I still feel that now. It’s rapidly evolving. And part of our team’s job is to stay on top of the trends and see where the world is moving. You know, there’s just a lot more cool and technologies that are augmenting this and making this even more, more interesting and powerful. I would say that, you know, one of the big objections I used to get early on was, it’s only for kids. We’ve seen that massively shift, especially in an election, where, you know, the majority of the people who are on AIX are, you know, 50, age 50 plus. So that’s kind of an interesting shift. We’re not getting that objection anymore. 

I mean, Facebook is almost for older folks. Yeah, I know. Right? Yeah. That also, we know, our decision makers are very active. Surprisingly, a lot of decision makers are on Instagram, a lot are on LinkedIn. I mean, LinkedIn is really core. But we also see signals of very senior level participation in channels like Instagram, and the others. So I think it’s often you know, before the question of the channel, we think about who is that? Who is the executive? What are they trying to communicate? What are the objectives and what are the right channels to reach them. But having said that, there’s just still a lot of power in social media that can be leveraged. 

And one of the things that’s kind of interesting to me, having worked with major brands and on their brand channels is how much more reach an executive has, you know, we saw the influx, the rise of influencer marketing, and even smaller niche influencers really propelling companies forward. And I believe that executives are the influencers of their company today, because they profoundly positively or negatively impact the perception of their business and therefore business performance. 

John Corcoran 33:41

Yeah. Monty I want to wrap up with this isn’t a great, by the way, love hearing your story. But I’m a big fan of gratitude, especially expressing gratitude to those who helped you along the way. On your journey. You mentioned the family that took you in from Kenya as a young kid. But who else is anyone else that you would want to shout out? And thank you for helping you in your journey? 

Wandia Chiuri 34:06

Yeah, I mean, so so. So my family then are the founders of cross currents, extremely incredible people. Cross currents promote peace in the world, and being able to see very different perspectives and bring people together. That was a family that just moved me in profound ways. And I think, in many ways, shapes the way I think today. My dad is, you know, Bill, Bill Shaw, I’m just so grateful to him. And along the way, I’m just so fortunate I have I feel like I could, you know, just list a lot of people who I have tremendous gratitude for, but I think one one person I could, I could kind of mention is in terms of also how they helped me see the world and how they, they helped me move in the world is, you know, Katie Moore, who who has done a lot in terms of kind of helping diverse people come into diverse people come into the technology space into the industry. 

He’s just deeply passionate about that, you know, bringing in talent is great voices inclusive voices. But it’s simple things about him. It’s simple, powerful things that he’s taught me like, you know, the power of saying thank you. Hello, and thank you. You know, I think that totally shifted a lot of how I do business and I think it’s been really, it’s been really insightful. 

John Corcoran 35:24

One Yeah. Where can people go to learn more about you?

Wandia Chiuri 35:27

You could find me on Wandia dot info, that’s my personal website. It’s just, it’s really just a fun place where I write blogs and write thoughts and it’s not perfect, but it’s super fun. And then reaction power is our company. So reaction power.com We have, you know, executive branding services there, you could go to reactionpower.com forward slash power profile, and find out how you can build your executive brand.

John Corcoran 35:52

All right. Well, Wandia, thanks so much.

Wandia Chiuri 35:54

This has been so much fun, John, thank you. Thank you for the opportunity to chat with you.

Chad Franzen 36:02

Thanks for listening to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.