PRHK Viewpoints: Now is the time for HK business leaders to demonstrate a new model of leadership

After close to six months of social unrest, followed by the impact of COVID-19, never before have businesses in Hong Kong been so tested, with business leaders being called upon to navigate times of ‘business not as usual’.

That said, challenges also present opportunities, and now is a great time to demonstrate what true leadership is and turn it into a brand asset, helping you to connect with target audiences effectively. A true leader is critical to business recovery, and an effective leadership profiling programme will not only help from a business operation perspective, but also a marketing and communications one, building trust with your targets in the long term.

Every brand needs a face for its vison
During challenging times, brands come under increased scrutiny over how they pivot – offering a great opportunity to demonstrate leadership. We may be out of the bigger woods, but there is still the long road to economic recovery ahead of us. To reinforce or rebuild brand presence, business leaders are expected to lead as much as to inspire. Most of all, they need to set the direction for the company.

While the market is slowly recovering this is a good time to curate brand vision and raise awareness with a human touch by showcasing how executives lead by example. COVID-19 has brought marketers to a new era where brands will need to show their personality and humanity. Consumers not only have an appetite for this, but an expectation that brands show empathy and investment in the wider community. Marketing is no longer just about selling products but inspiring audiences. It is the value that brands can bring to an audience that matters, not just the products or services it provides.

Creating an authentic connection

It’s important to not underestimate the impact of leadership profiling, and a good social profile for an executive can put a brand front and centre with the right target audience. The proliferation of online and social channels has opened up a lot of opportunities for marketers, but during a time when we need to do more with less, being targeted is critical.

Statistics show that LinkedIn lead generation is one of the most effective social media channels for lead generation. 89% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn for lead generation and 62% of B2B marketers say LinkedIn successfully generates leads — that's twice as many as the next social platform. Why is that so? It is likely because LinkedIn provides a platform with access to professional networks and decision makers.

With so many leaders currently focused on how to bring about business growth, why not also invest the time to build up a wider following and a place for yourself in the wider community?

So what is the best way to get started? Here are some top attributes that good leadership profiles have in common:

Be a key part of a community - Meaningful brand expression no longer rests solely on one-way communication. Social media was designed for people to exchange ideas, with engagement always coming first. In order to build up a credible profile, leaders need to ensure active and regular participation with audiences and communities; ad hoc posts here and there are not enough. The aim is to create a profile that others turn to for interesting perspectives that they feel compelled to respond to and share. Start by posting regular, precise and insightful comments as well as sharing those from others.

Resonance and relevance

Social media is not just about sharing, it is about engagement, and this relies heavily on resonance and relevance. Always making sure that reactions, comments, and shared posts are relevant to the wider community or other people in the network. Try not to be solely self-promotional but share a variety of content to help drive interest, encourage interactions and most of all, reach a wider audience. Engagements in industry, social and wider economic conversations are highly influential in shaping perceptions amongst business decision makers. Sharing industry news, comments or reacting to partner posts is a good place to start.

Your people are the best champions

LinkedIn, as a professional network social platform, offers a great pool of existing coworkers and partners to tap into. Do not overlook internal stakeholders and the impact they can make. Share employee activities, tagging coworkers to involve them. Sharing some team activities can also make a channel more light-hearted and approachable, remember these channels are for work but are also meant to be fun. Check pending connection requests regularly and accept where appropriate to build a network that overlaps, or even mirrors, the real-world physical professional network of the executive.

2020 may be proving to be tough for Hong Kong business leaders, but heads of industry are expected to not just take care of the business, but their people. Brands will be expected to walk the talk and demonstrate their values. Integrity matters more than ever. There is no better person to lead a brand’s communications than its leaders. While social distancing has put us at a safe distance physically, now is the time for leaders to step up and make themselves feel closer to employees and customers virtually.

This piece was written by Kate Kwan, general manager, Bay Area, Greater China, LEWIS and member of PRHK. PRHK Viewpoints is an article series contributed by members of PRHK, Hong Kong’s PR & communications association.