How to Become a Corporate Board Member



corporate board members in a meeting

Becoming a corporate board member is an attractive goal for many CEOs, as it offers prestige and the opportunity to contribute to important business decisions. To be a valuable addition to a corporate board, you must bring relevant expertise to the table. Whether you work for a bank, a law firm, a PR agency, or in another industry—the board will look for specific knowledge and experience that can help the corporation succeed.

In addition to relevant expertise, your reputation and visibility also play a role in securing a corporate board seat. Earned media, including media coverage of your brand, speaking engagements, and published articles, can help establish you as a thought leader and increase your chances of being chosen for a board position.

Becoming a corporate board member can be a career-defining opportunity for CEOs, and it’s important to understand the key factors that can help you land your first corporate board role. 

How does corporate board recruitment work? 

Corporate board recruitment typically works through a combination of internal and external processes. Companies may have an internal committee responsible for reviewing potential board members and making recommendations to the full board. Alternatively, they may use external search firms to identify and screen potential candidates.

The selection process often involves considering a variety of factors, including relevant expertise, industry experience, leadership qualities, and personal and professional reputation. Companies may also consider diversity, such as gender, race, ethnicity, and background, in order to have a diverse and well-rounded board.

Once potential candidates have been identified, they may be asked to provide additional information, such as resumes, references, and more detailed professional background information, especially if it is the candidate’s first corporate board experience. The internal committee or search firm may also conduct interviews or other assessments to further evaluate the candidate’s qualifications and suitability for the role.

Ultimately, the decision to appoint a new corporate board member is made by the full board, typically with the approval of the company’s shareholders. The new board member is then inducted and joins the board, serving as a representative of the company and offering guidance, direction, and support to help the company succeed. 

Curate Relevant Expertise

To be an effective corporate board member, you must bring a specific skill set and area of expertise to the table. The board will look for individuals who can offer valuable insights and guidance in areas they feel they need to bolster. 

For example, if you work in the banking industry, you may bring expertise in financial regulations and risk management. If you work in the legal field, you may bring expertise in corporate governance and compliance. Understanding the unique value you can offer as a board member is an important first step. 

Think of it like marketing yourself as a solution to the organization’s problem. By bringing your expertise to the board, you can help the company make informed decisions and achieve its goals. Your insights and guidance can be especially valuable during times of change or uncertainty and can help the company stay ahead of the curve in its industry.

To demonstrate your expertise, you should focus on building a strong professional reputation and creating a track record of success in your industry. This can include publishing thought leadership articles or blog posts, speaking at conferences or events, and participating in professional organizations or committees. By sharing your knowledge and experience, you can establish yourself as an expert in your field—a thought leader—and increase your visibility to potential board members.

Related reading: The Ultimate Guide to Thought Leadership – Zen Media

In addition to demonstrating your expertise, it’s also important to keep your skills and knowledge up-to-date. This can include taking courses or attending workshops, reading industry publications, and staying informed about the latest trends and developments in your field. By continuously learning and growing, you can maintain your relevance and competitiveness as a potential corporate board member.

Leverage Earned Media

Earned media refers to media coverage, such as articles, interviews, or news segments, that is earned through your actions and achievements, rather than paid for. Earned media can help you establish yourself as a thought leader. By being featured in reputable media outlets, you can demonstrate your expertise, credibility, and leadership qualities.

In today’s digital age, it’s essential to maintain a consistent and professional online presence. This can include creating and regularly updating your personal website, having a professional LinkedIn profile, and engaging with your followers on social media in a positive and professional manner.

Related reading: Hack the LinkedIn Algorithm in 4 Easy Steps

By bolstering your digital presence with earned media, you can elevate your personal brand and increase your chances of being selected for a board seat. The best way to get relevant earned media opportunities is to work with a public relations professional. The right PR manager will have relationships with journalists and publications in your industry. They’ll be able to offer your expertise as a source, or get you opportunities to write bylines and opinion pieces as a contributing expert. 

Our PR managers build PR roadmaps with strategic PR strategies that build on each PR win to garner more and better coverage. Some of the additional strategies we employ with our thought leaders include setting up speaking engagements, having them attend networking events, and helping our thought leaders engage in thought-provoking conversations on podcasts and through social media to increase visibility and credibility, and to help establish a distinct personal brand.

It’s also important to avoid negative media coverage, as it can harm your reputation and your chances of being selected for a board seat. This may include avoiding controversial or divisive topics, being mindful of what you post online, and avoiding any behavior that could be perceived as unethical or unprofessional.

Build a Network of Connections

Networking is a key aspect of building and maintaining connections. This can involve attending industry events, participating in professional organizations, engaging with others in online communities, forums, or on social media, and attending in-person events and networking opportunities. When networking, it’s important to be authentic, approachable, and respectful, as well as to listen and engage in meaningful conversations.

Having strong relationships with key individuals in your industry, including corporate board members, executives, and business leaders, can help increase your visibility and increase your chances of being selected. By being active in your community and engaging with others in your industry, you can build strong relationships and create opportunities for yourself.

In addition to building professional connections, it’s also important to be involved in your local community if you want to become a corporate board member. This can involve volunteering, participating in local organizations, or serving on committees. By giving back to your community, you can demonstrate your leadership qualities, commitment to service, and belief in a cause, while making even more connections and broadening your social circle. 

Speaking of relationships, don’t forget about the ones you’ve already built! Keep in touch with past colleagues, mentors, and friends. If you need to ask a favor in the future, you don’t want to be cold-calling a friend you haven’t spoken with in ages. Reaching out to people you already know and asking for introductions or recommendations can help you connect with the right people to get noticed, without the awkwardness of trying to present yourself to a complete stranger. 

While you’re building a network of connections, it’s also important to be a connector—someone who helps others build relationships and connect with others in their industry. Ultimately, curating your expertise, learning to leverage earned media, and building a network of connections are all about being in service to something. What can you offer to the media that people should know about? You’ve just met a brilliant small business owner who needs help with her accounting—and you know just the right person to call. An organization is experiencing a PR crisis, but you’ve been there 100 times before. No sweat. 

Similarly, when seeking a corporate board seat, it’s about understanding the specific needs and goals of the company. Researching the organization’s history, culture, and current challenges can help you identify the areas where your expertise can be most valuable. This information can also help you tailor your pitch and demonstrate your commitment to the company’s success.

If you’re a business leader looking to become a corporate board member, start by focusing on your relevant expertise, building positive earned media, and developing strong connections. By taking these steps and consistently demonstrating your value, you can increase your chances of being selected for a board seat and make a lasting impact on the companies you serve.


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