Just as you can use the Internet to find out everything about anything, anyone can use it to find out everything about you. In a way that sounds great. Until you realize that if you’re not in control of the content that is related to you, it can get discomforting, even daunting to manage all the publicity. And what if there is no publicity to be had? What if there is not much that turns up when you Google your own name?
Everyone from your potential customers to colleagues, employees, employers, competitors, journalists and even your friends actually, gather information about you using different channels online. So the question is — what are you doing consciously to establish your persona? What do you rely on to advance your career?
Building a personal brand is not something that should be of interest only if you happen to be an entrepreneur or a freelancer or in a leadership position. Irrespective of what your preferred working model is or what level of managerial position you hold, developing, establishing and managing a personal brand can greatly influence how you are perceived by others. It is a way of promoting your professionalism, your personality, and your ability. This is how you control your professional reputation.
On the surface, a lot of people could be doing what you do. Running marketing campaigns for giant brands like Nike. Developing code for AI chatbots and teaching them to respond in a sensitive manner. Creating graphical artworks that look eerily real. And yet, no one can do it exactly the way you do it.
Your human side is more appealing than a bland recitation of bullet points off your company’s powerpoint deck
Have you ever met someone and all you could think of was how hard they were selling themselves? Sometimes, people make the mistake of focusing on making a quick transaction and closing a deal. They make a lot of effort to sell their product, convince the prospect that they have a unique edge and that their product will transform lives. That’s highly myopic. The value of developing a long-term meaningful relationship can escape the equation in such cases.
We have all been taught the clear, concise, formal tone to take during our business communication classes. But do your articles, your talks, your presentations have to be lacking a soul? What if instead, you employed a tone that is uniquely yours, complete with all your quirks and humor?
Storytelling techniques are very effective in building an emotional bond with your audience. When you speak your truths you change how someone understands and connects with you. It spares you from having to put on a front or sound hollow. Personal branding allows you to humanize yourself as you interact with your audience.
You stand out from the crowd and people not only get to know you but actively seek you out
Personal branding is more than just showcasing your expertise. It is about being transparent and allowing others to learn from your experiences. It shows why you matter and by extension, why what you do, matters too. Your audience needs to believe you first before they will ever believe anything you are trying to sell to them. People want to associate themselves with those people whom they genuinely like. Brands like Apple and Disney don’t sell the idea of their products. They sell their vision. And they have leaders who are always engaged with their audiences.
Personal branding is the way for you to do just that. The aim is to build deep relationships with your audience because once you have done that, they will follow you wherever you go, irrespective of whether you change your organization, your industry or even your career path.
You gain greater clarity about your life and can focus on your goals more effectively
Personal branding does not mean you have to start talking about everything under the sun or cultivate opinions on what’s trending every day and start tweeting about it incessantly. Before you even begin to talk or write or speak, you have to ask yourself – Who am I?
Remember how that was the very first essay you wrote in school? How that, even today, is one of the most popular questions asked by employers when opening an interview with a prospective candidate? Personal branding is about expanding that narrative, continuously, consistently. You need to identify your strengths and vulnerabilities. Especially your vulnerabilities. Before you sell your product or your organization or your cause to potential customers, you need to show them that you care. But mostly, you need to convince them that you are like them, that they can relate to you, and can use your experience to improve their lives.
It takes some introspection to identify moments where your strengths and abilities shone through or when you overcame adversity. But life is not always about wins, is it? You will also need to think about the challenges you faced to get to the point you are at, at present. You must think back to the times when you failed at something, or quit. Think of what you learned from those experiences. Think of what insights you gained. Think of what values you finally accumulated.
Now think of a future-oriented story that draws on all these lessons. How does, what you do, contribute to others? How does it help society, the economy, the environment? How does it enable, empower and educate those who interact with you?
This is what forms the basis of your personal brand.
Personal branding is all about how you package and communicate about your self, your values, and your career. You attempt to become deliberately known within your business and social community. Freelancers, independent consultants, and solopreneurs benefit from it as it feeds into their business development and networking exercise. But even organizations, which are increasingly moving towards flatter, more self-managed systems, appreciate employees who are self-actualized and in pursuit of their potential.
Get clear about who you really are. Build your personal experiences and biography into your brand. This is your chance to align your natural gifts and passion around your brand and business.
Personal branding is not a one-time effort where you can just build a website or start blogging and run it on auto-pilot mode. You have to keep nurturing your personal brand throughout your professional life and allow your narrative to keep evolving.
To make a ripple in your industry, you will have to be your own publicist. You will have to work on brand YOU. Followers, work and benefits will eventually find you.