There are thousands of books, articles and papers available on the subject of product and services branding, and an equal number of agencies and executives across the world working on developing great brands. More courses are being curated as part of the curriculum in business schools and millions being spent on conferences and seminars to bring the experts in the field together to share their views. However, not as many conferences, courses and articles on ‘personal or individual branding’ make their way to the headlines! The fact is that all of us as individuals, too, possess the potential to be those great brands we revere. In a world that is fast to clone, it is worth thinking about what can then help individuals, in every ordinary walk of life, stand apart from the crowd and create brands for themselves. For individuals, the process can actually be simplified.
Firstly, to share some facts surrounding Personal Branding:
Effective Personal branding is not a spin. It is not sugar coating or artificial packaging. Its roots lie in authenticity. The image manufactured for the world, has to be the actual person in reality as well. If you play a role, one that is not real, you will quickly be found out, and you will exhaust yourself one day just living those perceptions. It also means that you live in a world in which If your approach is to wear a mask, you will fail. You cannot be what others want you to be. You will have to get others to see YOU for what you really are. The traditional models at the workplace were about doing as told, blending in and adhering to what was the ‘normal’. The new normal is to stand out. Current models are about passion, discovering meaning and purpose and about defining values. It’s about building your personal brand.
Personal Branding is not meant only for outgoing gregarious personalities. In fact, everyone, irrespective of their personality can possess a personal brand. Did you think the most amicable or social personalities are the ones who have their own brands? This is one of the biggest myths surrounding personal brand building. It supersedes personality, and rather is based on the strength of relationships!
Building a Personal Brand takes does not take time. It emerges as a reflection of your behavior. It is not a hobby or something you ‘do’ in your spare time. You can’t ‘do’ a brand. You build it, bit by bit, everyday, every minute. Every email you send, every conversation you have and every meeting you attend, is contributing to the brand you create.
It’s not just business, It’s personal : Can you imagine trying to say ‘ It’s not personal, it’s just business’ to any leader, teacher, or CEO who has spent half of his/her life at work and put their heart and soul into their work? Business is personal, because we each crave a deeper connection with our work, a connection that transcends position and power and money. It’s almost spiritual! We all want to be valued and recognized. And we like to know that we are making a difference when we put our heart and soul into something. Our work reflects our personal lives, and our personal lives reflect our work. If you have delighted your customers beyond the rule book, it’s personal. If you have lost sleep over a client’s loss, it’s personal. If you have gone out of your way for a colleague in need, it’s personal. If you stayed extra hours to help a team member, it’s personal. The fine line between personal and business has evaporated. Its not just business anymore, it’s personal.
We are connected- everywhere, all of the time. Your community partners will know what you are doing on your holiday. They will know if you are calling into work sick, but checking into a spa… or at your daughters PTA or just a shopping trip out. It’s all visible. You are being judged, and evaluated constantly. Your networks are receiving inputs and signals with everything that you say or do or don’t say or don’t do. You walk into a meeting late, you are sending a message. You borrow stationery from the office for an emergency at home, you are sending a message, you write rude emails, you are sending out a message, you do not reprimand errant employees, you are sending a message… you go out drinking with your team, you are sending a message. Your brand is being defined and tested every minute.
It is seldom that we are remembered for our professions…..more likely for what we stood for, what we meant and how we lived our lives..which tells us how important it is to build our character which defines our brand!
To begin creating a personal brand, you could follow a few simple steps:
- Identify your Passion: What makes you tick? Call out your strengths and label them. Get as close to the basics as you can and be eloquent about what it is you believe you have on offer to the world. Several attempts could be made before you can zero in on what really defines you. But what is important is to believe in the fact that you had a purpose in life before anyone had an opinion about it! Start where you are, use what you have and do what you can. Keep characterizing yourself. Precise, concise and consistent.
- Scale your Values to Articulate your Identity: Once you have defined yourself, you need to articulate your identity with your values. The Greek Philosopher Heraclitus had said that ‘Character is fate’. After all, if people like you, they will listen to you, but if they trust you, they will do business with you. Reputation matters tremendously. Admit mistakes if you make them. Work with all stakeholders to create mutually beneficial solutions to forge deeper relations. The base of all interactions should be Trust, Respect and Humility, fundamental human values. Every interaction should reflect your values. Brands don’t just live on the page anymore. They are living breathing things. It is important to build your brand that is aligned with your values so that your actions are aligned with the message you are putting out there.
- Resiliency & Growth : There may come upon some difficult times in your journey, which challenge your fundamental beliefs. The Valley of C, as this is often referred to, is the lowest point in a journey, from where on the only way forwards is upwards. To propel yourself out of the Valley of C, resiliency and growth are critical factors. These are important, because they provide the opportunity to recalibrate, fortify and endorse your authentic brand. It is important to not let these create fear or shake your fundamental values. Forge through with the strength of your relationships and behaviors. Keep an eye on the goal and allow no one or nothing to weaken your resolve to adhere to your core values. The waves will settle, and what will emerge is a phoenix of a brand. Live out your promises in an authentic way and demonstrate those in how you relate and behave with all your stakeholders.
- Don’t just Shift, Elevate: Constantly reinvent yourself and your offerings. ‘Don’t be part of the furniture’, as we often say at the workplace. It doesn’t help your brand to be one of the herd. You ought to encourage yourself to think differently, keep adding to your experiences and perceptions. Don’t close your mind. Absorb and challenge yourself to see perspectives you previously found difficult to fathom. After all, wheels on luggage were introduced by a man who challenged the conformist way of lifting luggage!
- Let the World see you as you are : The greatest power and impact of personal branding comes from thinking of all the above, holistically. If you speak at a forum, or at a professional association, identify ways to link it to the virtual world- like publishing your presentation online, or writing about your experience in your Blog, and uploading video snippets on YouTube. When you link the real and the virtual, you send a consistent message while amplifying your visibility and reducing the effort required to build a strong brand. Build a twitter following. Use Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and other networks to build a following. When you have an opinion, share it respectfully. When you produce some work, or do something meaningful, talk about it. Allow people to look through a window into your world. Let you work speak for itself.
In short, to build your effective personal brand, you need to work on your core architecture. Use your values to create your competitive advantage. Create a consistent messaging. Use your behaviors to out behave the competition. Generals wear their medals on their sleeves as a constant reminder of what they stand for, what they live for, and what they are willing to lay down their lives for. Similarly, your values should serve as your armor, your compass and your guiding light, directing behavior, sharing your message and articulating your brand!