Personal Branding. The what, why, how and who
One of the most known personal branding quotes comes from Jeff Bezos, CEO and Founder of Amazon: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room.” A great quote, but many people I know deduct from it that personal branding is just a fancier word for reputation, which is not the case. It is so much more. Personal branding is sometimes also called impression management. Some people describe personal branding as your life insurance. Some others talk about a mark that you create for yourself. For me, personal branding is a self-marketing and communication tool. Since Paul Watzlawick, an Austrian-American communication theorist and philosopher, we know that we “one cannot not communicate“. Every behavior is a form of communication. Coming from this perspective, I would argue that you “cannot not have a personal brand“. You have one. And it is up to you if you turn it into a great or an average one.
Next point: “Why do I need personal branding?”
I’d like to share my top three reasons with you why I believe that personal branding is a must in today’s day and age.
1. You are human capital
In a free enterprise system, in modern capitalist consumer societies, we need money to not only survive. But to live a semi-decent life. And where do we make money? On the job market. Have you ever reflected on how we call this place? Job market! Now, what do we do on markets…? We trade products and services. Ok, so what does that say about you?
Exactly! You resp. your knowledge, skills and expertise are a product or service. And in a busy, hectic market you need to stand out in comparison to your competitors in order to be hired or get that project. If you position yourself in a great, in a positive and impressive way, people will choose you. And not the other individual. Because they know what they will get when they work with you and what you stand for.
An example: I recently read about a great social experiment, in which children were given carrots as a school snack. Some carrots were wrapped in simple, brown paper, the other bundle was wrapped in McDonald’s paper. The kids were asked which carrots tasted better. BTW, these were the same carrots of course. Guess which carrots were rated as more delicious? The McDonald’s carrots.
That is reason number one why you need personal branding: As a strong personal brand the likeliness that people will choose you radically increases. They trust you and they know what they get.
2. People google you
No matter if you go on a date or to a job interview. The person you will meet will type in your name into the Google search box. And believe it or not you have a problem in two cases. a) If people find unflattering stuff about you – like pictures of you semi-drunk and naked at the pool party last Friday – and b) if people find nothing about you. Who are you? A serial killer? A weirdo? We live in 2018!
With a great personal branding strategy, you can avoid both just-described scenarios. You will be able to share the information you want to circulate about you, that serve you and your targets; and once you understand how social media (for business purposes) really works, you also won’t post reputation damaging material.
Another example: A gay friend of mine was very active in a hand full of gay chat rooms. I figured this out when we decided to work on his personal brand, when I googled him. Well, I am a big believer in do whatever makes you happy. But when you are the CEO of an aspiring consultancy in the Middle East talking about sex, politics and religion in those chat rooms might not be the best basis for doing business… especially when your opinions are very liberal. But as always, I am only sharing recommendations. It is up to you what you do with them.
3. No effort, no results
If no one knows about you or what you do, how do you want great opportunities to enter your life? You need to put yourself out there. Especially in an era, which is flooded with information, data and updates.
Create a web page, polish your online presence, visit relevant networking events, be a guest speaker. There are so many further options that I am going to talk about in the last part of this article.
This is how “getting my brand out there” works for me: I do not do any cold calls and I also do not spam people with boring mails. What I do instead is sharing my knowledge and lessons learned with the world on a daily basis. Because of that clients approach me. I get up to 40 great leads that enter my mailbox every week. 95% of my clients find me through LinkedIn. The rest discovers me through my web page, recommendations or instagram.
Now, let’s talk about “How do I apply personal branding?”
If I had to divide the personal branding concept into categories, in which you can improve, I would identify four: Your inside. Your outside. Your offline and Your online presence.
Let’s start with your inside. These are the sub-points you have to work on: Your values, your mission, vision, passion and your unique value proposition. This is the foundation of your personal brand and one of the key reasons why the argument “personal branding is fake” does not make sense. It is based on you who you truly are and what you genuinely want.
As you can see, personal branding starts with a self-inventory. Don’t shy away from working with a life or career coach on these topics when you realize that you are stuck. And yes, some of these elements might change over time as you change over time, that is totally fine.
On the outside we have elements like your body language, your outer appearance, your presentation skills, your story(telling skills), your trademark and logo. Joining a public speaking organization like Toastmasters Internationalcould be an option to improve your communication skills. Working with a stylist or color consultant is always a good idea and a graphic designer will round things up.
I did not fall from heaven like this. To be honest, I hated public speaking three years ago. I did not know what to wear according to my body type and my recognition value was… not so high. And this is nicely put. Even if you are an introvert, these are elements you need to improve if you work in a modern job.
In the offline world, you can always invest in your knowledge and expertise, in getting awards, titles and writing a book. Think of expanding your social network, making your public relations work for you and do not forget some pro bono work.
These areas will require some more patience and being able to play the long-term game, but they are very powerful to prove your expertise and authority. Through these aspects you can show people that you do not only talk but also walk the talk. This is how you show that you are a celebrity in your niche.
And the last bit is your online presence. Here we have your (online) reputation, your social media channels, your content, your webpage, podcast or blog and our online community.
If you need support in this area, delegate these matters to content creators and/or join a self-study online course that will make you fit in this area. Or – even better – if you are looking for someone who will guide you through the whole process, invest in a personal branding coach. I know a good one.
Let’s finish with the question: “Who should use personal branding?”
Some people also ask, “when should people start with personal branding?” instead of “who should use personal branding”?
A short answer is: When you wake up, when you grow up and decide to take ownership of your life. Nobody is going to save you. Nobody is coming to fix all of your problems for you. You need to face and eliminate them on your own.
Personal branding is a fantastic concept for students to transition smoother and faster into their first jobs. Personal branding is great for executives who want to get a better job without writing CVs. It is even great for singles who are looking for a genuine, sustainable relationship. But hey, let’s stop here, because I do not want to give you the impression that I also share dating advice. I do not do so.
In the end, a great personal brand is aware of who he is, what he stands for, how he can add value to others, what makes him unique and what is important to him. And because of this self-work, self-awareness and his mission, he shares this information with the world.
The often-heard accusations of “personal branding is fake” or “personal branding is something for celebrities” or ” personal branding is just something for extroverts” simply shows, that a person with this mindset does not understand the wholeness and depth of the personal branding model – if you do it the Think Natalia way.
Personal branding is a concept we all need to invest in. It is a journey, a project that is worth the effort and time. In modern capitalist consumer societies, we need to build our own stages from where we speak, on which people see us and applaud for us. Nowadays personal branding is an essential prerequisite to design an independent, great lifestyle and career or purpose.
TOP Branding Expert