Recently, during a digital catch-up session with some of my mentees, the point on how to build a personal brand, especially during these days when all the action is happening on the digital real estate, came up! Based on my experience over the years, here’s a compendium of the advice I have shared over the years.
Figure out who you really are
The most important step of all! While we all are caught up with activity day in & day out, as I learnt in a course christened “managers to leaders”, clarity on the “why” rather than focus on the “what” & the “how” is key to sustenance. Your audience needs to get a sense of what you stand for. Are you known for innovation or people leadership or turnaround or scaling up businesses? It is very important to set the base for all that follows. Does “Topline growth, brand equity, digital transformation, turnaround, global growth, strategic partnerships, scaling start-ups” convey the essence or does “I am typically the go-to person when people want to turn around their business to generate scale & profit” convey the essence?
Be clear about the audience before you put yourself out there
Who are you targeting? Is it a CXO level audience? Is it the rank & file? Any particular industry? Since brand building is all about the right horse for the right course, it is important to be the amongst the best (to stand out from the crowd) for the areas you have expertise in rather than be a Jack of all trades but a Master of none! Again, does “Banking | Aviation | Consulting | FMCG | Agriculture” help your audience identify you or does “Financial Services - Customer Focus| Partnership Building | Revenue Targeting” help them do it better? This is where many people lose out in terms of having the rubber hit the road. With the right audience, you develop targeted expertise which serves you well, especially during tough times. If you want to be known for everything, you will be known for nothing!
There’s no limit to the reinforcement on this aspect. A lot of people focus on building personas and since they are not sustainable, when the audience sees your real self which is in conflict with the image that you have built up, trust, which is of utmost importance in these situations, becomes the immediate casualty. And, when trust is broken, so is everything else since it is the foundation for everything that we do. Think of the number of apps customers have stopped using when their data / privacy was compromised.
If there’s a yardstick on which many brands fail, it can be consistency quite easily. Do brands stand for timeless values through thick and thin? Does your audience see your consistency across multiple social media channels, for instance? If your LinkedIn brand is all about being polished and prim & proper, do your Facebook clicks show a scraggy you? If you stood for decentralized / empowered decision making, do we see a post or two, showing you preaching to the contrary? It happens in real life! So, if you are clear and authentic, consistency is an automatic by-product!
Good brands are visible to you everywhere. So, if you wish to amplify your reach, ensure your presence on multiple channels – LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube etc. And in a consistent manner. Are you present in important industry forums, be it round tables or publications? A good brand is omnipresent in a channel-agnostic way since the message (and not the method) is what matters. Since the audience is scattered across multiple domains in the physical world or the digital real estate, boundary less omnipresence is of utmost importance.
Good brands leverage the prevailing mood to convey a unique point of view to the audience. For instance, when the pandemic hit us suddenly, good brands embarked on a communication blitzkrieg with their audience to educate them. So, are you constantly updating yourself on the latest trends & situations so that you are the first off the blocks in terms of joining the dots to convey meaningful insights to the audience? The early bird gets the worm!
Lastly, keep reinventing yourself.
Good brands pivot to the needs of the situation. If your context / audience has moved the needle on the digital way of life, get moving on that front. If the needs of your audience have changed, reorient yourself accordingly. As Scott Cook said, “a brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is—it is what consumers tell each other it is.”
We all know executives can be hard to shop for, even when that executive is yourself! So whether you’re buying something for yourself (no shame