Article published by Charli at GameChangers Magazine
When it comes to business, most entrepreneurs recognise the importance of branding. After all, a strong, well-respected and instantly recognisable brand gives you a competitive edge. The question is; why do so many thought leaders, industry experts, CEOs and passionate employees dedicated to growing their dream career fail to acknowledge the importance of personal branding?
Personal branding – what’s it all about?
Personal branding is the process of marketing yourself and your career as a brand. This might seem like an exercise in vanity carried out only by those with an overinflated ego (we’ve all met characters like this along way). Instead, it’s the perfect opportunity to tell people who you are and the type of team leader, advocate and human being you want to be both in and out of work.
It’s not boasting about your achievements in a cringe worthy way. If you do this, you’re likely to be blocked by co-workers and given some rather unwanted glares across the canteen. Instead, it’s about identifying your niche, enjoying meaningful interactions with others and conveying very clear messages and values which explain what you’re all about. Be confident, original, interesting and establish credibility in a way that feels right to you. If you feel like everything you’re putting out into the world is a reflection of your true self, as a professional and a person, then you’re on the right track.
So now we know self-branding can be a good thing, how can you get the ball rolling? Here are some useful tips and ideas.
Learn what it means to be an influencer
Believe it or not, you don’t have to be a celebrity raking in millions of dollars per year to be an influencer. If you’re passionate about a topic and have unique insights that you think will educate and inspire like-minded people, then go for it. But be prepared to graft.
You need people to listen to you in order to make yourself known in your specific field and attract the attention of others. The more influencers who start to follow and share your thoughts, the more you’ll grow in popularity. So, where to start?
Tweet about key topics
Twitter is the place to be for influencers and if you want to stand up and get noticed, be sure to tweet about topics relevant to your industry as this will show you’re relevant and up-to-date.
Share recent achievements
If you want to be the go-to-guru for a particular subject; don’t be afraid to share your own insights and beliefs on social media as this will attract people you want to interact with. A great way to do this, is to link back to work you’ve published and talk about recent achievements or discoveries.
Engage with others
Don’t expect people to come to you, especially at the beginning. Reach out to others by engaging in conversations and debates – just be sure that anything you post online is a true reflection of your personal brand. Send direct messages to those who interest you and remember to reply to content that reaches your inbox. A simple re-tweet can also generate followers, so keep this in mind too.
Watch your reputation
We all know how easy it is for a corporate brand to acquire a bad reputation. In the same way you too can acquire a negative personal brand reputation if you’re not careful. Be careful not to tweet anything offensive even from your personal Twitter. Watch your tone when responding to emails, even if it seems they are unfair or aggressive. Similarly, be sure to be on time for meetings and to reflect your true character always. I remember one CMO telling me “Don’t bother about the little people, only impress the ones that matter.” There are no “little people”. Whether it’s the tea lady, the cleaner or the CEO of a huge multinational. Always treat others fairly and with respect.
Takeaway: Be meaningful and lead by example. To be an influencer you must demonstrate content that’s not only gripping and interesting to read but also which that challenges the norm and looks at things from a different angle. Following the crowd simply won’t be enough.
Choose the right networking opportunities
This is an interesting one. As you establish your personal brand and become known for your expertise, you may be asked to attend different networking events. Some may be great for your brand. As the Creative Director of Contentworks – a content marketing agency which tailors solutions for the finance sector – attending the iFX EXPO Limassol and speaking on the panel – is great for my business as well as for me as a professional. I have, however politely declined invites to speak at other events. This may be because the organisers have a bad reputation (guilty by association) or because the event doesn’t fit with our business ethos.
Declining invitations is completely ok if you’re polite about it. There’s no need to apologise, simply decline politely and wish them luck with their venture. Being confident in your own judgement is key here. Invites that don’t fit with your corporate/personal business attitude and beliefs are of little benefit so have the confidence to turn them down.
Takeaway: Know your personal brand! If you don’t, you run the risk of attending networking events that simply don’t fit with who you are and what you want to achieve. Remember that your personal brand is a precious thing once crafted, so spoiling it by being associated with the wrong events is not advisable.
Craft Your Approach
Companies with a strong brand tend to do well because they’re instantly recognisable and consumers know what they’re getting. Self-branding works in a similar way. If you love a bit of humour, why not make your brand fun, friendly and perhaps a little off the wall and cheeky? If you’re all about the facts and want to release serious, hardcore information into the world without any of the jokey ‘fluff’ that suits other brands so well – go for it! The trick is to be consistent and true to yourself.
Takeaway: When crafting your approach to self-branding, think carefully about your strengths and weaknesses. If you don’t have a funny bone in your body, don’t attempt to create a witty personal brand – it simply won’t work. The more you develop a strong personal style, the more recognisable you will be. People will get used to your tone of voice and come to love your brand.
Be Prepared to Give
If you want to build your brand, it’s really important to network and that often means giving up your precious time – for free. Distributing articles, attending seminars and meetings, talking to followers, answering questions and entering debates all takes time. But it’s that graft that will help you to make valuable connections. Whatever you put out there, try to be useful. The more people need your content, the more they’ll come back for more.
Once you have achieved a “known” personal brand status, then you can re-evaluate your time and costs. Do I still give articles for free? Yes. Do I give them for free to low grade sites? No. Once you are a known thought leader and have built your brand you can be choosier about what you give. Until then, give as much as you can without complaining.
Takeaway: Work on your energy levels. Brand development doesn’t come easy but the more you appear in spaces relevant to your interests, the more well-known you should become. This takes energy and time management, both qualities you will need to master.
Set Personal and Professional Goals
Coca-Cola is a very well-known brand, but do they sit back, put their feet up and stop pushing forward? No way! Everything from creating ads to launching new products takes time and you can be sure that there are specific targets and goals that must be met to achieve the desired results.
When you’ve establishing your personal brand you’re not done. Set goals. Decide what you want to achieve in a specific time frame and map out what you need to do to get there. This means re-evaluating your time and how you spend it. Look at your day to begin with. How many hours do you spend watching Netflix and how many hours do you spend building your brand? Personal branding does not happen overnight, it usually takes years. That means you need to keep setting goals and pushing forward.
Takeaway: Have short-term and long-term goals. While a short-term goal might be to build your social media following, a long-term goal could be to appear on the speaker’s panel of a certain event.