Personal branding has been quite the buzzword these days. However, no one using it in casual conversation genuinely seems to understand what that means. Today, we begin this article with a question, and a fair bit of warning- are you really ready to sell yourself? In the best possible way.
There is no denying the fact that for every successful Instagram Influencer and Travel Blogger, there are ten who have not made the cut, or worse, made the cut and hated every moment of it. It is no easy task to brand yourself every step of the way and become a package.
Recently, LinkedIn released it's annual list of Power Profiles, essentially examples of members who invest in their own professional brand and continue to inspire the community around them. They list 73 professionals across 8 categories – Influencers, CEOs, Technology, Marketing & Advertising, Internet, Human Resources, Finance & Social Impact. There are politicians and celebrities and also CEOs, Founders, Thought-leaders, and professionals just like you perhaps. Those who have made the list can tell you how much effort goes into creating meaningful dialogue, engaging with peers, and sharing their work and expertise and opinions. Their effort has paid off.
Let’s talk a bit more about how personal branding works.
Simply put - Personal branding is a way of reinforcing who you are and what you stand for in your career and life.
Most of us and many of you even as you are reading this may believe that branding is out there in the distant horizon, best left to Coca-Cola and Apple. You are well qualified, you are sincere, diligent and produce good work (ok, great work) so the work should speak for itself. You spend a significant part of your career thinking this, but in reality, if no one else in your company or peer group knows about your accomplishments, they won’t really count for much. If you work hard and smart, the impact is not a given. Your personal branding will have a direct impact on your career trajectory.
We’ll let you in on a simple, oft-overlooked, secret- personal branding works like any other branding. Yes! Personal branding coaches go so far as to help design a colour scheme and language for everything you put out. So the first step in personal branding is Knowledge Of The Self.
1. Get To Know Why You Sell: This step requires a thorough introspection of who you are in a professional environment. Are you dependable, smart or savvy? Are you the first one on the team who learns quickly and never forgets? Do you often work harder than everyone else to get things done? Most importantly, do you see yourself continuing to have the same values many decades later as well?
Don’t stop at that either! Ask colleagues and peers what they think of you. Think back to every compliment you received (and perhaps shrugged off) in a professional setting. They are indicators of how others perceive you, and therefore the attributes about you that make an impact.
The next step in personal branding is projecting this information correctly. Next, once you are done with brand positioning, comes the visual aspect. The same applies to you as well.
2. Develop The Visual Elements: Many of us worry that dipping into the personal branding pool means a wardrobe revamp, excess networking and fake conversations. In reality, it implies just the opposite. Some of the key elements that you must build and work on are: Authenticity, Expertise, and Consistency. Follow profiles on LinkedIn's list that interest or intrigue you and you will see these elements stand out.
Yes, there is also a more obvious visual element to keep in mind. Your attire, social media posts, presentations, etc. can also show the same three elements mentioned above. The idea of this exercise is to reinforce the memory of you in other people’s minds. A personal logo may really be pushing it too far, at least in the beginning. However, zeroing in on a font for your creatives and a watermark for the photos you click could be a good idea.
Now that you have the essential elements in place, it is time to grow! It might seem like once you have the basics in place, your personal influence should grow by itself, but we know just how much noise and information there is in today’s times. Therefore, growth is up to you as well.
3. Grow Your Authority: Posting on social media with your specific brand guidelines in place is one way to start building recall. Take the example of Alok ‘Rodinhood’ Kejriwal, whose name and style of writing is instantly recognisable on any platform. Abhijit Bhaduri's cartoon sketches are unique. That’s the level of recall we are aiming for. Today, LinkedIn seems to have become a platform for preaching. Step out of that mould and write instead about insights from experiences.
Remember, building a personal brand does not mean only projecting the best version of yourself. It also means admitting mistakes and flaws and sharing the journey with others. Make a list of some influencers in your chosen domain and observe which among them have a loyal following, and who get trolled. You will see the difference for yourself in the content they post.