Why The Hell Aren’t You Personal Branding?
In today’s day and age, the corporate world is continuously evolving and keeping up with the trends is probably a lot easier said than done. Whether it’s updating (or setting up) your social media pages, moving your marketing strategy online, or developing an app version of your company’s product or service, the only thing that doesn’t seem to be on the lips of most is the concept of ‘personal branding’. Like it or not, doing business is becoming far less about dealing with a company than it is about dealing with a person (or people) behind that company. As Larry G. Linne says in his book, Brand Aid, “the individual is now more important than the organization.” What you should be updating, setting up, moving towards or developing, is your personal brand. So why the hell are you not personal branding? That’s the only question that should be on your lips.
Various industries and markets are saturated with cut-throat competition, an overwhelming choice of products and an endless line of representatives pitching why their company is the right fit for your business. But put plainly, consumers today are increasingly basing their purchase power and decision on the review that an individual wrote, the information that a person blogged, the experience that someone posted or the referral that one shared via word of mouth. Your next customer is most likely going to be someone that heard about you and your business through the comments and experiences of others, and that is precisely what defines your brand. It is a pinnacle statement that author and brand design guru Marty Neumeier made in his book, The Brand Gap, when he said, “Your brand isn’t what YOU say it is. It’s what THEY say it is.”
Some may ask what exactly does it mean to develop your own personal brand? Well, think of it this way. You can have an amazing product, a competitive service or a game-changing market plan, but at the end of the day we are all in the business of dealing with people and selling ourselves. How you sell yourself is going to become a decisive factor in whether or not your client will buy in, because while he or she is drowning in an ocean of competing products and services, what they’re looking for is that hand they can trust to pull them out. This trust is shaped by the reputation that others set for you. All you need to do is guide how you want that reputation to be shaped. That, my friends, is what is meant by developing your personal brand.
To actually develop it is another story. The easiest way to look at it is by breaking up your personal brand into three categories; physical, professional, and personal:
The physical category encompasses your physical attributes, appearance, mannerisms, body language, verbal language, attitude, emotions, basically any physical feature you portray to others that are subject to their interpretation. From wearing polished shoes to the firmness of your handshake, from the tone in your voice to the sincerity of your laugh, each physical portrayal should be scrutinised and steered in the direction that you want your personal brand to be shaped by others. How you present yourself to people you engage with is the face value of your personal brand and is generally what people will remember about you on first encounter.
The professional category comprises all those aspects that reflect your working behaviour. Being consistent with social media posts, punctual with deadlines, on time for meetings, having a strong work ethic, willingness to learn, to listen, to take risks, being business savvy, prepared for presentations, voicing your opinion when the time calls for it, taking on a leadership role, finding solutions to problems, delivering customer-centric service, the list is endless. More importantly, it is as much about how professional you appear as it is about portraying your level of professionalism in your field. People with strong personal brands are generally pioneers in their respective professions and are seen as the go-to figures when it comes to seeking advice, consultations or wanting to deal with a trusted brand.
The personal category includes your offline and online presence in a personal and private capacity. Your personal social media posts, pictures shared, comments written, pages visited, all of these that constitute your online social life can be major factors in defining your personal brand and should be guided accordingly. As Warren Buffet once said, “it takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Increasingly, we’ve seen countless examples of how the viral nature of certain social media posts can tarnish one’s reputation on a global scale. Offline, you can consider the various clubs or groups you join, the hobbies you occupy yourself with, the sports you partake in, the extent of your social lifestyle and nightlife, they are all nonetheless a reflection of your personal brand and should be monitored to shape how you want others to perceive you.
Developing and maintaining your personal brand is a steady and consistent practice of balancing these three categories, directing them to help create your desired reputation that other people will have of you. Perhaps the concept of personal branding isn’t so new age, particularly if Socrates some two thousand four hundred years ago proclaimed that “the way to gain a good reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear.” Until today, however, personal branding has never reached such a pertinent level of relevance. With the advent of social media, greater connectivity online, saturation of competitive markets and unprecedented choices of products, we should all be focused on steering our efforts to building the reputations we want our clients and prospective customers to have of us if we are to gain trust and business in this ever-changing corporate world.