By: Samia Hasan
What do you wish for people to say about you when they think of your name? What do you want them to see when they type your name on Google search bar? Do you want to be seen as an expert in your field or would you want to just be there with a lot of content, yet not standing for anything?
All the brand gurus will tell you that a winning brand needs to stand for something of value to its customers — be purposeful, compelling, own-able, recognizable and most of all consistent. If all these factors are crucial to building an iconic brand, why are the same aspects important for your brand as a person?
Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a corporate professional, crafting your personal brand and keeping it alive will take your career or business to new heights. As an entrepreneur, you are the public face of your business. Your clients and customers on social media want to know the real you. Giving them access to yourself as a person allows them to feel closer to you, which in turn makes it easier for you to establish trust and connection. People buy from people they know, like, and trust.
As a corporate professional, consciously working towards your personal brand helps you rise above the clutter. It enables you to shape the desired image with internal and external stakeholders. It’s also an aggregation of the impact that you have on the careers of others, on driving business results and on your broader community. It’s not whether you can do your job; it’s what separates you from all of the other professionals in your company.
Here are my top five strategies to help you build your personal brand on your path to having a successful career.
Know who you are.
As Oscar Wilde says: Be yourself, because everyone else is taken. An essential part of developing a personal brand is mustering the boldness to discover and express authentically who you are and own it. The type of boldness I’m referring to is born out of courage, hard work, blood, sweat and tears, and a complete acceptance of who you are, what you stand for, and what you are willing to do about it. Your brand will be comprised of mistakes and successes that are publicly known and privately kept. This internal deep dive typically takes the most time as this is where your vision, values, purpose, passion, strengths, skills, experience all come in harmony and congruence with each other to let your unique light shine through.
Know where you stand.
Perception is reality. Start to learn about how your brand is currently perceived with this simple exercise.
- List 5 adjectives that describe your brand
- Ask your manager, team members, reportees, mentors, sponsors, and trusted colleagues to do the same
- Compare and contrast the lists to assess similarities and differences. Were the adjectives descriptive of the type of image you envisioned for yourself? Do people who work with you on a daily basis perceive you differently vs. the ones who don’t engage with you that often?
Similarly, conduct an online audit to see where you stand. You can have hundreds of friends who know you personally and think highly of you, but unless you reach the millions online, you will not create a powerful personal brand to accelerate your career. You need to assess your brand quite often and keep improving on it, especially if the feedback you are getting is different from the “you” that you want to portray.
Define who needs to know you.
As is the case with winning brands, they know their target audience inside out. They know who they are talking to and why, they know where to find them. They understand their needs and wants; on a deeper, behavioral level. If you haven’t yet thought through who is your message for, this is a desperate call for action to do so. Make a list of your most important customers, stakeholders, networks, societies, communities and understand what would it take to influence them.
Craft a compelling story.
Knowing yourself at your core gets you only so far if you don’t find a way to package it in a captivating, genuine and provocative story. Few things can communicate that knock-your-socks-off level of energy and engagement like a story can. Ask yourself, why you? What do you offer that your target audience values? Why are you credible? Having an authentic personal story makes you memorable, differentiates you as desirable, helps you connect to your target audience and positions you as a visionary in your field. Be open about your shortcomings and weaknesses. This will make you all the more human and relatable.
Make yourself visible.
Now that the tough part of shaping the brand is out of the way, we get to the fun bit of how to reach your audience. Multiple ways to approach this:
- First off, start with building relationships – easier said than done? Approach it with an open and collaborative mindset. Instead of asking favors at the very first interaction you have, you want to build relationships that are mutually beneficial, which takes time. Just like anything worthwhile does.
- Don’t be afraid to self-promote. If you have done the above work right of creating a brand that provides value to its audience, then you will never come across as salesy.
- Have a stellar online presence. Goes without saying, this is a no-brainer for the vast majority who wakes up and sleeps with phones in their hands, but it does take a lot of time and effort to manage. Every blog post you write, every picture you upload, every tweet you send, every status update you share, builds your personal brand. Leverage it to your advantage.
- Be seen and heard by booking speaking engagements that cater to your target audience. Start small, and keep building. You may not land high-quality events off the bat, but if you keep swinging, you'll build your following and get invited to speak at more notable events. Buckle down and offer the greatest amount of value you possibly can.
- Become a thought leader by writing articles and participating in interviews that establish your credibility. I, for one, surprised myself when 2 months into writing my blog, my articles made it to Huffpost.
- Remain a student of your industry. No matter how well you know your area of expertise, in the VUCA world we live in, you have to stay up-to-date with the latest changes and trends. If you fail to stay relevant, all of your effort will be wasted.
I’ll wrap it up by quoting Warren Buffet: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Your brand is your calling card. Consistency and professionalism is the key to building your personal brand and reputation.
Samia Hasan helps millennials to know who they are, and achieve what they are capable of. She’s the founder of millennial experiences at Direction Dose - Career coaching, startup consulting, events, workshops, writing and speaking. She’s an ICF certified, Strengths Strategy career coach, NLP Practitioner, based in Dubai. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary session and www.directiondose.com.
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