Personal Branding: How to Get Attention in a Noisy and Competitive World

Personal Branding: How to Get Attention in a Noisy and Competitive World
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Today’s professional world is ultra-competitive. Whatever, degree, skill, or business you have, there are thousands if not more who have similar if not better credentials. Plus there are various predictions on how AI and other technologies are already wiping out many jobs or will do so in the coming few years.

So how do you stand out in a crowd, manage to stay alive, and have a sustainable career or business? Here is what I believe based on what I’ve learned since 2004:

We are living in the era of knowledge economy. What this means is that among other economic resources, knowledge, trade secrets, and innovations that we can bring to the table and leverage are equally critical and beneficial.

So what does this mean for you regarding competing with the best?

Learn, relearn and unlearn as much as you can on a regular basis. As I often say to the youth (who seem pretty ecstatic about having just graduated),

Your actual education starts AFTER you graduate. So do take those selfies in graduation robes if you like (I didn’t as I was busy working), but remember you will be facing the toughest challenges of your life when you step into the professional world.

In the professional world, one has to learn not only from books, Youtube, and lectures but also from observing how others are doing. One excellent way to learn is to join the ranks of those who are doing excellent work. For instance, why not join a great startup and put in extra hours to really learn from the best?

  • Help someone you look up to and want to emulate, and when they ask how they can pay you ask for nothing expect their mentorship. Trust me that’s the best ROI you can get instead of some quick buck.

Also, while it is cool to read funny memes or share cat videos on Facebook, your phone can help you learn on the go in a huge manner. For instance:

  • You can listen to excellent podcasts on entrepreneurship, marketing, branding, growth hacking, and more while working out at the gym or running a 5K.
  • You can listen to an audio book via Audible while commuting, or stuck in traffic or a queue, and improve your knowledge base massively.

A personal brand, in the simplest words, is the image people have of you. It is how you can get known in your industry or niche. It is how you get opportunities come to your digital doorstep (i.e. your inbox) rather than you chasing them.

Whether getting job offers from the best companies that you admire, or attracting funding, clients, potential partners wanting to work with you - a great personal brand can make all of it happen in no time.

I won’t go into details of what your personal brand should look like, and what vision should you have, as there is tons of material available on that already.

But what is less clear is once you figure out all the intricacies of your brand, how do you promote it? This is what I am to talk about next.

Speaking on topics where you can deliver true value to an audience is an excellent way to teach, inform and motivate others. And, of course, it builds your brand as an authority and expert.

Long ago, when I was in college, I was once asked by a class fellow to do a comedy skit in a stage show. He suggested that as he had been a witness to the witty retorts I would come up in the classroom (instead of studying). But I laughed dismissively as I didn’t have the confidence or the self-belief to get on stage.

Fast forward a few years, I considered becoming a part-time lecturer in a local university (while running my business) but the pay was so minimal I decided against it. But I did start conducting a few guest lectures.

Since then, I‘ve spoken at a number of universities, conducted various Google Business Group workshops, and spoken or conducted trainings at a few events and organizations in Dubai. Along the speaking trail, I’ve been invited to appear on webinars, online radio shows, and some rather influential podcasts as well.

The reason I am sharing this with you is that if you had told me back when I was in college that I would be doing all of this one day, I wouldn’t have believed you. Plus, this also goes on to show that sometimes we miss good opportunities just because we don’t have enough self-belief and/or the right mindset.

“Destiny offers us many chances but we have to be willing to open the door when the opportunity knows.” - Syed Irfan Ajmal

Today I do keynote speaking (a lot) and it’s one of the most effective ways to learn, to share knowledge, make excellent new contacts, build a personal brand, and yes, build and grow a business.

How to find a speaking gig?

Start locally and get in touch with local associations, chambers of commerce, business incubators, tech accelerators, etc. Many tools including Facebook Events, Eventbrite, and Meetup are great ways to find out relevant events. Forget about getting paid much (or paid at all) in the start and rather focus on providing value.

It is necessary to pitch at least 3-5 months in advance though lesser time may be okay for smaller events. If you have no experience, contact the university or college you have studied in and pitch them a topic that you know can help their students.

Also, consider speaking to other industry events. What I mean is, if you are an IT professional speaking at IT events may not bring you too much benefit normally. So why not speak to an association of FMCGs on how digital tools can help them in inventory management and logistics?

What if you don’t know what to speak about?

I had once read it somewhere that, “if you spend about 10 hours learning about a topic, you already know much more than 90% of other people”. Plus since many people are lazy (or busy), by speaking and reporting on what you learned is an excellent way to provide them value, and in turn, be known and respected as an authority and expert.

What if you are nervous?

Recognize the presence of fear and continue with your speaking gig anyway. It surprises me that even though I am a pretty confident guy, I do get a tad bit nervous right at the time when I am to get on the stage. But I accept its presence without letting it overpower me.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” - Franklin D. Roosevelt

However, it’s important that you are well prepared; and creating an excellent presentation and starting it in an impressive manner is an important part of your speaking gig. For instance, it’s rightly mentioned by Speaking Empire, that today’s audiences are the most distracted in the history of mankind and this it is necessary to “Command immediate attention.” This can be done by using a strong opener such as asking a question or telling a powerful story.

Additional Help: This article by Calm Clinic has some excellent information on the primary reasons that cause speaking anxiety and some methods to manage it effectively.

4. Write for Large Publications

Just like speaking, you can write for large publications and provide value to the readers, and in turn, boost the impact of your personal brand. Now you may ask why can’t you write for you own blog? You surely can and you must. However by writing for a large publication, you attract it’s massive audience to your blog and that’s just one of the benefits. Another is that by associating your name with a large media outlet, you get your audience to notice as well as respect you and your personal brand.

Just by writing for various large sites since 2014, I have been able to close bigger deals, build better relationships, and grow my brand rapidly.

Here in this interview, I share how I got published in the Huffington Post. In the interview I share that you should do your research about a target publication to find out what they write about and the style used etc. Also you should contact the editor of the section (that you wish to write for) directly and use a well-crafted pitch that highlights your previous writing work and mentions a couple of really specific article ideas you have for the target publication.

If you are looking for more detailed advice check out Personal Branding 101: How to Brand Yourself for Success.

Building a strong personal brand is about providing value at the right platforms. Once this is done on a regular basis, it creates or enhances perception, trust, and affinity - all of which enable you to get the results you want by standing out and shining in a crowded and ultra-competitive world.

What are some of your tips on how to build your personal brand and get noticed? Do share in the comments below.

Popular in the Community


What's Hot