Building a personal brand
My father is a brilliant man, good in business as well as a noble and respected individual. He strove to build a company that became one of the most important ones in the country where he lives, dedicating his entire life to his business and his family. When I began working, I followed the model he taught me: “work hard and make excellence speak for you”. Along the road, I discovered new ways to make my work talk aboutsay who I am, and realized that in order to stand out we need more than hard work: we must distinguish ourselves, be authentic!
The world that you and I face is not the same as the one my father lived. At that time, many companies only considered local brands as direct competition; people transit around the world was not as high as today, labor contracts were more rigorous;, everything was different. In my generation, any person or company can be anywhere and leaders can arise from different spaces; but either then or now, there is something that has been important and that remains valid: personal branding.
To look after one’s reputation is nothing new. This existed even in the times of my father, and he keeps a reputation that even I can feel proud of. Personal Branding is more than a fashion, it is an important element offor your success and for this I want to share a part of what has worked for me. Some of the ideas I will tell you may sound very simple, but don’t be fooled, they require reflection, honesty with yourself, patience and perseverance. and I know that precisely that, sometimes, is not so easy to have.
Experience has taught me that there are three important points to improve and achieve the building of a consistent personal seal, successful and viable personal seal throughout time.
- Be yourself
This is the philosophical cornerstone of any goal you undertake on the personal field; it not only works in matters of the heart but it is also good for business. When talking about personal branding, it is often mistaken to think that a profile different from what we are must be created and even worse, the creation of a version that contradicts what you are. When talking about a personal brand it is about building an image in the broad sense of the word, based on your singularities and if it doesn’t flow from you, it becomes tiresome and non-viable. Why? Shelly Lazarus, Ogilvy’s Personal Branding CEO has the answer: “If you’re spending every hour of the day pretending to be someone you’re not, you’ll be exhausted and won’t have the energy needed to face your real work.” What you must create is the best version of yourself.
Marilyn Monroe dreamed of being an actress and read books about “the thinking body” to learn how to walk and shake. She rehearsed in front of the mirror and her wardrobe evoked that sensuality and femininity that made her famousgave her the fame. If Norma Jean Mortenson (Marilyn’s real name) had dreamed of being the First President of the United States of America, her personal brand would have definitely been another because the attributes to highlight go hand in hand with the goals to reach.
In the same way, never forget, that the past is part of who you are. The second most common mistake is that people want to “start from scratch” and forget that on this digital social era it is almost impossible. Incorporate the past to your personal brand albeit from another perspective, since what is genuine helps to connect. An article from the Harvard Business Review on rebuilding the personal brand, points out that is common for recent graduates to work even flipping burgers. Of course, nobody wants this on their LinkedIn profile, but the goal is that you salvage the skills you learned there soand that you can apply them to your future challenges. For example, if you worked behind the counter at a Burger King, speaking about how you learned to deal with people or to meet deadlines without compromising quality can be the original and genuine take on your story.
- Find your own value proposal
Be different than others! I will tell you something that my father used to tell me and that is part of those words to be taken seriously: “You are unique”. Each one of us can and has skills that add value to what we do. When you are clear about who you are and about what is that thing that distinguishes you, the next step is to develop it in a strategic way and to create value content around it. Your personal story counts and it counts a lot!
Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Spain’s “Podemos” political party, built his brand based on his academic side. Iglesias was a professor of Political Sciences at Universidad Complutense de Madrid and from there began his criticism of the Spanish political system. He started showing on demonstrations by the “indignados” years ago and this provided him with a platform to create a party with some of his mates. His speech is delivered in a simple but informative tone, where sometimes he describes the situation and makes proposals under his own vision.
Pablo, in the same way as all those that build a personal brand for themselves, articulated a story around him. His history as a politician is based on the fact that he has studied the system enough to reform it for the benefit of all the Spanish people. This idea is reflected in numerous articles he writes, in the books he has published, and on the TV shows he is invited; in a nutshell, Pablo developed a theme and a story forof his personal brand. How can you do this? In the same way;, highlighting what you know, what has shaped you and dedicating some time to write, to give speeches, conferences, etc. Provide information to others and share what you know.
- Be Sociable
Your personal brand is as solid as your contact network. Back in the days of my dad, he didn’t have to worry about this. Jobs were forever and the cities smaller, so additional efforts were not needed to stay connected with acquaintances and friends. In the 21st century, keeping a healthy relation with your friends, acquaintances and coworkers deserves an effort from you since it is a tool that guarantees higher probabilities of business and even economic prosperity.
This topic is so important that the World Bank, on a broader definition called Social Equity, claims that a person has bigger probabilities of beating poverty or avoid falling into it, as long as they have a social media outlet that supports them.2
Even if you are too busy, try to attend social gatherings and conferences related to your business more frequently. Networking is a powerful tool to bonding with colleagues and to meet profiles that in the future may help you promote your brand. It is important to keep yourself updated about what happens around you and, in the same way, keep contacts updated about your life and preferences. Nearly 90% of work opportunitiesing or business possibilities are found among friends and/or clients3. If your social circle doesn’t know on what arena you move, it is very unlikely that you will be considered.
One of the mistakes we often make when we are trying to weave a network is to underestimate small contacts; when I talk about networks I am referring to everyone from the CEO toas well as the valet parking guyboy. Donald Trump would have never thought that the story of a former Miss Venezuela from 20 years ago could have unleashed a wave of accusations and reputation crisis like the one Alicia Machado created. You would be surprised to see the impact an opinion can have on damaging your reputation, or all they can do to enhance it.
Before wrapping upending, I’ll give you some practical advice that I have summed up by reading Entrepreneur, Harvard Business Review, and my own experience:
- Try to define yourself with only three features. Ask your friends and relatives to do it for you. Compare and analyze.
- Identify which feature shows again within your inner circles. Perhaps that is the differentiating element.
- Build your bBio around that value and highlight the learnings from the past.
- Make time to generate interesting content for those that share your interests.
- Take advantage of Social Media to share and leave your point of view about trends related to your goals.
- Keep your contact list updated. Assist and create networking spaces.
The argument regarding whether personal marketing is a fashion is over. The debate is about how to do it properly. On this subject you will realize that building a strong and coherent personal brand, brings many benefits since it can put you into a new level of your career and personal satisfaction. Today, you need more than a college degree to make it; if you have doubts, just remember with how many people you graduated and how many hold the same job title you have and in order to. To build your personal brand, I advise you to take this with you and remember the three premises: be authentic, be different and be sociable.