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Personal branding - How to get started

(Image credit: Image Credit: iStock)

Today’s digital era has ushered in a lot of changes. The most notable being the need for an individual to have a ‘social presence’, which is a part of a larger concept called as personal branding. In this age defined by FB, LinkedIn and Instagram to name a few, branding oneself is as relevant as ever. Having said this, it is also critical to note that personal branding is not limited to online medium, it can be built offline as well.

According to a research conducted by Sylvia Ann Hewlett at the Center for Talent Innovation, building a personal brand is the best way to attract a sponsor and professionals with sponsors are 23 per cent more likely to get a promotion as compared to their peers. This research highlights the value of building a brand for career growth. To define it, personal branding is the practice of marketing oneself and one’s career. This can involve a wide variety of activities such as having a personal web page, blog, portfolio of work and the like. However, this concept should not be confused with the idea of self-promotion.

A personal brand can lend a lot of value to an individual's life. It allows the individual to showcase one’s best self, understand their strengths and weakness, stand out from theirs peers and competitors, build a community of likeminded individuals, establish credibility, demonstrate their value through actions, solidify their niche, convey their message and values and be more confident. More importantly, it is important to keep in mind that everyone has a personal brand regardless of whether you set out to enhance it or not.

Is there a relationship between personal branding & business?

The value of personal branding in business is not very clear cut and demarcated. The value and trust a person’s name lend to the business has the highest chance of making or breaking a business. A very basic example of this is the idea of brand ambassadors. Remember how Accenture & Gillette dropped Tiger Woods soon after he got embroiled in scandals. This is a prime example of how business by choosing to associate or dissociate with a person, aims to modify the business image they want to represent to the world.

Yet another survey conducted by Deloitte pointed to the importance of personal branding to business. The survey found reputation damage as the #1 risk factor for all business executives around the globe and 88 per cent of those surveyed reported that they are focusing on it as a business challenge. The research also highlighted that 41 per cent of those surveyed were of the opinion that reputation damage translates to loss of revenue. With reputation damage being the number 1 risk faced by companies today across all sectors globally consider online reputation management as an integral part of their corporate training. This involves training the company’s HR and business leaders in hiring and associating with individuals of good repute. Once again, you can see how building a good personal brand is essential.

Importance of personal branding in driving sales

Did you know only 33 per cent of buyers trust messages from a company, while almost 90 per cent of them trust recommendations from someone they know. This proves that marketing is more effective when an individual speaks to an individual. Another statistics highlights that 92 per cent of individual trust recommendation from individuals(even if they don’t know them) over companies which once again goes to prove the value of human touch in marketing. Along with this, when you consider the fact that 65 per cent of people trust online search of people and companies (Edelman 2014) before making any crucial decisions, the value of personal branding becomes all the more clear.

There is also a growing body of literature available today that correlates online search and sales. A research conducted by Edelman revealed that 65 per cent of the people surveyed value online search results as the most trusted information about people. Another study found that 53 per cent of decision makers decided not to connect with a vendor based on the information they found or didn’t find online. All this points to how having a presence ie personal brand is critical to driving sales.

Personal branding: How to start

We all agree that personal brand is essential to everyone today regardless of whether they are an employer, entrepreneur or simply an individual trying to make a career. As mentioned previously, having a strong personal brand can help to propel an individual’s strengths, play down their weakness, increase their credibility and most importantly attract new opportunities. While building a personal brand might seem a piece of cake to many, there are few seemingly small things that can hurt their brand efforts without them having an inkling off it. These are discussed in the remaining part of the article.

Have a clear understanding of the purpose

Narrowing down the focus of a personal brand is critical while an individual builds their personal brand. The first question anyone should ask themselves while building their  personal brand pertains to the outcome they want to achieve. Understanding the purpose will help an individual to sharpen and hone their messages and actions. The goal can be anything, from sharing their knowledge, experience, demonstrating their worth to potential employers, marketing their start-up or just to increase their credibility. However, the most critical aspect while building a brand is to not to proceed with a vague idea of the desired outcome, for instance an aim of becoming an ‘influencer’.

Refrain from excessive self-promotion

Excessive self-promotion goes against the very goal of personal branding. It should always be at the fore of an individual’s mind that personal branding is not essentially self-promotion. An excessive self-promotion will lend an advertising angle to their brand, thus losing out on the majority of the audience. A lot of literature available today advice that only 10 per cent of an individual's messages/posts should be self-promoting in nature.

Brush up your social media skills

Poor social media habits can prove detrimental as it plays an important part in an individual's branding efforts. This is especially true for those who want to establish themselves as thought leaders in their respective field. Another important thing to keep in mind is to steer clear of controversial topics. The opinions an individual doles out today can be taken out of context and misinterpreted later which can undo their branding efforts.

Pay attention to offline mediums as well

As mentioned above, the relevance of social media today is indisputable. When we look at the major influencers today, a large part of their popularity can be attributed their solid base in social media. Taking this into consideration, it is however a folly to operate under the assumption that traditional media can be safely neglected. Face-to-face interaction still provides a lot of value and opportunities to brand yourself. Relationships that are build offline can prove to be even more long lasting than virtual relationship forged online. Networking events, conferences, volunteering are some of the ways in which an individual can demonstrate and elevate their brand. 

Be consistent in your work

Lastly, the most important thing to remember is to avoid falling into the trap of under-delivering. This can be crucial in impacting the number of followers an individual garners. When an individual creates expectations, it is critical to their brand that they deliver to it. For instance, if a blogger promises to publish 2 to 3 articles per week and then they don't publish anything for a week, it will have the consequence of losing the trust of their target audience which will undermine their personal brand.

Vibhuthi Viswanathan, SpringPeople