Personal Branding and the power of your presence!
What does your personal brand say about you? Is what you project what is perceived? To stand out from the crowd means honing your personal and professional skills
Forget your CV. Forget your track record. One of the things that speaks volumes of who you are, where you are going, and why others in the business world need to take notice of you falls out of your personal brand. It radiates what you want it to and helps you to develop a powerful presence by creating the perception that you are an authority in your industry and therefore, deserve to be taken seriously. More often than not, when building a career, your personal branding is half the battle won.
This hot topic was put under the microscope in an enlightening Nexford webinar run by Jennifer Bangoura, EdD, Nexford’s Director of Career Innovation, and Angela Maiers, The Global Grid Mentor, Founder, and CEO of Choose2Matter.
The easiest way to define personal branding is if you take one of the most iconic leaders in business we have ever seen, Steve Jobs. Before Steve Jobs’ was Apple, before Steve Jobs was Steve Jobs, before he was surrounded with the concept of a powerful personal brand, he was just like most people, sitting contemplating the future of the world and more importantly, his place in it. When he sadly passed away, Steve Jobs’ personal brand of leadership, boldness, and creativity resonated with over half of the world’s population. Of course, there was a reason for that.
Believe in the power of your presence
When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is, and you need to live your life withing those confides. That’s an extremely limited life and one that you should not have to settle for. You must look inwardly and believe that you have the power to change it, influence it, and build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again. But that takes a lot of self-belief and the knowledge that you can build a better version of yourself and as such, a better personal brand.
Often, we think of personal branding as I need a logo, I need a cool sign, I need to figure out what my colors are, and what fonts I’ll use on my website. Branding is not about creating a logo, it’s not about finding a catchy name, and it’s not about even establishing a business. Branding at its core is the process of defining your world and figuring out what your place is in it. That must be done before someone else decides and defines our place for us.
You were put here to do something, to make an impact, to put a dent in the world. Your brand is your pathway to achieving that.
What is this thing we call a personal brand?
Finding and defining your brand is 100% about self-awareness. It’s not only the beginning of all personal branding, as Aristotle said, “It is the beginning of all wisdom.”
Self-awareness is a really misunderstood concept and it’s not necessarily talked about. We just assume people have self-awareness. Through self-awareness, we can figure out not just our strengths and weaknesses, but how we’re going to use our uniqueness to make that impact in the world.
Gary Vee is probably one of the greatest experts on self-awareness and the major part it has to play in building a stand-out personal brand. He agrees that the trait is the most underestimated superpower that we have. Self-awareness is the modern additive in business.
Angela Maiers says, “I started teaching self-awareness early which is built on the question of Who am I? Who you really are is more than simply what your strengths and weaknesses are, even though that’s a part of it, It’s about those deeper questions. What do I stand for? What do I believe in? What do I value? What do I offer? What do I know? How am I going to make an impact? Being able to build on those answers is a process that you will go back to over and over and over. This is Steve Jobs stuff.”
This is the foundation of being self-aware and the foundation for finding, developing, and building a powerful, sustainable personal brand. And words matter. Using generic words in today’s economy, and today’s ecosystem will not be anything that will move you forward. It is critical that you select words that not only encapsulate all those things, but in addition, differentiate, elevate, and advance you. For if those words don’t excite you, they’re not going to excite someone else. You’re just the essence of you, so these words are important.
A brand’s not what you say about yourself, it’s how others perceive you
The second phase of the process of building your brand is to figure out what other people perceive you to be without any input from yourself. The quickest way to find out what others are saying about you is to Google yourself. This is not a test of ego, it is something that you must do regularly because it demonstrates how congruent your brand foundation is.
Hopefully, you will come up on the first page, if not, you have some work to do. This sounds like a basic exercise but it’s very necessary, as, in today’s workplace, 94% of recruiters, employers, and future colleagues will Google you before they personally interact with you to ascertain if you are worthy of being hired. Frighteningly, 75% of individuals that did this exercise were not satisfied with the results. If that’s you, you need to course-correct, and quickly.
Jeff Bezos used to say your brand isn't what you say about yourself, your brand is what people whisper about you when you leave the room.
We can influence that perception, that idea if we are more diligent in what we build on our personal profiles and our personal interactions.
Angela Maiers says, “Any time any human being interacts with you or hears your name, you need them to understand that you don’t just believe in the message of mattering, you are living the message of mattering.”
This is stepping up. If people are categorizing you and recognize you as a change-maker, a disrupter, or a leader, but you’re not calling yourself that, or you’re not embracing what people see you to be, you must take action. Even though you might not think you are worthy, you’ve got to throw that imposter syndrome away and say, this is how my community not only sees me, but my community needs me to be.
This exercise is incredibly humbling, and it is something that you won’t just do once, but that you will constantly do to invite self-reflection and world reflection. The best you happens when your brand’s foundation is built on a foundation of congruency that who you are according to you, and who you are according to how the world aligns to you, is the same.
I am what I am!
Sustaining and maintaining a personal brand is more than maintaining your website, typing up, or cleaning up your social media, it is about your commitment and your diligence to remain who you truly are. This can be a very real challenge.
Angela comments, “The world will try to put you in a box and shape the direction you’re going in. However, the strongest brands are the ones that are the most self-aware so that even if the world is saying this or that and pushing you to act in a certain way, you need to reflect and say that this is who you are, and what you were meant to do.”
To do that, you must find a way to align, to get congruent. The three aspects of your branding and public life revolve around, ‘who you are,’ ‘what you do,’ and ‘how you do it.’ If you can do this tightly, and get to congruence efficiently, you will have unpacked your unique value proposition or UVP. This is the essence of ‘who I am,’ ‘what I do,’ and ‘how I do it in a short and straightforward way that you can share with other people.
The tools to sustain your value and your brand
Number one: The first tool is to get your name, your real name, your full name if you can, on every domain, and every space you operate across. No unrecognizable names as remember your brand is your story. Your brand is your name. Even if you have a business, even if you work for a business, you are not your job. You are you and your story matters. So, there are a million places that you can go to register your name.
It costs anywhere from $5 to $9 a year to secure your name if you have a non-popular name. If you have a name that is incredibly popular and so it’s not available, try the best you can to help keep consistency with that name by maybe adding a dash, a period, or a shortening of your first name.
No matter what you do, make sure that every one of your domains, your spaces, your places, is consistent throughout. That means, when people find you, even if you’re not high ranking on one site, it will be the totality of your consistency that will change your Google results.
Number two: Alerts, alerts, alerts. This is not just doing an initial Google search or an initial social media search to see what comes up when you are searched, or what comes up when people mention your name.
This is consistently making sure that you are aware of people’s perceptions of you and what you’re associated with and related to. So, you can do that using Google Alerts’ free Social Mention. Every time somebody mentions you on Twitter, or Instagram, you will get a notification so that you can find out if people liked or didn’t like you.
Number three: Be the resource. This should be your number one brand strategy as most people spend 70% of their time on social media, curating information, and being the person who can solve the problem. You need not be the person who knows everything. You want to be the person who can find everything or be connected to people that can find things that your community is wondering about or worried about. So set up accounts on curation sites and customize them.
Number four: Design matters. In a world where seven billion people are online every day and everybody wants you to pay attention to their stuff, the more consistently designed your things are, the more aligned your email signature is to your website, your LinkedIn page, or to your Twitter profile the more you’ll look like the person associated with that brand.
This takes a bit of time, but what is beautiful about the design community is that it has been democratized so instead of having to spend 1000s of dollars hiring several designers, you have access to professional free sites like Canva, or Google Slides or templates, which you can use to make your brand look polished and professional, but even more importantly, consistent.
Number five: The fifth tool which very few people take advantage of is blogging and positioning yourself as a leader or influencer in your field. Every day people are looking for experts or insights on stories, so if you are a subject matter expert, pitch yourself as somebody who can answer those questions. For example, you can do that by volunteering to be a guest on a podcast. This is how you grow your influence and grow your following.
One size doesn’t fit all
It would be fabulous if there was just one way to build your brand, but there is not just a lock stock and barrel process. If somebody tells you they can build your virtual personal brand over just three workshops, run from them. This is a journey that is absolutely personal. It is something that requires diligence, practice, patience, and commitment. There are no quick fixes, but with the plethora of research and books and courses, branding and personal branding is not a nicety anymore, it is absolutely a necessity.
Mark is a college graduate with Honours in Copywriting. He is the Content Marketing Manager at Nexford, creating engaging, thought-provoking, and action-oriented content.
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