Today's top-performing executives get ahead by being good at what they do, but also by investing in the development of a narrative, story, and image that the industry refers to as a personal brand. This is actually an incredibly important, and fun, activity for any applicant to consider before approaching an employer about a role. A personal brand articulates what differentiates you and demonstrates your value as a serious participant in the business. And, it doesn’t hurt to have a strong personal brand when you’re already in employment and looking for your next role; differentiation and visibility are key, as we will explore.
what are the benefits of having a strong personal brand?
Done right, crafting a strong personal brand can advance both your personal visibility and influence, while also benefitting your employer’s brand and reach. Having a limited or sub-par brand means that you are missing out on business opportunities, both internally and externally. As such, many organisations help with executive communications and training for their leaders, to help build a profile to ensure the executive is known before an email is sent or a meeting is taken.
Rather than limiting your identity to a short bio, or an ad-hoc social media presence, you need to participate in real, meaningful, authentic, high-value social interactions. Whether online or offline, professional image management is an ongoing process and a long-term investment in yourself and your relationships with clients, colleagues, and other business collaborators and players.
This is about brand building and showing that you're innovative, demonstrating your leadership capabilities, displaying your attitude, and offering an authentic and human face to the market and your colleagues. It's also about becoming a voice that should be heard, efficiently connecting with people that matter, and leveraging your network. There are so many benefits of building a strong personal brand.
Ultimately, everyone is a CEO of his or her own brand, and you need to stay relevant in today’s worklife market, where careers are boundaryless, individuals are as good as their last gig, and “you are your own enterprise.”
how do I start to craft my personal brand?
Simply beginning to work on your personal brand can often be the hardest part. I say this as an executive coach that has worked with hundreds of executives and helped play a part in them understanding how to get the answers they need and navigate through the process.
One way to begin is to pick some topics or themes representing your current expertise areas. What are the issues in your market? Have a look at a sector news website to give you some inspiration if it isn’t immediately. Alternatively, consider how you’d like to be positioned as you transition from where you are to where you’d like to be.
If you need help identifying topics, think about the dream job you’d like to have in the next few years and work back from that, or how you’d like your network to think of you. If you also consider your area of work, your experience and credentials, as well as what your network seeks your help with, you’ll see a pattern. Then, simply begin sharing content related to those topics, creating a consistent storyline for yourself.
In order to think about curating your personal brand, consider the following questions:
- How did you get where you are?
- How do you do, what do you do?
- What is your unique perspective?
- What do people want to hear about from you?
- How can you inspire or empower others?
- What can people learn from you?
- How can you control and position your brand image to move forward in your career?
- Where do you want to go with your career?
- What will it take for you to become a leader in your field and get that ultimate role?
getting comfortable with promoting your brand
Many executives are uncomfortable speaking about themselves and their achievements, both online and offline. There are typically a range of reasons for this, but most commonly it is due to some level of imposter syndrome. There are instances where people are very good at their job within the business, but when it comes to talking amongst their industry counterparts, or in a forum where they might encounter peers, they just cannot find the words, and so it is just (misplaced) modesty.
What is important is to be able to speak authentically and, in a style, and manner you are comfortable with. It’s not about strutting or showing off and boasting. In life, both professionally and personally, we must all sell ourselves to someone at some point, if not continually. Whether this is as the ideal choice for a promotion, setting out as an entrepreneur, or finding your perfect partner.
It is about showing the world what you do best.
Some hints and tips to help you get comfortable:
- Practice saying it out loud – whether recording yourself on video, with friends and family, or with friendly and supportive colleagues.
- Use LinkedIn and other online platforms - Start commenting on others' posts and sharing articles with your personal observations before posting your own content.
- Track your progress and work - Compile a strengths and skills journal to keep track.
- Be proud of your achievements - Own your successes and build a strong narrative to discuss them confidently.
- Be natural and authentic - Weave relevant items into everyday work conversations, building up over time.
- Always add something - Be informative and make it fun and keep the energy and flow natural and positive
Effective self-promotional strategies are all about finding the balance between demonstrating your skills and boasting about them. Get this right, and you could find doors suddenly open to promotions and new opportunities.
When it comes to self-promotion, the key is that it’s about how other people know you to be, not what you feel inside. This starts with self-awareness and being proactive. Think about yourself and your reputation. How do you want people to perceive you? And, how can you provide the world with living proof that you are what you say you are? You’ve got to walk the walk and be your authentic self, so tap into what you identify with, and don’t waste any opportunity to build on your core strengths.
It could be you’re a good communicator, have a high level of empathy, an understanding of how to build businesses, or a natural ability to sell.
Investing in your personal brand carries even more weight when you’re responsible for developing and leading others. When you have a team looking up to you for guidance and inspiration, it’s important to remain consistent in the way you lead.
incorporating your personal brand into everyday executive life
Taking your brand into the real world requires effort, drive, and proactive networking. Using your brand to develop stronger relationships takes effort and planning. This is often overlooked and underestimated. A quick way to get this process up and running is to make sure you diarise regular networking, be that online activity, meetings, or calls.
Networking extensively will pay huge dividends, particularly in the medium to long term. This will signpost and open career pathways, it can lead to unexpected opportunities, will ensure you gain more collaborative work and strategic partnerships, recruiters and talent acquisition professionals will start to come to you with opportunities, it will bolster personal learning and development, will drive ideas and innovation and will position you firmly at the centre of your company and industry.
Be open and vulnerable, develop a growth mindset and be prepared to make mistakes. Make sure you show your authentic self. You want people to trust you and see that you come as an ally and collaborator. Have a positive attitude, be solutions orientated, and be an approachable ‘go-to’ person.
Have a short sharp agenda to ensure value and impact. Consistency, with regular follow-up with contacts, is essential to gain trust and optimise the value of relationships.
Even for digital personal branding, It is all about human connections, from building initial rapport to educating your audience about yourself and the value you bring, in order to establish credibility and ultimately leading to building trust. It takes time, and there is never a better time than now, to start.
Networking begins with finding common ground and a focus. Think about joining groups or events with a single point of interest and develop relationships naturally from there. Lead with your strengths and skills and back up with evidence of accomplishments. Ensure your conversations have mutual benefit –what you can do for them first.
Something I see as both rewarding and beneficial to this process is volunteering. When you give, rather than ask, you bring authenticity to the fore. Lean in and request to be involved in activities and projects outside your role responsibilities, or perhaps seek out a volunteer programme at your business. Typically, there are multiple projects, initiatives, and committees going on at any one time, across an organisation. Don’t forget these can also be more social or extracurricular in nature.
Hopefully this has given you the inspiration and confidence to begin developing a personal brand. In my next piece, I’ll discuss working on a PVP or Professional Value Proposition and how that can benefit your personal brand process.
In the end, personal branding and executive positioning is not just for executives, it is for those keen to get ahead and further their development and career. Building your brand is a journey throughout your career and life. It’s important for everyone to consider. And thankfully, easy to get started on today.
If you’re committed to this, practice using the tools and techniques in this article to gain confidence and to progress your career. Ultimately, personal branding is one of the most fun parts of career development, and the more you put into it, the more you get out.