What is Personal Branding?
Before we dive further into this topic, let’s discuss the term ‘branding’ first. Briefly, branding is the work involved in building a brand. So what does BRAND mean? The definition I love to use as foundation was given by Marty Neumeier, who said that the brand is your gut feeling towards a product, service or organisation. I would extend that to the gut feeling towards a person. Yes, a person can have a brand. Often we would use the word ‘reputation’ or ‘perception’ on a person. But when you ask “what do you think of so-and-so?” The answer is essentially that person’s brand.
How does it differ from Corporate Branding?
With regards to personal branding (as opposed to corporate branding) — the big question here is what can we do to BUILD that brand? How can we create a perception that matches what you want to be perceived for yourself. In fact, the question that precedes this should be — what do you want to perceived as?
In this regard, personal brand is quite similar to a corporate brand, in that we are talking about perception, image, reputation, opinion, aka… gut feeling. One way to distinguish the two is to see corporate branding as a collective approach, where a group of people come together to work towards a common vision. Whereas a personal brand is led by a person who has a vision, and is rallying his tribe to go with him.
Why is it important to work on your Personal Brand?
If you are reading this, I will assume you fall under one of these two categories — either you are an ENTREPRENEUR (employer, business man, business development etc) or you’re not. Personal branding applies to both cases.
If you are not an entrepreneur, whether you are just going after a career in the industry you are in, or constantly looking out for better opportunities, you need to look into personal branding.
Why? Because HR practices has evolved. I have seen the seeds take root in the early days of 2008 to 2014, when I was working in a HR tech company. Employers will do their due diligence on you before hiring. This includes scouring your social media and digital presence. Yes, people will google you. Question is, what will they find? When people skim through your social media, are they going to see qualities that will make you a valuable addition to their team or will they see signs of a bad fit?
Especially when you have been working many years in a company and are now looking for new opportunities, the CV is only a starting point. The journey to getting hired will now traverse the realm of social media, and perhaps culminate in having an interview. And on that interview, wouldn’t you rather your interviewers get warm with you because they see things they resonate with during that journey to understanding who you are, purely from the digital touchpoints? Or would you prefer to leave it to chance?
I’ve interviewed a fair share of people and those with websites, portfolios, relevant social media presence, blogs (i.e. aren’t afraid to express their opinions or where they stand) are far more interesting and more likely to clinch the job than the person who literally sends their CV as a word document with no personality whatsoever.
If you are an entrepreneur — regardless whether you are running your own business or working in a company where you have to put yourself in the forefront. We are living in the age of social media, and we cannot deny the impact a brand has when they are more social, more relatable.
Even if your business is a huge conglomerate or multi national corporation, you can still benefit from doing personal branding. Think Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. The spirit and vision of these corporations are embodied and personified in these personal brands. And in the extreme side, look at the previous president of United States, with his undeniable throngs of followers. His ridiculously frequent activity on Twitter is a channel to communicate and inspire his values to his followers.
The main rationale behind this is still relatability. People buy from people. The mission, vision, purpose statements are just words on a wall but it is people who live them, embody them, practice those values and ultimately inspire other people to take action. A company can be personified, but nothing beats seeing a literal person lead the way.
How to get started with Personal Branding
When thinking about how to get your personal brand off the ground, I would suggest remembering the acronym — S.T.O.P — it stands for Strategy, Tactics, Operations and Protocol.
It’s just a framework to think about how to go about doing things. Sometimes we may get confused about the kind of work to do. We might jump in to creating a bunch of Instagram posts but have no idea if this is the right direction. S.T.O.P can help put things in its right place.
Before you start with anything, it is always a good idea to strategise. But what is strategy?
Basically it is coming up with a plan on how to get from point A to B.
In the context of personal branding, strategy would consist of a few things. I’ll touch briefly on each area.
First off, audit yourself. Understand your purpose, which should arrive from a deep sense of self awareness. Don’t even skip this step. A clear sense of awareness for your purpose is essential to stay true to yourself while building a personal brand.
Next — having understood yourself and what your purpose is, look into learning and knowing your audience. I define audience as the people who will consume your content. They may or may not necessarily be your customers. Think of it as who will part away with their precious resource (time) and spend that on you.
Speak to them if you can, but try to understand what drives them, what they value in life. Figure out their objectives in relation to your purpose and value that you can offer. Feel their pains and gains. Try to list down their challenges and how you can possibly help solve their problems.
There are more things to strategy but the one other thing I would highlight is to think about your position in the market. You should minimally be aware of what is going on in your landscape, i.e. your industry, or your space. And through understanding your purpose, your value to your audience and what makes you unique, craft a position for yourself that only you can occupy.
When it’s down to tactics — start looking at the channels you will be deploying your personal brand development work in. Look at the nuances within each channel. Understand that each channel intends for their users to spend as much time as possible on the channel. There will be lots of feature overlaps.
Spreading yourself too thin across many channels might lead you to fatigue. So I recommend choosing one to focus, and leveraging the primary channel to extend your reach to others.
For example, say you are most active and comfortable on Facebook, as a profile. You would want to drive people to like your page first and start engaging from the page. Once you’ve got enough momentum and mass, you can point them to the next channel, perhaps Instagram, via occasional posts with a call to action to go to your Instagram profile.
And on each channel, utilise the functions as much as possible. Post natively, and observe native nuances for each function. For example, IG stories vs IG post vs IG TV and now, there’s IG Reels, shop and guide. Instagram is an ecosystem by itself. There’s a lot to look at instead of just posting stuff on the feed.
Once you’ve figured out your channels, look into the content you’ll be putting out — and base it off the strategy work you’ve done to figure out the best kind of content that will be valuable to your audience. In the tactics stage, you need to think about the process of content creation.
How do you be efficient with it because I’m very sure you are very busy with business and life. What can you sacrifice to get the momentum going.
Remember that in personal brand building, quality is in the quantity as well.
In general, tactics are going down to the details as to HOW to go about with the work.
In this level, the focus is in getting things done. Often it’s easy to stop yourself, thinking about whether you are doing the right things or not. Especially when you are not getting social validation. Trust me, it takes time.
After creating content, engaging and doing all the things as per strategy and tactics… you might find yourself not getting results. It’s very easy to trick yourself to stop doing the work and spend a lot of time trying to re-strategise or examining your tactics. But in truth, all that was needed was to do more.
Remind yourself that this endeavour takes time and you need to get critical mass and momentum, while crafting an appeal for your personal brand.
There’s also an element of practice. You WILL get better at this. The awkwardness and resistance to pen down your thoughts and opinions will decrease and eventually fade. You just gotta give it time.
Operations is also where you look deeper into efficiency. Who can help you with certain things that are starting to get routinised? When you are looking at this aspect, you are ready to think protocol.
This is where you start to document SOPs — Standard Operating Procedures. SOPs are series of steps whether in the form of flowchart or just numerical flow, to capture certain processes that has been integral to your brand building operations.
For example, an Instagram Protocol could be something like —
- Post with description and hashtags
- Tag relevant people in the post
- Share the post in story
- Update other channels to bring attention to the post
- Get your team to like and share and comment on the post
Just bear in mind that protocols are not necessarily set in stone. Especially with the fast changing world of social media, be open to changes in your SOPs.
Once you’ve got a couple of good SOPs, you can look to hire and train people to work on your processes and churn deliverables.
Even non-transferrable tasks, i.e. things you need to do yourself, e.g. answering comments or giving video replies… these things can be SOP’ed.
Where Personal Branding can take you
To conclude, personal branding is definitely a core area of focus whether you are running a business or working in one.
Whether you are an entrepreneur or someone who’s working in a bigger corporation, you can definitely deploy personal branding for good returns.
Try to apply the thinking methodology above, S.T.O.P and see if it takes you somewhere.
And if you’d like help or wish to discuss further, we are always a DM or call away.
All the best!