26th August 2016
Before we get into it, I’m going to shatter the idea of a personal brand as an outfit you put on to display to the outside world.
An outfit which is always fresh out of the dry cleaners and free of imperfections. No, your personal brand is your identity. It is you.
Your personal brand is what people say about you when you aren’t around. It’s how you are perceived. It’s what they think the moment you walk into the room and before you have even opened your mouth. It’s whether you smile at the stranger you pass in the hall, it’s whether you give up your seat for the pregnant woman on the tube. It’s whether you voted. Whether you work out, whether you meditate. It is all brand you.
It is arguably more important than your academic accomplishments and resume, and the elixir which will help you to clinch that partnership, get that promotion, land that deal. It is your essence and the very thing that the world will buy into, so how to go about building it?
We must start inside out. Ask yourself who are you? The most successful personal brands amplify a business. Branson the awkwardly cool, non tie wearing serial entrepreneur with a social conscience, Dyson, the geeky inventor at the edge of innovation in household appliances, Jobs, the tunnel visioned super brain, and they are/were visible. They don’t hide behind their logo.
Inauthentic personal brands are not sustainable. Social media has meant that pretence is quickly exposed. Remember former LA Clippers boss Donald Sterling who was recorded saying he didn’t want his girlfriend bringing black people to games despite the fact 70% of his team were African American? Fined millions and forced to step down. Gerald Ratner, old school PR case study, referred to his decanter products as “crap” in a media interview and lost £500 million in shares overnight.
A desire for Integrity must be the foundation you build your brand off. Do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. We are human, sometimes we will mess up. But when you do, own your mess. Take responsibility, apologise, make it right and get back on the horse.
Don’t just do this for fear of losing customers, do it because it’s the right thing to do. People respect honesty and see through pretence. Nobody truly lives life through an airbrushed filter.
When my father was in the last weeks of his life, I wrote about my incredibly painful, yet joyous experience of caring for him in that space between life and death. At 3am on one of the hardest nights of my life, I shared it on Facebook. It was cathartic.
Then the vulnerability made me panic, was I over sharing? Was it inappropriate? The response from the huge number of people who commented saying they appreciated my honesty and then began sharing their own experience, told me it was entirely appropriate. Vulnerability is powerful.
When my card business Color blind cards began to take off almost a decade ago, I was all over the national media, from the broadsheets to National TV and the glossy magazines. Journalists loved this tale of a former teen mum who had triumphed over tribulation. I felt embarrassed that my less than glamorous start was available to the world, and it took a while for me to realise that my journey of life shifting from A to B, is exactly what makes me unique.
When my PR company is engaged by a client today, they often know my backstory and can expect an equally dogged approach to the building of their brand. There is an instant trust which bodes well for a working relationship because I am exposed, and therefore they can also be. In addition, my journey, and the tremendous learning which has accompanied it, is what differentiates me from the scores of other publicists in the market place.
I am not for everybody and neither will you be, but your tribe, your followers and customers will understand the language that you speak. They will nod at your posts in resonance, they will reflect your values, they will buy you… and what you are selling, in a beautiful, organic, authentic transaction.
Once you are clear on your own brand and what it stands for, you’ll be clear on who your allies are. Who are the organisations, individuals or companies who share your values as well as your target audience? How can you cross pollinate and tap into one another’s customer bases without compromising your brand integrity?
Once you can answer these questions you will be ready to begin to strategically raise the profile of your brand, but that’s a blog in its own right…
This article wouldn’t be complete without sharing a quote from one of the world’s most famed personal brands, “I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I’ve become. If I had, I’d have done it a lot earlier.” – Oprah Winfrey
Being honest and transparent whilst revealing your personal brand will make you feel vulnerable. Do it anyway.
Jessica runs monthly workshops at the British Library titled How to Raise Your Profile
See http://www.jhpr.co.uk/events/ for dates