“Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”
These words by Tom Peters, the American author who writes about business management, aptly sum up what a personal brand is all about.
The internet and mobile have opened up the globe to each of us. With 140 characters (in case you don’t like the 280), a short video, or even a meme, you can say a lot about what you think and feel. Hence, it becomes all the more crucial to understand and approach personal branding with clarity and a bit of caution.
Personal branding is a time-consuming activity that does not convert into overnight success. Hence patience is of the essence.
Barring a few overnight sensations, who mostly crash and burn as soon as they arrive, it takes immense effort and time to build a steady community or a tribe of followers. Building the tribe from the ground up allows you access to their undisputed patronage, given that you stick to your end of the bargain. These are people or groups who know and trust you and consume everything you produce.
Loyalty and trust take time to build, which most entrepreneurs refuse to make peace with and bow out even before the first brick has been placed on the foundation. So the next time you open an inspirational quotes article, just do a quick search about the icons, and you’ll realise the toil, commitment, and patience they invested to build their brand. That’s what their brand stands for – what does yours?
“Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful.” – Sir Richard Branson
When you limit access to your brand to just your peers or a premium class of people, you lose out on the community aspect of brand building. It is not an affair for elitism or social nitpicking, as a true influencer is someone who interacts with the community at large.
Like Seth Godin said, “ A brand is a set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for our consumers’ decision to choose one product or service over another.”
Not everyone comes forward and answers questions plaguing the industry you are in, or even shares so much about their life. But it’s something that pays off in the end. Take, for example, Gary Vaynerchuk (CEO of Vaynermedia) who replied to every comment, tweet, and post he received while promoting his brand online. He spoke at conferences and events and spent about 20-30 percent of his time on-stage or online, which made him stand out and relevant at the same time. This is what “sweat hustle” is all about, and that’s what differentiated him from other influencers who are now starting to lose steam.
In the words of Simon Mainwaring, “The keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity, and accountability.” These account not only for success in life but also for the success of Me Inc.
Understanding the self: Even before you put yourself out there, you need to pause and ask the big question – who am I and what do I stand for?
Transparency: You need complete transparency while answering the two above-mentioned questions. You have to be honest with yourself and honest with the world about who you are and what you stand for.
Authenticity: So you need to be authentic at all times. A very apt advice on the subject comes from Peter Gruber, the Executive Chairman of the Golden State Warriors, “Truth is a point of view, but authenticity can’t be faked.”
From what you say to what you do, there needs to be absolute authenticity, because personal branding is an extension of yourself. Faking it can never be an option since branding is a continuous process of interacting and connecting with people.
Accountability: You are accountable for yourself and for your brand. Don’t ever forget that. “Your brand is a gateway to your true work. You know you are here to do something – to create something or help others in some way. The question is, how can you set up your life and work so that you can do it? The answer lies in your brand. When you create a compelling brand you attract people who want the promise of your brand – which you deliver,” says Dave Buck, CEO of CoachVille.
To summarise, building a personal brand requires a bucket load of patience and monk-like composition while being mindful of the time and energy it requires, not to mention the authenticity and accountability it demands.