Personal Branding: The Key to Making a Lasting Impression
We often hear ‘first impression is the last impression’ and many swear by it. Although some disagree and so do I, many do believe life offers ample opportunities to make an impression and name for oneself through repeated iterations if one fails in one vocation by shifting focus and succeeding in something altogether different. Usually, such possibilities are aplenty provided one perseveres.
In the long journey towards ‘success’, people get a helping hand from their personal brand. The essence of personal branding has been succinctly stated by Jeff Bezos in this quote: “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”
Metaphorically, the entire personal branding is the duration you spend as you ‘enter the room’, creating a first impression and the moment you ‘leave the room’. It is during this available ‘impact slot’ that one leaves a personal aura behind for others to talk about.
The term Personal Branding first appeared in an article written by Tom Peters in 1997 and can be broadly defined as a continuous process to develop and nurture an individual’s name by employing multiple strategies to keep it aglow.
If we are to time travel, we will learn that for ages the Japanese have believed individuals own three faces:
-The first, is shown to the world.
-The second, is shown to close friends and family.
-The third, one never shows to the world but usually remains the truest reflection of who one is!
The personal brand that one knowingly builds is usually borrowed from the first and second faces. It rarely touches the third one. There are quite a few famous autobiographies that were published posthumously, astonishingly revealing nuances of the third face of those authors that the world never knew during their living days.
Purists have noted that the brand ‘You’ comprises of four elements that coalesce seamlessly to give each individual the uniqueness that sets one apart from others. These are:
- How others see you (Your Reputation)
- What sets you apart from others (Your acquired USPs)
- What makes you 'You' (Your Inherent Qualities)
- How you want others to see you (Your target Image)
Personal Branding is a continuous process to achieve a distinguishing ‘mark’ that is created around your name. You use this ‘mark’ to express and communicate your natural skills (inherent qualities), acquired expertise (USPs), values you bring to the table (reputation), and personality thus formed therefrom (image).
Before deciding to establish a personal brand, three pertinent questions need to be convincingly answered. They are :
- Why? (The purpose to have a personal brand)
· To help one stand out from the crowd.
· It could be a door opener leading to future opportunities, often unexpected.
· A strong personal brand imparts advanced information to the audience and their keenness to engage increases.
· It helps to build one’s reputation thereby boosting confidence manifold.
- How? (The process to create a personal brand)
·Building one’s brand is a continuous Work-In-Progress (WIP). In this VUCA world, to position oneself uniquely vis-à-vis competition, consistent augmentation is needed both on skillsets and image.
·Share your expertise gradually. Build momentum and generate interest amongst your target audience proportionately.
· If needed, employ the ‘trial and error’ method. Exhibit different traits of one’s personality. See what clicks and works best but while doing so be true ‘you’.
·Keep exploring till one discovers the sweet spot. Don’t hesitate to do course correction, learn and re-align the navigation as needed to ultimately arrive at the ‘final product’.
· Make meaningful conversations as you build the brand’s structure. Don’t just add to the noise or repeat what’s already stated.
- What? (The benefits to accrue from owning a strong personal brand)
·Powerful personal brand helps one to grab larger mindshare resulting in faster recognition amongst peers.
·Helps to turbocharge one’s career and attract opportunities from beyond the visible horizon.
·Offers networking opportunities with industry stalwarts.
Having established a personal brand that often takes years to make, just like any other property, one needs to be extremely protective to safeguard it:
a) from rivals who could make sly attempts to tarnish the brand.
b) from slippages due to individual oversight or negligence.
For some, an excessively overbearing personal brand can also be very difficult to endure. Remember John Bradman, son of legendary cricketer Sir Donald Bradman, who found it hard to live up to the famous surname and cheekily changed it to Bradsen for some time in a bid to shun the spotlight though later reverted to the original - Bradman.
Building a personal brand should be of interest to both rookies as well as seasoned professionals. Continuous moulding and adding facets should be an everlasting passion. One should never become complacent and stop growing.
At the end let’s recollect a small anecdote: While drawing a sketch Michelangelo, considered the greatest Renaissance artist of his age, scribbled “ancora imparo” meaning “I am still learning” at the age of 87 – buttresses the fact why his name has remained immortal even after 500 odd years.
(Views expressed here are personal)
(Country General Manager of a British MNC in India)
(About the author: A business executive with more than two decades of corporate experience spanning the globe, writing is a passion for Sabyasachi. He primarily writes on buzzing management and leadership topics.)