I had the opportunity to address women entrepreneurs, professionals and academicians at the 2022 Women’s Economic Forum held at Katowice on October 8 and 9 by WICCI Poland. In my address, I spoke about the merits of personal branding and why investing in it means being your best within and to the world around you.
Every day, as we go about our lives, although we may or may not be conscious of our personal brand, it works for or against us.
Knowing what it represents, how others perceive us and diligently pursuing a strategic approach to curating our personal brand gives us a competitive advantage. From getting noticed for assignments within a firm or being sought after for business that organisations need done, to rallying people for a cause that you want to further, the opprtunities are endless for a personal brand of repute.
Although counterintuitive, personal branding is an inside-out approach to help other around you succeed while presenting your authentic self to the world. Investing in your personal brand takes time, effort, courage and most importantly – resilience.
To be ahead of the game with your personal brand, it is important to know the trends shaping our lives and how they influence what we do and how we can be portrayed. For example, the rise in individualism globally, the overlap of skills (a cashier and a customer service representative have a 70% skills match), consideration for brands that align with personal values is increasing and people trust experts the most.
Women face tougher challenges at work and beyond. By 2030, 40-160 million women globally may need to transition between occupations. They own fewer businesses – just 1 in 3 is owned by women. A third of women (from a survey by Deloitte) took time off due to mental health concerns, cited difficulty to switch off from work, worry about career progression and 50% plan to leave their current employer in the next two years. Also, the fear of failure is holding back women entrepreneurs – they are 10% less likely than men to undeterred by the fear of losing in business.
Personal branding isn’t about being someone else, being fake, just engaging on social media, focusing on increasing followers or boasting about your achievements.
Read more: Personal Branding: 6 Reasons That Might Be Holding You Back
Your personal brand can be helped in a few ways – for example, getting testimonials can determine hiring success. Likewise, to gain sponsorship and move up the career ladder, your personal brand can be a decisive factor. Just popularity online isn’t sufficient – credibility matters. In a study among journalists, those with verified accounts saw bots engaging popular followers while unverified accounts witnessed increased activity to increase followership. Resilience is crucial with women entrepreneurs staying a step ahead of men, according to Mastercard’s Index that tracks progress in 65 economies globally.
There are downsides to personal branding as well and we need to be mindful of the gaps. Too much exposure can also attract criticism and knowing how to handle it helps. Often ‘packaging’ can lead to inauthentic engagement. Being honest and factual helps more. Those involved in public work also are exposed to threats and bullying – for example, journalists. Using social media is a double-edged sword. Knowing that what you put out is important because content lives permanently, especially online.
Managing personal branding crises is crucial to avert long lasting damage to reputation. Recently, a leaked video of the Prime Minister (PM) of Finland partying privately with friends caused a ruckus about the fine line between personal life and professional work. While the PM was quick to get in front and address the questions, even taking a drug test to clear her name, the concern about what people do in their free time while holding visible public office came to the forefront. “I am also human. It has become difficult. But I want to believe that people look at the work we do, not what we do in our free time” she said.
Another example I thought worth highlighting is the recent announcement by Sebastian Vettel to retire and the message he shared in a video to his fans. What struck me most were these lines.
... Being a racing driver has never been my sole identity. I very much believe in identity by who we are and how we treat others, rather than what we do. Who am I? I am Sebastian, father of three children and husband to a wonderful woman. I am curious and easily fascinated by passionate or skilled people. I am obsessed with perfection. My goals have shifted from winning races and fighting for championships to seeing my children grow, passing on my values, helping them up when they fall, listening to them when they need me, not having to say goodbye, and most importantly being able to learn from them and let them inspire me.
Note the emphasis on identity, the ability to change gears and reinvent himself while staying true to his values. Also, that he acknowledged his human limitations and his responsibility as a family man - great traits of a personal brand.
Also, I felt the enduring image of Federer and Nadal holding hands and weeping at the former’s farewell match showed how personal brands can demonstrate vulnerability and authenticity.
Finally, it boils down to character and lived experiences and that can’t be done without purpose, plan and passion. My 3C Model of Personal Branding available freely (discusses clarity, commitment and consistency. Also my book – Get Intentional highlights the importance of positioning, building expertise, adding value and reinventing yourself while communicating your journey continually with stakeholders. Irrespective of your role, age, occupation, identity or orientation, there is always a way to build, sustain and scale your personal brand.
You may like this: 7 Reflections to Demystify Personal Branding
Most importantly, you need to appreciate the world around you, think of the other, design your offering and focus on giving back in ways that matter.
This article was also published on Aniisu K Verghese's LinkedIn or aniisu.com