In a constantly evolving world, effective leaders use their personal brand to grow and develop, communicate their unique value, and manage the perceptions of constituents or stakeholders.
What’s personal branding?
Personal branding is a process of self-empowerment. It allows leaders to develop more self-confidence, optimism, resilience, credibility, stronger positive self-image and identity, and greater clarity of purpose. Through personal branding, leaders shape their reputation and the expectations others have of them.
A true personal brand is not a logo, tagline or elevator speech. It’s a strategically crafted message that communicates consistency through multiple channels. This includes both online and offline presence, such as speeches, conference presentations, publications, networks, social media connections, and testimonials authenticating their positive contributions.
The benefits of developing your personal brand are several-fold, including to:
- connect with what’s important in your life;
- discover and articulate what you stand for;
- build inner power and authority;
- communicate your uniqueness and differentiate yourself from others; and
- attract opportunities where you can apply your key strengths in ways that inspire and motivate you, and provide meaning in your life while positively contributing to others.
As a leader, a useful question to consider when preparing your personal brand is:
‘Why should anyone be led by you?’
5 Steps for building a strong personal brand
1. Identify your major failures or life crises
While this may initially appear to be contradictory to building a positive personal brand, it’s not. It’s simply counterintuitive.
German philosopher, cultural critic, poet and composer Friedrich Nietzsche once said “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.” A key element of personal branding is being able to demonstrate that you know how to stand up after falling, and can learn from mistakes, failures and life crises.
Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again. ~ Nelson Mandela
Take stock of your life. Search and identify significant life crises and unpleasant experiences or events you faced during times of adversity, and reflect on how you overcame them. For example, was it your ability to reach out to others and ask for help? Was it your resilience in keeping on trying? Was it the humility in admitting that you were wrong to someone else? Or making the necessary amends to someone to recover a valued relationship?
Write these things up, making sure you distil and articulate their essence – what exactly did you learn from these experiences? How have they played a role in building your character? And most importantly, how have you used them to prevent future mistakes or to rise from other life obstacles and adversity?
2. Write down your signature strengths, values and key achievements
We all have a unique set of strengths and virtues; that is, things that we are ‘good’ or ‘strong’ on. It’s very likely some of them emerged when completing the previous step.
Nonetheless, I urge you to search for more. A useful way of doing this is by taking stock of your past achievements. The purpose of writing them down is to own them fully so that they’re at your fingertips. Connect with them both mentally and emotionally. Make them truly yours. Make them the key characters of your unique story and value proposition.
Additionally, consider using tools such as the Signature Strengths Self-Rating Scale, an online questionnaire like the Values in Action (VIA) offered by the VIA Institute on Character, or the range of questionnaires offered by Dr. Martin Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, which are designed to measure character strengths and aspects of happiness. You can use them at no charge and your responses will be used in research about happiness.
Further, and especially if you have not done so previously, I highly recommend you do a values clarification exercise. This entails identifying and describing your top five personal values. Being clear about your personal values, and how to articulate them, is an important part of a successful career plan. Your value system comprises your beliefs concerning your mode of choice and conduct.
Leaders need to regularly and publicly behave in line with their values.
By now, you should have identified your values and signature strengths, which have emerged through various ‘personal themes’.
3. Craft your unique branding message
This step is about preparing the media to share your story/message with pride, honour and humility. This will build your credibility, trust and respect with your constituents.
Once you’ve identified your signature and character strengths, you then need to integrate them in to your branding message. Don’t underestimate this step. It takes time and thought. I recommend using a mix of images, photos and a few written words. A good way to do this is using a PowerPoint presentation; even though you might not use this presentation, it will help you to compose, add a visual dimension to your branding message and rehearse it. Create several versions until you’re happy with it. The next step is testing it!
4. Validate your message
This step is about validating, testing and refining your existing brand message. To do this, share your message with six people you trust and respect, who know you well. Make sure you select a balanced mix of people. They might include your spouse or partner, a trusted friend, two colleagues or peers, your boss or superior at work, and someone that reports or has reported to you. Your presentation should not take more than 10 to 15 minutes.
Once you’ve gathered their feedback, use it to refine and polish your message and take it to the next level. This should culminate in a bold and unique personal brand statement (PBS), which conveys your promise of value to others.
5. Share your story with the world
Now is the time to spread your personal brand with the world by sharing your brand story. Create as many opportunities as possible to share your brand message. This includes weaving it into your master or life plan (life vision and purpose, and careers goals and objectives) and careers marketing tools (e.g. bio, CV or resume, and any other printed or online digital promotional materials). You could even write a book!
If you would like to discuss creating a personal brand message in more detail, or any other leadership development related issues, contact Sebastian Salicru direct on +61 (0)413 777 591 or email firstname.lastname@example.org