By Ronelle Bester, MD of Red Ribbon Communications, South Africa
If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that no job offers guaranteed security, and that the ability to evolve quickly is what sets survivors apart.
For those who have spent years in a stable corporate job, networking and personal branding may be a foreign concept. But whether you are forced out of your old role, or the changing environment makes you decide to change tack, personal branding is something you will have to master.
If the world is a marketplace, and you are a commodity, your brand needs to communicate who and what you are, and what value you add.
Where to start?
Treat yourself as a one-person business, and start by defining your vision, mission and goals. Write down what your purpose is: (What do you do? What is your big idea?), what your values are, and what your differentiators are. Much like a business does, you should also consider your brand identity (are you going to be a credible, trustworthy voice, an educator, or an expert in a specific industry? Will your brand be quirky, have a sense of humour, or will you come across as very professional and ambitious?) You’ll also need to think about your brand position (What do you stand for?). This personal brand identity will influence how you engage with people and the type of content you post online – from your blogs to your comments and the photos you share.
Much like businesses do, you may need to keep revisiting your brand and adapting it to align with changing conditions over the years.
Communicate your brand
Brands without communications are invisible. In the digital world, you have to communicate your brand proposition online, regularly. You also have to actively build your online communities, to ensure that your personal brand is widely seen and understood.
You don’t necessarily need a personal website or a blog – social media is a free and powerful tool that allows you to share and promote your content to the world. Use the platforms that best suit your personal brand and put you in contact with your target market. Social media channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, or even Instagram and Tik Tok, are where you will build your networks, where people will notice you, and where potential customers will come from. If you position yourself as an expert in your field, people will start following you and contacting you. Remember, however – success on social media is not just about posting, likes and engagements, you also have to interact with your networks and respond to their comments.
Have a focus
In your online posts and comments, decide what you want to talk about and stick to it. Keeping your message focused for your target audience will make it that much easier to both create content around your personal brand and have others define you. In fact, carve a niche, and then carve a niche within your niche. The best personal brands are very specific.
The easiest way to build an original personal brand is to be genuine and authentic. This will make it so much easier to manage your personal brand on a daily basis. If you’re deeply skilled in an area, your reputation will help you build the brand you want.
To be truly authentic, you will need to share your own ideas, not simply repost what others have written.
Tell a story
If your personal brand isn’t telling a story, you’ve already lost half of your potential audience. The most effective personal branding strategy is to build a true narrative. No one wants to hear you shout about your brand into the social media void, so create a story around your brand that your audience can engage with. One of the best ways to tell that story is through written content or video.
Being consistent is very similar to having a narrow focus—it’s much easier to get recognised for one topic if you consistently create content around it. Ensure that your personal brand promise stays consistent, both online and offline. Whether you’re creating a wild, incredibly out-there fun brand or one that’s a bit more on the conservative, corporate side, consistency is key.
Plan to leave a legacy
Once you’ve built your personal brand with a reputation and community behind it, the next step is to think about the legacy that you’ll leave behind. What are the actions that you want to be known for? Building a personal brand is much bigger than building a business. The only exit strategy is legacy.
A personal brand is a lifelong project that constantly evolves and changes. Even the experts who build or enhance the biggest brands in the business know that there are no hard-set rules for creating a personal brand. But these general guidelines help provide first steps, especially if you’re starting a new personal brand.