Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Without a personal brand, career advancement becomes more challenging as you become more senior, with colleagues competing head to head for limited roles. Most of us have focussed on crafting a solid CV, building our interview skills, and networking both internally and externally. These strategies are highly effective, but the downside is what everyone else is doing. As you become more senior, it becomes harder to stand out and secure the limited leadership roles.
Looking back on the last 17 years of my marketing career, I realize that I missed out on job opportunities and increased remuneration purely because I did not understand or use the power of personal branding. It differentiates you, builds your credibility and leadership, and opens you up to opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be available.
What is Personal Branding?
The trouble with personal branding is that the term is often considered narrowly. Some see it as managing your reputation within your organization. For others, it’s a collection of ad hoc tactics from LinkedIn marketing through to PR or becoming an author. A tactical focus leads to disjointed efforts, a lack of consistency, and missing opportunities.
What’s missing is strategy. The strategy involves having a clear vision, identity, and plan to help you differentiate, build credibility and reach a larger audience than your current network. Each of these elements brings huge and unexpected benefits that can catapult your career forward.
Building Your Personal Brand Strategy
1. Shift Perspective
The first step is to shift your perspective from being a Corporate Executive to being a ‘brand.’ Brands focus on building equity – perceived value, impact, and commercial outcomes. We can apply these same principles to a personal brand.
We aim to increase your perceived value through the quality of your service offering (what you deliver at work) and the credibility you build for yourself. In other words, you need to be an expert at what you do, and people need to know, like, and trust you.
When you see yourself as a brand, it directs you to focus and actively build your brand equity to command a higher salary and secure highly sought-after roles.
2. Craft Your Identity
The second step is to get very clear on your personal brand identity. What do you want to be known for? Now, this might change through your career but what matters right now is who you need to be to secure your dream role. What skills, experience, and results do you have? If you identify areas where you lack some knowledge or skills, what could you do to build on these areas?
I once missed out on a promotion because the person I was competing against had run a sports team and could demonstrate his leadership skills better than I could.
Make a list of your experience, skills, results, awards, education, certifications, and personal achievements to date. Then make a second list of gaps you want to fill. This could be applying for awards, getting certifications, or using your hobbies to demonstrate soft skills like leadership. Then make a plan to get them done within the next 90 days.
3. Grow Your Network
Brand growth requires ‘reach and frequency. Reach refers to the number of people exposed to a brand, and frequency is the number of times a person is exposed to a brand message.
When we translate this into personal branding, we refer to growing your network to increase your exposure to other companies and senior leaders. Frequency refers to being consistently visible to your network. LinkedIn is a great place to grow your network by adding new connections and being more visible by posting engaging and informative content regularly.
The aim is to put yourself in a position where you can be head-hunted and start receiving career opportunities rather than going out to the job market competing head to head with everyone else.
4. Build Personal Brand Credibility
Credibility is crucial to building your personal brand. It elevates your status, positions you as an expert, and differentiates you from your peers. Credibility can be derived in two main ways:
- It creates thought leadership or expert content that is informative and adds value to your peers and industry. This can be in social media posts, white papers, research, writing a book, hosting webinars and events (more on this in step 5).
- Third-party endorsement. For example, testimonials from employers and peers, being featured in the press like Forbes, being interviewed on podcasts, or speaking at events.
It’s not as hard as you may think to start building your credibility. The first step is getting clear on what you are an expert in and what you want to be known for. From there, you can start creating content and pitching it to publishers, podcasts hosts, and event organizers. Try the smaller ones first and build up to the bigger ones. You will start to build a portfolio of the featured press, speaking events, etc.
5. Become The Go-To Expert
Thought leadership expresses insights, ideas, expertise, and a valuable perspective. It can be authoring genuinely original ideas, or it can be reworking, building on, or adding to existing ideas and concepts to simplify, make them more applicable, or contemporary. It should further your industry’s thinking, perspective, or outcomes.
You must talk a lot about a little and not a little about a lot. This clarifies what your brand is about and what you are an expert in. For example, when Neil Patel started, he focussed his content on SEO, going deep rather than broad. Get clear on your single-minded message, build a content strategy covering the most significant problems you solve and create content topics for each issue.
Your expertise can be presented in frameworks, infographics, or formulas. Quotes also count as Thought Leadership. Examples include Jim Collins’s Good to Great flywheel effect, Jim Rohn quotes, and Simon Sinek’s Golden circle. It enables a concept to be quickly understood and further builds your credibility as an expert.
If you take action on these strategies and consciously build your personal brand, you will be head and shoulders above your competition. Personal branding is immensely powerful at enabling you to generate more income and more impact.
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