What is the 1st Step when you start creating a personal brand?
Every leader started out as a follower...
Creating a personal brand, from where do you start?
If you are reading this article, most probably you already heard that “If you want to be successful you need to start creating a personal brand!”. You might be a young professional or just started out your busines, or you might be a quite experienced professional but not getting paid as others in your field! And you look around you and understand that indeed there is a point around all this noise about “personal branding, but you don’t know what you should do. There are a few “blueprints” that “COULD?” help you but you are not convinced yet that it is worth to have a mentor. And you look at those who “made it” and everything looks so perfect from what you see! They look amazing on the social media photos, so confident and knowledgeable, and everybody knows them.
One of the first thing that most of my clients usually say is: Oh, I can’t do what “x” does. I don’t have it like her. I am not beautiful and confident like her. (usually “X” is another client of mine that recommended me to her). And indeed, you can’t do that, not at the beginning. And believe me even that person, that you admire and maybe envy at the same time, was not like this when she started. It took her time to be as she is now. And not only time. Effort, money, frustration many times (if she didn’t have a mentor, coach or consultant). You may have a sense of what’s right or wrong, good or bad…but without experience or guidance it will be just trial and error!
“Selfie” phenomena and personal branding
So, the question is when you don’t have anything, no assets, no clue about what your personal brand should stand for or how you are going to position yourself what you do? I mean when you start from scratch, when nobody knows you, when even you don’t know “you” or your possibilities. Because believe it or not, when you start creating a personal brand you need first to dig deep and understand and accept who you are. And then starting to put the bases. Many people are under impression that you start build it by posting selfies on social media, or photos taken at expensive places you have visited. I heard quite a few times clients saying “if you expect me to take selfie and post that I am drinking coffee at the Four Seasons, that’s not me. And let’s clear this from now: Building a personal brand has nothing to do with posting selfies or spending time in expensive places. Big NO, NO!
Sorkowski et al. in a study made in 2015 concluded that posting selfies is often a result of narcissism and can predict extraversion and social exhibitionism, but not self-esteem!
However, I am not saying to be quite the opposite, hiding from camera with any excuse, like I did for many years. And I had very reasonable excuses… “I don’t need to show off” “I don’t like to show my personal life on social media”. But the truth is that, I was afraid that I look awful, I didn’t know how to pose (even now I don’t know, although after every moment that take photos and I see that I don’t know how to pose I promise to myself to spend some time and work on it, and of course I never find the time for it). However, mostly, I was afraid of criticism.
Like me, I’ve met many businesspeople hiding behind their businesses, afraid that people will criticize them that are showing off or bragging if they would talk or post about their achievements. Ok, let’s agree that not everybody is comfortable with projecting their self or their achievements on social media. And by “comfortable” I mean they are afraid of criticism!
If selfie is big NO, NO, what is the big Yes, Yes?
Creating a personal brand requires a high level of self-awareness and should be grounded in your values and personal beliefs. So how you can start being visible without projecting any positioning?
What could be the starting point? To understand what your best positioning could be you need first to understand the market in which you will operate as well as your competition. You need to know very well your competitor and their strengths and weaknesses and to understand what differentiate them. However, you know that you need to start getting visible so posting on social media is a MUST! But what to post? Everything around you are so overwhelming and confusing, and all the other (your competitors) they do things just perfect! And they get a lot of recognition!
Creating a personal brand equal “learning never ends”
To become “the name” in your niche or industry means you must become one of the most knowledgeable and skillful professional. X said that “You need to become the person you want to project you are”
I used to work for many years for big brands and I thought I knew a lot about branding strategies! But almost nothing about creating a personal brand!
I think it was around 2014 when I thought for the first time about personal branding. I was working for one of the biggest law firms in Cyprus, and I was studying at the same time. I was appointed as project manager for a big project for the accounting department. It was the first time I saw different invoices and understand that were different scale of charges. However, it was big differences between the charges that Mr. M. was charging and all the other lawyers. I was wandering how it is possible that 2 lawyers that have almost the same age, the same years of experience, the same studies and work in the same firm one to charge 10 times more than the other?
I realized then that the one that was charging 10 times more than the others, has built his “name” through the years and had that fame of “the best lawyer in Cyprus”. Even now, after some years that he died, as many time as it happens to talk about him, people still remember him as “an amazing mind”, “the best lawyer in Cyprus”…
So, if I have to answer to the question “What personal brand is” now in 2023 I will answer quoting Jeff Bezos. “What people say about you when you are not in the room”
I am pretty sure that Mr. M. was never thinking to build a personal brand! At that time, he didn’t have social media or had a strategy in place to build a personal brand. But gosh he loved reading and learning, and he was the most knowledge lawyer comparing to all other lawyers I know. I remember discussing with Mrs. M. about him and she was telling me that even at so advanced age ( he was 78) he was still reading for 12-14 hours a day? Can you imagine a professional that for more than 60 years was reading an average 14 hours a day? Can you imagine what knowledge he had? I remember watching him on TV debating and none of the other had his knowledge. You could see that no matter who was around him, he was the leader. Yes, he was a leader, but his fame was built through the years and years of hard work, constinusly reading and learning.
So you are getting the message here, right?
The good people know good people who know more good people