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 your 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/he started. It took her/him time to be as she/he is now. And not only time. Effort, money, frustration many times (if she/he didn’t have a mentor, coach, or a consultant). You may have a sense of what’s right or wrong, good or bad…but without experience and 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?

1st step: choose your role models

A big YES is by me looking for the right ROLE MODEL. A role model can instill confidence and belief in your abilities, empowering you to overcome challenges, embrace opportunities, and stay true to your vision as you strive to build a meaningful and impactful personal brand. They serve as a guiding light, offering inspiration, guidance, and valuable insights into how to navigate the complexities of building a brand that authentically represents your values, passions, and aspirations. By studying those who have successfully crafted their own personal brands, you can gain invaluable knowledge and perspective to shape your own journey.

Looking back, I didn’t know much about seeking a role model, but I was always captivated by successful, clever, and strong personalities. Mr. Alekos Markides was one of my first role models. I remember going to his office, engaging in discussions, and enjoying every minute spent talking with him. What I admired most was the fact that, although he was 70 years old, he still dedicated many hours a day to reading. I remember discussing with Mrs. Markides about him and she was telling me that even at so advanced age ( he was over 70) he was still reading for 08-10 hours a day!

With Mr. Alekos Markides at one of the Christmas Parties at the office in 2010!

A prominent and highly respected business professional in Cyprus who has inspired me and whom I’ve always admired for her integrity and contributions to the Cypriot economy and various organizations is Ms. Elena Tanou. She served as President of the Cyprus Federation of Business and Professional Women, the Cyprus European Ambassador of Women Entrepreneurs, and received the prestigious Madam Figaro Business Woman of the Year Award in 2012. As a businesswoman, she has built and expanded a publicly listed international travel and tourism business over the past thirty years. But what I admire most about her is her dedication to supporting the Cyprus economy and numerous organizations. I remember watching her TV interviews and attending all the events where she was involved as an organizer or speaker. 

After reflecting on my values, I understand why I admired Ms. Tanou so much and why I chose her as my role model without even understanding it!

Elena Andreou and Elena Tanou at Go Digital Cyprus Conference 2023

With Mrs. Elena Tanou at Go Digital Cyprus Conference 2023

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. Robert Green said in the “The 48 Laws of Power”  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 2012 when I thought for the first time about personal branding. I was appointed as project manager for a big project for the accounting department. It was the first time I saw different invoices and understood that were different scale of charges. However, it was a big difference between the charges that Mr. Markides was charging and all the other lawyers. I was wondering 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 many times more than the other?

I realized then that the one that was charging much 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 2024 I will answer quoting Jeff Bezos. “What people say about you when you are not in the room”

I am pretty sure that Mr. Markides or Ms. Tanou never thought about building a personal brand! At that time, they didn’t have social media or a strategy in place for it. But they had a passion for learning and excelling in their respective fields. Mr. Markides, for instance, was the most knowledgeable lawyer I knew! Can you imagine a professional who spent over 50 years reading an average of 10 hours a day? His depth of knowledge was unparalleled. I remember watching him on TV debates; none of the others matched his expertise. He was a true leader, and his reputation was built through years of hard work and continuous learning. Similarly, Ms. Tanou, while building an empire in tourism, dedicated much energy and effort to establishing numerous organizations to support the Cyprus economy.

2nd step: Go to events on your niche or industry

So if you have no idea where to start, begin by attending events in your industry! I was always hungry for learning. However, when I decided to build my own business and establish my name, I started by attending most of the events in the industry to listen to and evaluate the speakers and presenters. To be honest, I was comparing myself with them to understand what level I was at. :-)

3rd step: watch your competitors

The 2nd step is definitely to find a way to figure out what your competitors are selling and how they are selling it!

In 2014 (probably), following a course by HRDA about SEO just to understand the level at which SEO was taught in Cyprus.

Elena Andreou starting creating a personal brand

2012 (if I remember well) at CIM Conference with one of the speakers. 

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