Today, or rather last night, my state lost a dynamic leader – Selvi Dr. J Jayalalithaa, fondly referred to as Amma. This post is not a political tribute or even a personal eulogy to a tough stateswoman. In her passing however, and in replaying the most remarkable aspects of her public persona, I was reminded of the incredible power of the personal brand.
In the world of politics and public service, this power is visible and potent. From Gandhi who became Mahatma to Jayalalithaa who became Amma, there is a story of a carefully thought out brand building effort by highly intelligent leaders, who knew their work would warrant the leverage of a powerful personal brand. This has rich insights for us in the world of brands and marketing.
Whenever we work with a B2B brand, we look for ways to create visible experts, especially when it could be a key factor influencing growth. Even in the case of corporate brands and consumer businesses, we often sense opportunity for key individuals to become visible experts or thought leaders. I have personally seen a fair bit of resistance from the key individuals involved for a variety of rational and irrational reasons. Primarily, this would mean they think of themselves as a personal brand - that is not a very easy thing for most people. Many of us prefer being invisible, some kind of potent force that propels our businesses forward, unseen or unnoticed for the most part. We crave recognition but within our comfort zone. Even the credible experts, who have built in-depth domain knowledge, even those who have a lot to share and contribute in their domain, typically resist the idea of themselves as a personal brand. As a marketer, we know, that even in B2B businesses, people buy from people and putting forth a clear personal brand can make that interaction smoother in many ways. (Ofcourse, if one has nothing significant to say or a vision on how to make a difference, merely looking to create a personal brand is pointless.) However, for those driven by a sense of purpose, who have evolved as a professional with passion and perseverance, at some point, it is worth pausing to evaluate what is your personal brand and what can it achieve for you. Here’s a quick sell job on why you should consider crafting your personal brand.
1. Creating your Personal Brand necessitates becoming vocal or expressing a view point. This if done well, is a clutter buster and can get you attention you deserve. If you have a professional network, contribute there. If there is an 'adda' where your business network meets up at, participate there. If your company has a blog, write for it (If you don't have a blog, please be the one to start one!). If you can stomach being active on social media, start tweeting and/or publishing on LinkedIn. (notice how I am letting you think this is even a choice in this day and age ;))
2. Developing your Personal Brand warrants a fair bit of consistency in actions, behaviours and reactions. Consistency doesn’t mean predictability though or being boring. Given the various demands on our time and the variety of situations we have to deal with, a strong personal brand can pre-empt how you would do so, saving you time and also amplifying your stance clearly to the other person. We become what we consistently do.
3. Working on a Personal Brand can also help you set a higher standard for yourself - this can only mean positive repercussions for your work and professional reputation. Sometimes you take that lousy deal, or you compromise despite your first instinct. In such instances, your Personal Brand can become the gold standard against which you evaluate such decisions.
4. Maintaining a Personal Brand involves a conscious investment in yourself – your learning, your growth, your evolution as a professional. In addition to the direct benefits, it is bound to get you noticed and provide some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy for how you want to grow.
5. In many instances, projecting a Personal Brand involves a visual identity that sets you apart. Think Steve Jobs' turtleneck pullovers or Usha Uthup’s silk sari and bindi or Simi Garewal’s vision in white, Amma’s cape & sari avatar and ofcourse Bapu’s dhoti and dandi. While in corporate life, such stark visual identities may seem unwarranted, do pause and reflect on the image you wish to portray. I am no image consultant, but I leave you with a powerful thought that someone told me. Dress for success and right now, start dressing for the ultimate role or person you want to be. If not in attire, find that one individual element that will make you more distinctive.
There are many examples of people who have reinvented themselves and come back from failures, riding on a new and refreshed avatar or Personal Brand. The more visible high profile examples in media, entertainment (Lady Gaga, Madonna), politics (Amma, Modi), Corporate honchos (Richard Branson, Steve Jobs) are easier to spot. But I also know of several business owners / entrepreneurs at a local level who have achieved a higher level of visibility & success for their business by building & leveraging a credible Personal Brand.
It is therefore, never too early or too late to work on your Personal Brand. If you already have achieved some success in this, or know someone you admire for doing so, please do share it here. It would definitely make for some more interesting anecdotal evidence to validate what I am trying to say !
A Blog by - Pavithra Charan Sankarakrishnan
About the Author - A Marketing & Management professional with a keen interest in people and passion for ideas, Pavithra moved from being a Banker & Wealth Management professional to entrepreneur. Working with start ups, Brand management, Customer engagement, Content creation are among areas of work that most excite her. She loves music across multiple genres incl Carnatic music & Classic rock. She enjoys reading, movies and travel.