Google your name and you might be in for a surprise. In the age of the internet, whether you like it or not, you already have a personal brand – a unique skill set to offer the world – and people have already formed an opinion about you.
So why do leaders think their personal brands are not important?
We’ve often heard: “I work for a big company, so I don’t think I should be doing PR for myself, I just want you to share my news internally so people know what I do.”
Sound familiar? Perhaps it’s generational, but why are leaders good at living their company’s brand, but not their own personal brand?
In today’s world of celebrity-led, image-is-everything culture, a leader’s reputation is of critical importance to an organisation’s success and is a key driver of corporate reputation. However, many executives dread the thought of having a definitive personal brand.
The gap in leadership PR has given rise to specialist PR agencies like UK-based CEO PR that offers a unique, highly intensive, bespoke service dedicated to raising the personal profile of leaders. Closer to home, there are few agencies specialising in leadership PR, but new players such as Red Dot PR, have noticed the gap and provide strategic PR to business people and entrepreneurs based in South Africa, as well as international leaders travelling to the country.
Curzon PR, a 360° London-based global strategy and communications agency, shares some powerful insights into how leadership and CEO profiling is an intelligent PR and marketing tool, yet is so underutilised by communications practitioners globally.
Why build a personal brand?
Other than making you look good on Google, there are many benefits to building a personal brand. It gives you the opportunity to show your vision; by taking charge of your own stories, your personal vision and your organisation’s vision can be continuously communicated. It helps scale your career, and opens the pathway for more opportunities to learn and grow on a professional and personal level. It also contributes to recruiting because a great personal brand makes you more attractive in the job market; and it adds to sales: a leader’s well-packaged personal brand together with the organisation’s reputation can form a compelling presence in the market.
The painful truth is whether you believe in building a personal brand or not, you have already built one – by being YOU, by having an online presence, or by having an opinion recorded somewhere. So why not ACTIVELY generate content that will build your brand in the direction you want it to grow? Why not set your own agenda and control the public perception of your brand? Studies show that on the psychological motivation scale, we are more inclined to buy into companies with leaders that have views, ideas and leadership philosophies we connect with; think Steve Jobs and Apple.
The building blocks for creating a personal brand
Some pertinent questions need to be answered to start the process. How would you define your brand and its attributes? Who are your competitors and how do you differentiate yourself? What is your unique selling point (USP)? Who’s your target audience and what benefits are you bringing to them? And finally, “So what?” Why are you building your brand, is it to be a thought leader, to attract investors or for global opportunities?
Key aspects to bear in mind when going through this exercise are to treat yourself the same way as you would a tangible brand like a can of Coca-Cola or an iPhone. Spend time on the process, as the outcome should be concise answers that a brand strategy can be built upon.
Your answers will define your personal brand, which should feel comfortable and true to your current strengths and future aspirations. People will see through a fake persona within seconds, so authenticity is king!
Various activities form part of building a brand and it is important for a leader to avail him/herself for speaking engagements; industry-related opinion pieces; and charity work or special events like the CEO Sleepout, to name a few.
Building a personal brand takes time, so be consistent, be consistent, be consistent! It should be actively, consciously and continuously lived; it is not something to put on for work purposes on Monday and take off on Friday afternoon.
In closing, I’ll end with this from www.entrepreneur.com: “If you don’t have a powerful and visible personal brand, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage in almost every aspect of your professional, business and personal life. Personal branding has become a requirement for anyone looking to grow their business, get a better job, get noticed by the press, take their career to the next level or meet new, high quality friends.”
Maiyo Febi is the founder and managing director of Native Worx Public Relations and Communications, a boutique PR agency specialising in lifestyle and entertainment. Out of all the cool PR stuff she gets to do, she loves strategy, employee engagement, communications research, relationship building, event management and media relations. She’s done a bit of globe-trotting and has lived in England, Swaziland, Wales, Zambia; she is currently based in South Africa.