Today, I woke up to a news article about Suave – Unilver’s off the shelf shampoo brand. Unilever put Suave into new, premium-looking slick packaging, added a hefty price tag, called it “Evause” and sent it to out to beauty influencers (basically the folks who tell millions of consumers what is cool to buy) for their opinion/test. Most of the influencers gushed about the shampoo’s quality and rated it a luxury hair-care product or in other words, a premium brand.
Now, let’s not forget – “Evause” is a fake brand, and the shampoo that the influencers were gushing over is the same quality, no different from the cheaper looking, store bought variety. Then, what influenced the influencers into labeling it premium? In a single word, packaging.
Personal branding is the equivalent of packaging for people.
A personal brand helps you to show the best version of yourself to the world. It dresses you up, brings your strengths into sharp relief and influences people to give you a chance, which they may not have done otherwise. But it has to be done right. It has to be authentic version of you, grounded in your own actions and track record.
Let’s talk about a few situations where a genuine, strong personal brand can help you achieve your aims.
Scenario 1: Creating Credibility for a Start-up
You start a technology driven digital business, hoping to do business with total unknowns – over your own website, on an ecommerce platform, through smartphone apps – every way except face-to-face. Your business has no track record to lean on and no customer testimonials to flaunt. And, you are unlikely to get any customers until you first convince them to trust you.
Sure, you have clearly spelled-out privacy and shipping and refunds policies and you hope that tells folks, “Hey, I am honest.” But, people don’t simply want to take your word for it. They want to make up their own minds. So, how do you help them decide?
You borrow credibility. You create trust by leveraging your personal brand. People don’t buy from businesses. People buy from people. Connect with your visitors on a personal level.
Here is the bare minimum information you need to share:
- Name, contact information, credentials (aka short resume)
- Achievements and successes from your past roles and career
- Glimpses of your personality and life experiences
- The story of why you choose to do what you do.
- Photographs of you and your team, so people can put a face to your business
Consider all of the above as your credibility baseline. Then, to really earn trust, build on that foundation:
- Wear your values / convictions on your site
- Care about a cause? Feature it on your site.
- Give credit where it is due. Acknowledge your intellectual / emotional / inspirational debts.
Bottom line – You are much more than just an entrepreneur or business founder. Help people to see you as a person, as someone they would like to connect with. Use your personal brand to lend credibility to your new business.
Scenario 2: Accelerating a professional’s career advancement
Employers Google. It’s just as inevitable as death and taxes. Build social proof and make it easy for current and potential employers to see your value. Create focused content that showcases your expertise and positions you as a trusted adviser in your domain.
Here are some ways to build social proof:
- Write articles / case studies / trends pieces for high-traffic and high-engagement sites that are respected in your industry and domain.
- Offer to write a guest blog for reputed blogs/sites that your audience trusts.
- Post on relevant topics in chat groups, and discussion boards
- Write your own blog.
Bottom line – The more targeted content you create, and publish on high-traction sites, the more you are viewed as an expert advisor, and greater your value to employers. Keep your name constantly visible on respected sites and see your career advance rapidly.
Scenario 3: Re-entering the workforce after a break
If you have taken a long break from work, and are looking to re-enter the work force, prospective employers are going to be concerned about how current your skills are and how rapidly you can become a contributing member of the team. In order to even score an interview, you need to allay these concerns up-front. This is where your personal brand – built on your domain knowledge and expertise – comes into play.
Some fairly easy ways to build a knowledge brand are:
- Maintain a personal blog, where you collate current trends, news and insights about your industry.
- Participate in contests, hackathons, gaming platforms etc that are relevant to your skillset
- Host a podcast where you interview trendsetters and influencers in your domain
- Utilize social platforms – LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc – to connect with groups dedicated to your expertise, and participate actively in discussions
Bottom line – When you are returning into the workforce, you need to prove that your skills are current and valuable. This is the time to showcase a personal brand based on deep knowledge.