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Building your Personal Brand from scratch – What does it mean to be a public figure?

The glamor of being identified by many comes with a price. The value that a personal brand brings is as steep as the learning curve can get. I wouldn’t say it is as bad as the cynics complain, nor does it need the glorification that brand consultants call out for. Building your Personal Brand from scratch requires you to understand the principles that it is built upon. 

Personal branding is a definite necessity to the marketing mix. You need it to deliver a message aligned with a person’s real-life values. Most often, the Chairman, Founder, or CEO of an organizational brand.

For me, the journey of building my personal brand started with the need for easy recognition. Do you remember M.K Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher? I don’t belong to this era of the industrial revolution or freedom struggle. But, I have their faces in my head when their names are called out. Can you recall their contributions, when I say, Richard Feynman, Nikola Tesla, Michael Jackson, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Stephen Hawkings, or Michio Kaku? They all come from different parts of the world for the great works that they have done. 

It is effortless to recall their figures. Of course, it is for the great work that they have done. But, it is also for what defines them. 

Personal Branding is an effort to define me on the inside as much as it is for people to recognize me on the outside.

When is the right time to start Personal Branding?

Start it when you own responsibility. 

Like many other articles on the internet, you will also hear about the basic principles of personal branding in this article. But, you will not see anyone talk about the right time to begin this exercise. 

If you are heading an organization or a social cause, personal branding is a must-have pet project that keeps evolving. Even if you are leading a team, think about it, you need to define yourself and cast an image across to your teammates. It helps them connect with you from a given context. 

Simply said, you need personal branding when you are on a journey from obscurity to visibility.

Side note: My personal branding project started when people did a sugar-coated talk but hated me behind my back. I did no harm to them. But why? It mattered more when I remained a professional marketer for four years, but people didn’t know what I did. Even worse is when I couldn’t explain what is it to be a content marketer. The job I did day in and day out.

That’s when I felt it is necessary for me to define myself, find my niche, and grow with it.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is famously quoted as saying, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

So, where to start building your personal branding?

RULE #1. Align your values to your personal brand, but delineate them from your private life.

Not everyone can be Richard Branson. He has the skill to be an exception to this rule. 

If you are convinced with the why behind personal branding for yourself, then here comes the reasons that will add to your business.

For the same reason as, “Why CEOs and founders launch their products in public, and not the guy who built it?”

people and their products - personal branding
People and their products – personal branding

The founders know how to drive a conversation. They land their response to what they aim to deliver rather than the answer that the other person is looking for. They convince the questioner about what they want them to believe is true. They transmit their beliefs to their target audience.

“Personal branding…has nothing to do with what you do for people or what you say about yourself. It has everything to do with how you make people feel, how you engage with them, and what they say about you to your face and to others.”

Cynthia Johnson, Author of the book PLATFORM – The Art and Science of Personal Branding

Cynthia in her book talks about the four pillars of personal branding. We will enhance and extend from that list.

4 Elements of a Strong Personal Brand by Cynthia Johnson

These four pillars break out into:

  • Personal Proof
  • Social Proof
  • Association
  • Recognition

So, here are some questions that you need to ask yourself. In a way or the other, these questions that helped me are very close to the four principles above.

What do you think of your own self?

Researchgate, the online library of research brings a paper on personal branding, and here is what it quotes. “Personal branding is the process by which an individual actively tries to manage others’ impressions of their skills, abilities, and experiences. Self-awareness and understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses in order to effectively present the self is essential to building a personal brand. Students need to understand the concept of personal branding and how actions they engage today, especially in social media, can affect their future.”

What you feel and conclude about yourself is what will reflect when you begin your personal branding exercise? This may sound like you need to understand yourself before you tell people about you. Well, that’s right.

Do whatever it takes to run an authentic SWOT analysis about yourself. Do not add things about yourself that other people told you. ‘You’re an angry person.’ ‘You can’t be good at sports.’ ‘You suck at people skills.’ These are things that other people think about you. But, what you need to fill in is what you think about yourself.

When you do there could be blind spots that you may realize later. But, let me tell you a secret. Belief is stronger than blind spots. Belief can make the false, the truth.

What do others think about you? & What should they think about you?

“Hey! It’s been a long time since we met. You’ve changed over the years.” 

Have you heard someone say this to someone? Oftentimes, things that change over the years are the gap that gets filled between what others have been thinking about you and what you make them think after you work on yourself. 

And, that could be a piece of the certificate, your body type, your body language, the job that you have, who you got married to, the new venture that you started, or the new investments that you’ve made.

This is also social proof.

Social proof helps you differentiate yourself from or gain an edge over the rest of the competition.

Public Veto

This is why voting is encouraged in board rooms and to elect leaders of the nation. Majority wins. The more people are willing to back your theory, the more fanfare you can build, the easier it is to gain public veto. 

Social media became an overnight win not because it worked hard. It is because everyone has been waiting to gain public veto. It enables people who can win, ‘just win’. It provides a level-playing field to show your worth. 

Of course, you may feel humiliated when you don’t have the ad dollars to boost your post. But, it allows people to respond in a reasonably just way to the content that you post. 

Just like how it works in the real world, the better network you, the faster will be the spread:-)

So, that brings us to understand, ‘how to create a personal branding profile?’ 

Coming next: Creating your digital profile for personal branding. Basics of creating a Linkedin profile.

Good Reads for personal branding

Some research papers, articles, and books might help you dive deeper into how to build a personal brand for yourself. If you want to get started with it right away, follow this calendar that tells what to work on every day to build the foundational infrastructure and framework to create a personal brand.



Platform – The Art and Science of Personal Branding

For all articles related to personal branding on Linkedin.