Over 22m results show up when you Google ‘personal branding’, a topic that fascinates many of us. The question I’m asking today is what can you as digital marketers do to improve your personal brand?
I was born in Sweden and ‘standing out’ in Swedish culture is seen as really bad. Swedish culture is affected by the ‘Law of Jante’ don’t ever believe that you are something special, and if you do someone will quickly correct you and tell you to be like everyone else. It’s similar to the British ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’. It’s with the cultural ‘Jante’ baggage that I orientate myself in the jungle of human branding.
Many digital marketers have similar skills to each other and can do a bit of everything when it comes to marketing, but what is it that makes some people shine and stand out? What is it that makes someone have a strong personal brand?
Big Corporates And Personal Branding
Looking at the bigger picture of branding, we are heading towards a time when corporate brands and their people merge together. A corporate brand is the combination of the people working there. This makes personal branding even more interesting, especially when looking at employer branding and attracting young talent.
I’ve also had the opportunity to speak about personal branding at two events in China – and yes, Chinese people are sceptical that it will ever work there. One person I met who heads up all social media in Asia in a global company said: ‘We don’t believe in personal brands. It will never work here.’
When I left I thought to myself that even if he says he doesn’t believe in personal branding he still has a personal brand because I’ve met him, interacted with him and I remember his personality very well. Just because you don’t believe in having a personal brand doesn’t mean you don’t have one. I can describe my new Chinese acquaintance in my mind and that memory I have of him is his personal brand, whether he acknowledges that or not.
What The Expert Says
Kirsten Ujvari is Belgium’s number one personal branding expert and is also one of the authors of the book Personal Branding - Mensen als Merken.
Ujvari says that if you want to get others to remember you for who you are, you must know your own boundaries for staying authentic and work out for yourself when you are pushed out of your authenticity. When you start to behave the way someone else wants you to, you lose yourself and your brand. And you must try to be consistent in how you react to events. A person who reacts in very different ways in similar situations makes people very confused.
Her first practical tip for better awareness of your personal brand is an exercise that you can do straight away. Write down five words that are specific to you. Words that represent: who you are, your values and your personality. For the next step you score yourself on how well you convey these words to others on a scale of one to ten. Do you present yourself to the world in a good way? Do people understand who you are? How many of these words will others see in you when they meet you?
Ujvari points out that many digital marketers want to be seen as innovative and creative but do not give this impression when you meet them. Many use cheap pens, have an unclear voicemail message, use an old mobile phone and are not dressed very stylishly. These kinds of attributes do not make you stand out as an innovative person – all small things, but they add up.
The image you share of yourself as a person leads to expectations by others and if you would like to get the next innovative assignment you need to show people that you are up for it in all your communication, both non-verbal and verbal.
Verbal Mistakes In Personal Branding
Another big mistake that digital marketers make is that they say out loud and over and over again: ‘Technology is so complicated…’ or ‘I’m not good with numbers’. As you know, marketing is driven by technology at the moment. Would you trust someone who has branded themselves verbally as a technophobe to be in charge of driving change with the help of new technology? It’s highly likely that you would pick someone else, someone with a personal brand that shows that they are more open to dealing with new, complex problems and opportunities.
By being aware of how you express yourself you can shape the perception others have of you. For instance, are you a person who says good morning to your colleagues when you arrive? Or do you just say good morning to some people? Who do you think makes the best impression? Are you an active networker in your organisation and are you actively getting to know people? Staying at your desk only doing what you are ‘supposed’ to do might kill part of your personal brand because you are not showing people who you are.
Wherever we are in the world, we love to work with people who keep their promises. A quick way to damage your personal brand is to fail to do something you said you would do, whether because of negligence or ignorance. This might stay in people’s mind for a long time.
Now go back to the five words that describe you and do the exercise again, and again, and again. You are not finished with it until you’ve done it at least 20 times.
Eight practical personal branding tips for marketers:
- Practice new technology and show an interest in how new technology can help the business you work in. Suggest new ideas you think can be useful for your team.
- Use language that nurtures your own and other people’s ideas.
- Be on time when going to meetings. You come across as sloppy when you are late on a regular basis.
- Be active in meetings and dare to have an opinion about things.
- Be a good teacher. It can be amazing for your career when you are kind and explain how new, complex technology works for your colleagues. People will remember this kind gesture forever.
- Never describe yourself on LinkedIn as passionate about a subject. Use other words to show this instead. Say that you are a passionate traveller – make it sound different and describe where you like to travel to and why.
- Be clear in your email communication and always write the most important message at the beginning of the email, not in the last sentence.
- Have a professional and up-to-date email signature.