Whether it’s to placate your inner jealous devil or to drum up more social capital, you need to think about your personal brand
by Aditi Seshadri
A few weeks ago, I gave a talk on personal branding and how regular people like you and I can get good at it. It’s pretty ironic that someone who’s not famous or a big-time influencer (someday, right?) can talk about personal branding but I think that’s precisely what makes me a good speaker on this subject – the fact that I have to work at it too, and don’t have all the answers, and speak from a place of relatability. I can’t replicate the whole talk but I thought it might useful to share some elements from it because, trust me, we could all use a little help.
Because for most of us, working on our personal brand is something we do after hours: once the work deadlines are done or between household chores, when we log on to our social media or think about topics for that podcast we want to reprise but before we know it, Netflix has come on or we’ve nodded off and, you know what, let’s think about it tomorrow…
I get it, which is why I’m not going to bother telling you why you should think about personal branding or how to go about it (this is an excellent video on this subject: Build your personal brand in 2020). Chances are, you have had those moments where you’ve scrolled through a competitor’s social media or seen them interviewed on a panel and wondered, how did that loser manage to get so famous? So whether it’s to placate your inner jealous devil or to drum up more social capital, you already know what you need to do. Now you think more about how to become good at it.
- What is your goal? If you know where you want to reach, you can plan how to get there. Do you want to be famous? Do you want to be a social media influencer? Or do you want to drum up more business? Make better career moves? The purpose defines the activities, the channels and the subsequent execution. Becoming a social media influencer needs a high velocity of content, posting and engagement whereas planning for career advancement will require more the more long-tail networking via conferences and conversations.
- Do a social audit: Before rethinking your brand and kicking into a higher gear, Google yourself and see what it throws up. Ask your friends and colleagues about your personal style – often what we think of ourselves is not how we’re perceived and it would help to know what you’re putting out there. I have been told I’m funny, which came as a bit of a surprise, so I try to keep my style relaxed and humorous because it’s what comes naturally to me, even if the forum is serious and stoic. (There’s not a lot of scope for jokes in entrepreneurship despite my best attempts)
- Play your card: We all have a card, an edge, something that makes us unique and original. With so much content and information out there, we are all seeking out the authentic, the unusual and even the imperfect. Are you a woman entrepreneur toughing it out in the business world? Bring that front and centre and personalise your brand. Always felt a bit awkward about your English? Embrace it and find a medium that works for you – think Instagram reels over newspaper editorials. You are what makes your brand the most unique.
- Find a niche: The era of the generalist has passed. With so much content and so many creators out there, people are looking for depth more than breadth. So move away from generalities, and find a niche and own that space. One of the silly and fun Instagram handles I follow is TheGoanPao whose bio reads ‘TheGoanPao | Memes’ and that is, literally, all they post day after day – memes about being Goan. It doesn’t get more niche than that. In your case that could be, say, talking about investing or sustainability and social impact, or as I do (a lot), marketing.
- Be consistent: As much as we would like toned abs and ripped thighs from lying on the couch and eating banana chips, it is that daily gym/workout/running routine over many months and years that gets us there. Think of your personal brand like that – make time for it, turn it into a routine, break it down into something you can do every day. I did wake up at 6 am to write this post and it took me two hours, but it was important to me plus I will have a very rewarding afternoon nap today.
- Know what works: For yourself, and for your audience. As much as I would love to be that breezy Instagram-reel-travelogues icon, I am more of a write-blogs-about-work geek. And as much as I would love to only talk about the meal I cooked yesterday or what my dog did, this is not a personal chat with family and friends, people are looking for something relevant and interesting. And, even if we do make mistakes while working all of this out, there is absolutely nothing wrong with evaluating and course correcting. (I’d rather not though, so make sure you show me some love!)
(Published on LinkedIn; Jul 12, 2021)