I’ve spoken to thousands of people in the last couple of years about personal branding, and I’ve probably run my workshop for close to a thousand B2B professionals so far. At this point, I think I’m getting close to a good understanding of the market, how professionals are feeling about it, and where we’re at.
I’m sure there will be new learnings as I move forward, but I’ve heard most of the reasons to be cynical - and happen to agree with them, although it’s still not a reason not to do it.
I’ve also heard all of the excuses of why you can’t do it/prioritize it - this is the health insurance for your career.
And I’ve also heard all the reasons why companies don’t think this is something worth investing in…. or just don’t get the benefits to their business – there are so many, I’ll have to keep working on those people.
I’ve written a tonne of blogs discussing these points, so won’t go over them again.
What I do want to talk about is this
To build a strong, powerful and impactful personal brand, it’s quite simply about being world-class. It’s not about short cuts. It’s not about the quickest way to do it. It’s not about posting something – anything – on LinkedIn every day, because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? No, it’s not.
It’s about being of service to your audience – whoever that is for you.
It’s about creating or curating information that is going to transform people you want to transform.
It’s about creating/finding the best knowledge you can and making sure the people who will benefit enormously by reading/watching it, get to see it.
To do this, you need to be focused, and this is where people fall down consistently. They’re sharing all sorts of stuff, and essentially, they’re being present - but have no presence.
To build a powerful brand, you must be focused on a topic that is relevant to you and your dreams. When you participate in a focused way, this is how you get known for something – which should be the whole purpose of building a personal brand. Random postings do not help you achieve that. It’s the exact opposite. Focus is the key to success.
Some examples of focus areas (the topics/themes people want to become known for) in recent workshops have included:
- Diversity and equality
- Inspirational leadership
- Sales excellence in the digital age
- Mindfulness in business
- Health and wellness in the workplace
- Defining the future of HR
- AI or machine learning
- Mentoring the next generation
- A voice for millennials
- An emerging CEO
I could go on and on. The topics are endless.
The breakdowns I’m seeing for focus trend into four areas:
- 30% of senior executives/sales/BDMs want to talk about the customer issues they are hearing about every day and help customers solve them
- 20% want to inspire and talk about leadership or mentoring the next generation
- 30% are in job functions not necessarily related to the product/service the company sells, so they want to talk to their industry about their role and what they’re learning/how they’re evolving (e.g. HR, finance)
- 20% are lifestyle or foodie bloggers, into health and wellness, mindfulness, spirituality, and more
The first group are critical for the marketing team to champion moving forward. They are speaking directly to customer issues from a place of experience and empathy. They are an asset to any business.
The second group are the leaders who will attract great talent and inspire existing employees. They are demonstrating to the world that your company hires the best people. With 50 per cent of the workforce set to be millennials by 2020 and that community caring most about company culture, these are the voices that will give them that insight.
The third group are critical too. By taking an industry stance in their own right, they position your company as an industry leader who hires industry thought-leaders within job functions.
And the fourth group, often the most disparaged, because critics can’t see how this sort of social participation could matter to a company… Well it does. It makes your company cool. It makes your company digitally savvy. Your company empowers your people. It positions your company as a business of the future.
All of these matter, so getting employees to embrace their personal brand is about creating a collective movement and it has to span across those four topics, because to build a personal brand, not only do you have to have focus, you have to have passion.
Passion is where world-class comes in.
It drives you to want to change the world and make it a better place. Passion is what gets you out of bed every day. Getting focused on your passion and becoming known for that on digital platforms, opens up amazing opportunities for you, including a future that might catch you by surprise.
I certainly know so. That’s how it’s worked for me.
As I’m sure you know, my big topic AND passion is Digital Conversation for professionals and businesses. I am working to pass on the message that it’s about being real in the digital world, whether you are a brand or a person. I am passionate about it because I know it is completely transformational and I’ll share this passion with anyone willing to listen to me.
But from a practical point of view, my goal is to share the best information on content marketing, personal branding, social leadership, and more. If you are interested in these topics, you don’t need to follow anyone else but me to get the best knowledge in this space.
At least 80 per cent of what I share is about these topics, and I do it every single day. I see it as delivering a service of knowledge in my area of expertise and have discovered – after doing it for a decade – that it is the consistency of showing up, the reliability of sharing excellent information, and the focus on what I share about – that makes all the difference in building a personal brand.
Am I perfect? Of course not. I’m learning all the time.
But I know it works, and yet there are still so many sceptics out there.
A success story
To battle the sceptics, I recently heard from a workshop attendee – a sales leader in a large MNC. His feedback goes along these lines.
A significant prospect reached out to him directly on LinkedIn, a person he was never able to get an appointment with. This person contacted him based on the fact he consistently showed up on LinkedIn and delivered value and knowledge. The customer knew the solutions because of what he had been sharing, already trusted him (even though they’d never met), and this is now on track to become a significant new customer. This is what it takes. Focus. Consistency. Service. World-class participation.
It works, so why so much nonsense?
We are deluged with people on our professional profiles contributing noise and waste.
We see executives outsourcing their presence (because someone told them to do it) and its just PR noise that we don’t believe. It’s got to be real. You must be behind your voice.
We see people only talking about themselves. It’s alright sometimes folk, but this isn’t about you, it’s about us. How are you lifting us up, making our lives better?
We see people talking about short-cuts to success. I’m sorry, there are no short-cuts here if you aim to be world-class. You are just adding to the noise.
To become excellent in any field, requires commitment, dedication, showing up and relentlessly working to be the best you can be. It requires being focused on serving an audience.
The best musicians in the world aren’t performing for themselves – they are mastering their craft to delight us and make us feel. The best artists don’t paint by numbers – they sacrifice every day to deliver their passion and create a piece of history. Award-winning photographers take weeks, months or years to capture that perfect shot. That’s mastery and it applies to all of us, whatever field we are in.
It also applies to building an excellent personal brand. If you believe it is critical for your career and future dreams, this is the commitment required. One of excellence. I really believe this.
Because your personal brand is not about you
No really, it’s not about you. It’s never been about you. It’s about delivering a service and by doing that, you become recognized as someone who is world-class in your field.
You do that by contributing incredible content that changes lives – your own content and others.
You do it by supporting your community and engaging in conversation – so many people are missing the engagement part!
Participate, engage, share, do less but do it brilliantly, be focused, be passionate, or seriously, don’t do it at all. It’s just hurting your brand. It’s making this whole personal branding discussion sloppy, and it’s not sloppy, it’s incredibly powerful and my job (my passion) is to help convince you of that, so you get the benefits to.
OK my sermon is over. I’m feeling a little annoyed today. I don’t know if there is more nonsense than usual today, or my recent life upheaval is making me more reflective, but please, don’t dismiss this opportunity for yourself.
Take it seriously. Be committed to it, but also be excellent, be focused, be world-class. Treat it like your own personal masterpiece and then you’ll understand the benefits it brings. Anything less is not worthy of you. It’s not worthy of us.
And of course, be nice if you want to challenge anything I’ve said. Always welcome.
Image: Alternative reproductions of famous paintings by Picasso. Applied abstract style of Kandinsky, courtesy of Shutterstock.
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