Why is personal branding important and how to make it unique?

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In today’s competitive world, one might think that an Ivy League university degree coupled with a lot of hard work and a yearly outstanding performance evaluation will definitely get you where you want and help you secure your leaps into the echelons of the organizational ladder. If that’s what you think, well think again, as you might be simply undermining the importance of personal branding.

Whether you are an executive or an entrepreneur, with today’s evolving job market and a growing ‘look-at-me’ culture, it has become essential to find meaningful ways to stand out from the crowd. For that reason, personal branding is more important than most people think, and it entails more than just developing a logo with attractive colors and a capturing slogan. Personal branding dictates the whole personality of your business.

What is personal branding?

Sarah Seif, communications consultant, author, and adjunct instructor of integrated marketing communications at the American University in Cairo (AUC) defines personal branding as the process of creating a brand identity of what your values are, how people perceive you and your business, and what you want your target audience to feel when interacting with you or your company. In essence, it is how you present yourself or your business to the world, what differentiates your values from others, what you stand for, what you effectively bring to the table, and how you outcompete your competitors.

Personal branding is not just about making a good impression or being a good communicator; it is more about visibility and what values or images you project outwards. “It is simply the set of values people remember about you when you are not in the room. It is the values that make you remarkable and make your brand memorable,” says Fady Ramzy, adjunct faculty at the AUC School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and personal branding consultant. “Whenever your name is mentioned, what are the top three to five things people would remember and say about you,” he explains.

“Personal branding is the conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual; by positioning them as an authority in their field, elevating their credibility, and differentiating them from others; to ultimately advance their career, increase their circle of influence, and have a larger impact,” says Mohamed Kesseba, senior director of programs at the AUC School of Business executive education, CEO of RightShift Consulting and Harvard business leadership consultant and moderator. “While a personal brand is the objective, personal branding is the process and strategy to achieve this objective,” he adds.

What is the point of personal branding?

According to a recent study by Careerbuilder, a US-based employment website, 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates, 57percent are less likely to interview candidates they cannot find online, and 54 percent decided not to hire candidates based on their social media profiles. Thus, your online presence and how you frame yourself and your business can either open doors for you and encourage more interest in your brand or shut them and destroy your image and career potential.
“Branding helps you build trust, which is the most important currency in today’s business world,” explains Ramzy. “It is a way to establish trust and credibility and accordingly creates a preference for my company and me,” he adds.

On the importance of personal branding, Kesseba points out that a personal brand helps people create and receive value regardless of their perspective or position in life. He explains that a personal brand for an entrepreneur will help attract clients, build credibility and facilitate a better network. For an executive, it will attract higher-quality talent to their organization, create awareness of and respect for the executive and his company, and provide an extra layer of job security. For an employee, a personal brand widens options for job opportunities and can accelerate the promotion timeline, especially toward leadership positions.

“Personal branding helps make you unique in what you do in comparison to all others. We live in a very competitive world and market. There are millions of people doing the exact same things. So, the idea of why you are a better fit than anyone else is crucial; this is what personal branding does,” explains Seif.

What makes a personal brand both engaging and unique?
The easiest way to get lost when creating your personal brand is not knowing where to start. For that reason, here are some rules on how to create an engaging and unique personal brand.

1. Find out what motivates you.

Start by asking yourself questions like what makes you get up in the morning? What skills do you have? What kind of projects do you enjoy? What do you want to do ten years from now, and what would you like to contribute to the world? Reflecting on those questions will help you identify your existing competencies and what you want to achieve. Thus, this exercise will highlight which behaviors you need to exhibit to make your significant strengths visible to the world.

2. Have a specific focus

“A good personal brand is a brand with clarity and focus, one with a defined mission, and relevant value, and most importantly one that is authentically and intrinsically connected to who you are as a person,” explains Kesseba. Most people want to be everything to everyone, and that’s a big mistake. You need to decide on your message and keep narrowing it down to a particular topic that is well-directed to your target demographic. In this case, you will become more memorable, and your target audience will easily recognize you.

“You need to design a clearly articulated brand and its relevant messages; this design is the platform upon which you build your brand. In summary, you need to craft a brand map. This brand map would include your anchor statement, sometimes referred to as an elevator pitch, which is the go-to description of who you are and what you do. It will also include your Unique Brand Proposition (UBP) which answers the question: What is it about what you do, or how you do it, that makes you unique, distinct, and memorable? What sets you apart from others?” he adds.

3. Be genuine

“An authentic personal brand is about clearly identifying the real YOU,” says Kesseba. “It is about diving deep into your values, strengths, personality traits, and your story, then putting your true self out there, consciously and consistently shaping the way you are recognized and remembered,” he adds.

The easiest way to do this is to start by mastering your own craft. Everyone has a different set of skills and a different narrative, making us unique as human beings. So master your uniqueness, build a reputation, and then build your personal brand. Every content that you post should revolve around this, and it will automatically amplify your reputation and creates a personal brand that is both personal and authentic.

Kesseba further clarifies this point and says that your brand map should contain ‘A Signature Story’, which answers the question: What’s the essential story that brought you to this place? People can quickly identify a disingenuous act, and thus sharing a compelling real narrative rooted with your audience has the power of authenticity behind it.

4. Be consistent

It is much easier to get recognized if you stick to one topic and build all your content and brand voice around this topic.”Ensure that your brand message stays consistent both online and offline,” says Ramzy. “Sometimes people are only popular as social media influencers, but on the ground, they are not quite popular. This actually makes all the difference between just a popular social media influencer and someone who creates a trustworthy and visible personal brand that people can see in offline events and workshops as well as on social media,” he clarifies.

“You need to have a consistent brand tone and brand energy. In other words, your brand needs to have a personality and character. It needs to have a consistent mood and flair across all interactions,” says Kesseba.

5. Develop an implementation plan

“Once you have your brand map, you can formulate and implement a tactical plan that communicates and delivers your brand to your audience,” says Kesseba. “Such a tactical plan follows some steps: First, understanding the available tactical landscape (traditional and digital). Second, determining your best (most relevant) tactical approach (tools and tactics that are relevant to you). Third, creating an implementation plan (who will help, when, how, etc.). Fourth, measuring success and pivoting as needed,” he adds.

“The implementation plan could differ from one medium to another. So, if we are talking mainly about social media, first, you have to develop your social media assets (your platform and your pages, etc). Second, you have to develop a content strategy. Third, you need to identify your target audience, understand them and tailor your content based on their needs. Last but not least is monitoring and evaluation,” explains Seif.

6. Expression of your personal brand
While aligning your brand map with your implementation plan, Kesseba explains the importance of three main elements that needs to be catered for to optimally express your brand as follows:
? The visual element: your style, design choices, website, etc.
? The intellectual element: content, profile, bio, etc.
? The emotional element: The most powerful personal brands know what they want to authentically emote and have others experience.

Finally, a personal brand is not a static project. On the contrary, it is a lifelong endeavor that constantly develops and changes. Even personal branding gurus know that there are no hard-set rules for creating a personal brand. However, these basic guidelines can shed some light on the process for those out there who would like to start their own personal brand.

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