In the digital age, personal branding has never been more important. Whether it's the CEO of a large organisation, or the employee of a boutique brand, the way that people manage their online presence determines how they are viewed. In many ways, the prospect of being put under a digital microscope can seem daunting, but personal branding, if done properly, can be a great advantage.
Corporate branding is not a modern day phenomenon - and it was not conceived for a digital age. Thousands of years ago, branding was used in the most literal form of the word as a mark to signify ownership. In the 1990s, branding experienced a boom when it was adopted by corporations, educational institutions, non-profit organisations and individuals in the public eye. In this decade, branding has become the norm and the mainstay of any successful product, company or advertising campaign.
While the importance of branding is no longer in question, how to keep a brand fresh is. More recently, much visited brands such as Google, eBay and Yahoo have undergone a few changes to hone the message they communicate to their audience. These brands each took a similar approach to their re-brand, using slimmer typeface for their logos with an added 'personal' touch.
Yahoo's CEO Marissa Mayer wrote on Tumblr of the re-brand: "We knew we wanted a logo that reflected Yahoo - whimsical, yet sophisticated. Modern and fresh, with a nod to our history. Personal. Proud." Similarly, eBay's announcement posted on their site read: "Our vibrant eBay colors and touching letters represent our connected and diverse eBay community."
Both brands focused on the importance of a human touch, while nurturing relationships and building loyalties. These are sentiments which Potential Squared very much reflects in our own views on branding. We further extend this view beyond corporate brands to personal brands.
The importance of a personal brand
Personal branding has always been relevant. According to the recent Forbes article posted on the topic of personal branding, it's "a never-ending journey of self-discovery". The author of the post, Glenn Llopis goes on to explain, "When you know yourself and your natural tendencies as a leader, it's much easier to communicate your personal brand. When you are out of touch with who you are and what you represent as a leader, it makes you vulnerable and more susceptible that your brand will be defined by others."
The emergence and development of social media has put even more emphasis on the way that we position ourselves. Without knowing it, you will have already branded yourself - through the statuses posted on Facebook, to the tone of the emails you send at work, even to the clothes that you wear, opinions will be formed constantly about the person you are from the way that you convey yourself both online and off.
Pre-internet, a strong sense of character and a proven management style could provide the answer to successful personal branding. In 2013, just one off-brand tweet could completely sabotage a reputation.
How to brand yourself as a leader
We believe that the concept of personal branding can be simplified with two questions - "what do you want to communicate?" and "how should you communicate it?" At Potential Squared, we have adopted a personal branding model to help clients with their leadership presence, effectively asking these two questions, and making sure that the answers add up every time.
Based on years of experience working with experienced colleagues, associates and partners in markets around the globe, we've refined the way we help our clients to brand themselves as leaders. We collaborated with Jacqueline Farrington, Founder of LA and New York based Farrington Partners, to break this process down into three vital strands: verbal, visual and vocal messaging. By addressing each of these elements, we believe that anyone can lead from a position of strength in five simple steps.
Step 1: Speak with conviction, commitment and passion by identifying your values, beliefs and ideas and standing by them.
Step 2: Connect with your audience by creating affinity and rapport with their world, their needs, and their expectations.
Step 3: Convey confidence by looking, feeling and sounding self-assured through your visual and verbal messages.
Step 4: Deliver messages with clarity by being succinct and structured.
Step 5: Ensure that the content you convey is memorable and meaningful to your audience.
The future of personal branding
There are many predictions about the future of personal branding in the digital world. Some believe that sites such as LinkedIn will replace the CV, and social networking will truly become the way to secure jobs and win clients. Others believe that our private and professional lives will merge into one, even more than they have already.
No matter where you stand on this debate, Google yourself and you'll see that there's no hiding anymore. That means authenticity is the only way to thrive in our increasingly digital world. Cultivating your presence and your personal brand is an important step on the leadership journey. From the mannerisms you demonstrate to the words you choose, perfecting this presence is not only advisable, it is essential.