Sunday 11 November 2018

Personal Branding and successful strategies for brand building

There are three versions of you: what you are, what you think you are and what you want others to think you are.

The personal branding of the yesteryears revolved around creating a public image that was in line with your professional purpose.  As professionals, we were told that we were what we wore, what vehicle we drove and where we lived. Inspired by this, I wanted to project the image of a no-nonsense business executive.  I loved seeing my image in print. Those press clippings would be fondly treasured in my file and forever forgotten by all once they read them.  My father would paste them all in an album display them to all the guests who visited us at home, far from the eyes of my intended reader.

A few years down the line, I stopped caring about what others thought of me.  My brand was forged by association to a larger company and a larger purpose.   Even a multi-billion dollar company like Intel could not be spared the wrath of the public when it did not act on time for solving the Pentium processor floating point problem.  Initially, Intel reacted logically by reasoning that the floating point error was so rare that it would not be a matter of concern to majority of the users.  Major customers withdrew, stocks started spiraling downwards and the consumers who bought ‘Intel Inside’ because they regarded it their most prized possession, felt let down.  Intel apologized and guaranteed that they would take back any computer, no questions asked, and replace or reimburse.  The number of computers returned were a mere fraction of those that were purchased.  In this scenario, customers just wanted an assurance that the brand they trusted was going to act responsibly in the face of a challenge.  I was proud of how we rose to the occasion in times of duress.  My brand value in the world was measured by the fact that I was a respected member of an admirable company.  We were happy to have people like Andy Grove and Gordon Moore for our brands and we revered our association with them.  In this phase, I was happy to be what I thought of myself: a member of the Intel tribe.

When I started INK, my thinking was influenced by the Intel way of thinking. I was happy to talk about INK but not too comfortable talking about my personal life or views.  I took pride in the fact that I was not much on social media.  As I spent more time with our team at INK and the INK Fellows who often are half my age, I began to understand a lot about what they were seeking.  They were tired of the rhetoric, false promises, and of being handed over a world that was polluted in every possible way.  They craved and demanded authentic voices.

I realized that social media is the perfect way to delve deep into who I REALLY am and to explore my purpose. In some ways, it is the democratization of an individual.  I have a choice about what I want to write, how I want to write and who I want to target with my writing.  For the first time, personal branding is all about authenticity.  Your mistakes live forever in the digital world and so do your strong thoughts.  Today, I own my relationship with my tribe and have to be truthful in all that I say.  The tools are available to us today to communicate directly with the world in a voice that is solely ours.

My three strategies for successful brand building are as follows:

(i)  Be authentic: One should be able to write both personal as well as professional experience in one’s own voice even while adopting different tonalities.

(ii)  Learn from others: Follow other interesting voices. It can come as a surprise that successful branding is not merely about the number of followers one has but also the number of people one chooses to follow.

(iii)  Harness the power of social media. Pick one social media channel and post your thoughts and insights frequently. It is easier to maintain quality this way.

There was a time when I would advise youngsters to refrain from posting their candid photos online as it could put their possibilities of employment at stake.  Today, I realize how a strong social media presence is crucial to personal branding. It allows me to move the needle on issues I care about apart from allowing me the opportunity to exhibit my strengths and weaknesses in public view.  There is no need to be perfect, just the need to be me.

(Originally posted by Everything Experimental on November 11th, 2018) 

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