Practice what you preach

Practice before you preach, practice what you preach and practice even after you stop preaching! These adages and their extensions couldn’t be more significant than in these times of personal branding. I can but try and capture the essence of this nebulous or amorphous essence of the word “brand” by saying that, a brand comes into existence when it is associated with a particular image of a person/ product/service, over a period of time and which shows the same qualities consistently which are unique and singular to that person, product or service irrespective of the time, place or situation.

The key operating word here is “consistency”. And consistency brings in credibility which in turn is inextricably associated with integrity, confidence and trust, in a person, product or a service.

That’s the power of a brand!!

I want to emphasise this by quoting Peter Montoya the author of the book, “The Brand Called You” who defines personal branding as  the process that takes your skills, personality and unique characteristics and packages them into a powerful identity that lifts you above the crowd of anonymous competitors.

It’s no wonder then that every person worth his or her while is queuing up to create their very own brand. Given the impact that a brand has on the minds of the consumer it is imperative that entrepreneurs seek to first create their personal brand before they do so for their product and/or service that they make and sell, or propose to sell.

I am afraid Shakespeare’s line from Romeo and Juliet,Whats in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, would be completely anachronistic in these times, as today, what smells like a rose cannot be called anything else except a rose!

So why such a hullabaloo about having or building a personal brand??

For entrepreneurs their own personal brand speaks volumes about the product/service that they choose to create and sell to the consumers. And every time consumers either buy it or recommend it to others, they unwittingly endorse that very brand like brand ambassadors. Which means that the personal brand equates to the company, and the value that it provides.

But building a personal brand is not a shot in the dark. Rather it is a lifelong, well thought out, planned, endeavour for the entrepreneur, from the time its idea is mooted, carefully cultivated and nurtured till it is established. It follows a step by step design which finally projects the persona of the entrepreneur to the world which includes, the customers, the investors and the employees.

A strong personal brand begins with a personal mission statement which resonates with that of the company’s. To that effect one needs to do some soul searching to make a mission statement that talks convincingly about the “authentic” “you”, the real you, as in “yourself”. You need to discover the language and the words that best represent your spirit and your core values. The personal mission statement also defines your goals and the pathways to realize those goals.

It’s not merely a sheet of paper with an agenda, rather it’s more of a road map which, when adhered to with integrity, makes your business unique and makes it stand out strikingly against competition. It is the Pole Star of your business which guides you always in the desired direction when things begin to go awry, as they usually do, when business begins to scale and more employees come in with their own set of values.

With presence on the social media being the order of the day, you can leverage the advantages offered by FB, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn, and connect to the outside world or to that select group of people who share your ideas of doing business. Blogging about yourself is another potent way of advertising your brand and your business. If the blogs make for good reading they generally get shared across similar domains with a mutually beneficial effect. You could also post on another blog as a guest writer and conferences too are great places to network.

Once the ball has been set in motion, the next step is to make every genuine effort for the brand to grow. Very often entrepreneurs make the mistake of not taking the necessary time and effort needed to grow their brand. For a startup the early growth phase is the ideal time for the entrepreneur to make maximum efforts to project and reinforce his personal brand. Some key actions kick-started in that phase, propel the brand to grow. The first thing is to declare succinctly and clearly who you are and what you and your business stand for. The next step would be to define that small area which has not been explored before. It would be a good strategy for your business to make a mark in that area and be recognised for it. Customers are obviously an integral part of the game plan and hence it pays rich dividends to make them happy as businesses become increasingly customer-centric. Innovation is the new buzzword and whenever employed should be done while balancing out the new divergent pathways the business could take.

Ultimately a good brand must have certain qualities to be viable over a long period of time. Essentially the brand must be easy to recall or memorable for consumers to associate a particular product or service with it. A brand should speak about the creator and represent his core values like integrity, confidence, trust, aesthetics, charisma, strength to name a few. Further it has to be scalable and consistently present itself in the same manner across all modes of communication from personal to social media.

Think of a rocking personal brand and what comes to the mind is Mark Zuckerberg (or M dot Z ?) and Steve Jobs of Apple. Mark Zuckerberg’s, almost “uniform-like”, grey T- shirt and hoodie, have a distinct style of their own and distinguishes him from the rest of the suited-booted crowd. It tells his story of him being an original innovator par excellence. These are simple and strong personal brand messages. Steve Jobs on the other hand iconised the black mock turtlenecks, Levis 501 jeans and the New Balance sneakers, which were produced in large numbers for him which were completely in tune with the classy products that he made. In fact his personal brand and the company brand were almost one.

Inspite of taking all these correct steps entrepreneurs could face multiple dilemmas as to whether their personal brand reflects who they really are, or is marketing their brand a good idea, can it grow the way they want it to, is too much too little, how do I do this when I am an introvert, so on and so forth.

But there is a definite positive to this whole exercise of brand building. It is undoubtedly an asset. The crux of the matter is to make a continued effort at reinforcing your authenticity or living the brand as you aspire to, that you wish to create and to perpetuate, at all times and at all places, so that your identity and that of your company are synchronized and reverberate with similar sentiments. Be individualistic, and tell your story like it’s never been told before. And more than anything else connect with your audience in a unique way, your own way!!

So that your workplace vibrates with and is abuzz with trust, with confidence and with positivity!!

To conclude I quote some lovely lines on personal identity

I wasn’t searching for something or someone, I was searching for me! – Carrie Bradshaw

Cheerio till the next time!