The Art of Personal Branding

Words Zu Anjalika Kamis Gunnulfsen | Picture Anna Kolosyuk

I was back in Singapore last week attending what seemed like innumerable amounts of meetings and catch-ups. Not that I am complaining. I love meet-ups and catch-ups – it’s just that sometimes coming back into my city, I’d love to have some time to sit and relax in a quiet green space – alone, preferably with an iced-oatmilk cappuccino in hand – gratitude-ing, contemplating and pondering the present and future. This time around, no, that’s not a possibility. While the quiet green space alone did not materialize, I did however, get to ponder about the present and the future, with a few others, with oatmilk-cappuccino in hand, no less. The topic of personal branding, the very one I am very passionate about stays fixated in my mind – the present and future state of affairs of personal branding.

I’d love to think of myself as one of the pioneer batches who has the good luck of discovering personal branding by chance – when the word “personal branding” itself wasn’t yet the buzzword. Born to a pair of Singaporean parents, our lives had always been about attaining great results in school – looks, personal presentation and everything else took a backseat – although when I reflect, Mom did put on her best face – at least a hint of lipstick, powder and her best gait, any time she leaves the house – that’s personal branding there although she will say otherwise. 

 While I am glad academics had been put on the pedestal by my parents those times ago, I can’t help but cringe when I think about implementing the same to my kids. The current climate has certainly changed – gone are the days of being picked out for a job just because of your academic qualifications. These days, it is about being seen and standing out amongst your peers. Everyone we know and their neighbour has a basic degree, at the least. So, how can you be the one that has the most attention when you walk into a room? And most importantly, what is said about you when you walk out of that room? Here is where personal branding steps in. You want to build a brand that screams you through and through – the authentic, unique you!

What is personal branding?

I’d love to think of personal branding as a marketing tool for yourself – a tool that helps set you apart from others.

Every brand we know has a unique trait and personality. Chanel exudes independence, power, freedom and femininity, while Mercedez-Benz is a combination of efficiency, precision and prestige. H&M screams diverse, chic, and very affordable and Zara is confident, beautiful, unpretentious and stylish.

So, what’s yours? How do you attain it?

Here are some tips to build your personal brand

1. Figuring out who you are

Do you really know who you are – what makes you tick, what ticks you off?   Introspection is the word.  Create a list of your personal strengths and weaknesses. Ask yourself:

. What is my motivation?

. What areas of work do I excel in?

. What have I always been complimented on?

. My energy givers and drainers?

. What types of projects excite me?

Also, ask family and friends what they think are your best characteristics – don’t shy away from asking them about your not-so positive traits too.  This conversation will give you more insights about yourself than you are aware of.

Once you have all the answers you need, it will be lots easier to narrow down on a life or career path that will see you excel.  Remember that your personal brand will evolve over the years – your experiences along the way will change the way you look at things.  Your future growth will depend on what you sow now.  Do your now wisely.

2. What do you want to be known for

Besides your existing skills and competencies, knowing your strengths and weaknesses helps chart the roadmap of the direction you wish to go.

Know the skills, characteristics and traits that make you stand out.  Also, make a list of areas you need to be better in or improve on.

All these will help you gain a better clarity of how you can get to the 3 to 5-year goals you set to achieve.

3. Authenticity 

Authenticity is essential in building a personal brand. Be yourself and embrace everything that is you. Perhaps you might have a unique gait while you are walking or the mix of accents you picked up while growing up in three different countries before the age of 12. These are all authentically you. Come to terms with it and see yourself be memorable.

4. Performance, Image, Exposure (P.I.E)

Coined by Harvey Coleman, the P.I.E. theory emphasises the importance of certain factors in shaping your brand. P.I.E. is the secret to attaining your goals. While the certificates and paper accolades are all helpful, they are hardly enough these days. You need to be in control of your P.I.E. Let’s unpack!

P.I.E is an abbreviation for Performance, Image, Exposure and with all these three intact, your image will work in your favour. Performance is key – you need to deliver what you set out to do. Image is how others perceive you – it’s fundamentally your personal brand. Exposure is ensuring people know about you and what you stand for. All these three factors need to be paid attention to. 

One cannot lift you if the rest do not – P.I.E needs to work concurrently.

5. Your brand story

What do you want to be known for? How and where will you stand amongst your peers and competitors? It is imperative that you know for sure and understand your personal brand identity. To develop a strong story for your brand, these are the key elements :

· Core values – What do you stand for? What do you value most in your life? 

· Your brand purpose – What is your purpose here? What are you trying to achieve?

· Your physical brand elements – When we talk about in person, your personal grooming, appearance, mannerisms, and the clothes you wear. When it comes to online visibility, your logo, your website, the colours used.

· Your brand benefits – Be clear about your benefits; functional and emotional ones that you claim to be able to deliver to your clients. What are your skills? What about accolades and qualifications? You will need to support your claims with tangible evidence like speaking engagement videos, and certifications.

· Why clients should choose you – What is special about you? Why should clients choose you and not your competitor? Think of your USP, your Unique Selling Point.  Something only you have but not the rest. We all have a special skill or trait, something that sets us apart from the rest. Do you exude a special air of confidence when you walk in a room or are you the only one in the industry who is a polyglot?

6. What the internet search says about you

In the digital world these days, we are able to find out about a person at the touch of our fingertips – Google is the word. Before you are given a job, 70% of employers use Google to check you out and review your social profiles.

Try Googling yourself and see what comes up. Is it that picture from last summer – the one that had you sticking your tongue out to the camera? Or was it the one of you smiling crazy at the camera after a night of club-hopping? Perhaps it is a post of you ranting and complaining about the latest government policy? Having an opinion is great but not when you become utterly aggressive in your comments.

Sometimes, you might not appear at all – in place, someone or a few people with the same name dominates the pages. Do a little search and do the needful. Taking out some pictures, adding some or taking away obsessive rants.

Personal branding is important and should not be overlooked. We all have a personal brand – it’s just a matter of tapping into your authentic self to discover it. Your personal and professional successes depend on your personal brand – the only thing that will set you apart from your peers and competitors. So, if you haven’t already, start working on it. It’s an investment for you and your career.