Deborah Lee
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Why You Need to Get Serious About Your Personal Brand

personal brand tips for entrepreneurs

Fifteen years ago nobody talked about your personal brand.

What a ridiculous concept! Your personal brand? Are you kidding me?

I’ve pretty much heard every insult on the topic…

“Personal branding???! These airheads who think they can conjure up something from zip need to get their heads out of their pretentious backsides.”

“These personal brand experts need to go out and get a real job” (as opposed to hanging out online slinging insults around, presumably)

And then there’s my personal favourite which isn’t so much an insult but more massively irresponsible advice for involved in online marketing…

“Stop worrying about your personal brand! Just be authentically you.” Aaargh!!!

Seriously??? You want to check out how I look, feel and sound when I get up in the morning??? It’s 100% authentically me, and that is not going to help any entrepreneur any time soon, I assure you.

It’s also worth mentioning that the ‘airhead’ who first floated the idea of personal branding was the business management writer Tom Peters in the 1997 Forbes article The Brand Called You.

Tom Peters’ In Search of Excellence was one of the first books I read when I embarked on my sales career, and it’s still one of the best I’ve read because no matter how technology makes us think we’re so much cleverer now… classics never go out of style.

Personal Brand Classic

There’s nothing like referencing James Bond to prove a point, is there?

Now whilst I would not and could not even feature on the same platform as Mr Peters, I’ve added a couple of points to consider now that we’re in the grip of social media.

If we’re online we’re more visible than ever, and so the reputation we work hard to nurture needs protecting.

Here are five reasons why, whether we like it or not, our personal brand is more important than we probably realise:

  1. People are judgmental – Try as we may not to be, we do it all the time. How a person dresses, the expression they wear on their face, how they empathise… It all helps us to form snap opinions that drive our perceptions.
  2. If we don’t paint a picture for people, they’ll paint their own – Let me explain what I mean by that statement… Did you ever find yourself having finally met someone face-to-face after months of speaking to them on the phone, saying to yourself “they don’t look anything like I thought they would…”? That’s because our minds fill in the blanks when information is missing without us even realising. When we don’t present ourselves in the way we want to be seen, we can expect   people to draw conclusions about us that we’ll probably not be too keen on.
  3. People buy from people – To quote my old sales manager, “the one objection that’ll stop people buying from you that you can’t do anything about is this: ‘I don’t like you’…” And he was right, and what’s more, we’ve lost sight of this as we create our digital presence, tailor our custom audiences and pose for our profile photographs. When people like you, they’ll help you, buy from you, recommend you to their friends, which leads me on to…
  4. Recommendations and testimonials are gold – When someone recommends you to their network, you fast-track the buying cycle. No longer is it necessary to prove your worth, value or integrity because the trusted word of your sponsor has done all that. With strong personal brands come powerful reputations, and that should never be underestimated.
  5. You can’t buy a strong personal brand – This is why most struggle with the concept, in my opinion. Let’s face it, money can buy a lot of things but it will never buy you respect, reputation or trust, and that’s what an established, strong personal brand will convey to those important to you and your business. Call me old-fashioned but I think that’s quite valuable.

So it may be that you prefer to think of personal branding as ‘reputation’, or ‘image’, or ‘public perception’…  If the terminology is what you struggle with then use something else. It really doesn’t matter. If I’m honest I’m not completely sold on ‘personal branding’; it suggests to me something that’s manufactured and potentially false which it absolutely isn’t. Maybe it needs to be rebranded… [drifts off in another direction]

But whatever you do, always bear this in mind: the day we no longer need to worry about the impression we’re making will be the day we’re so successful we don’t need to care anymore. At which point we can retire our personal brand… with a slap on the back for a job well done.

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