Solu: Defining your personal brand
Soluessee: Jesse Pihkanen & Joonatan Halonen
First of all, what is a brand?
British “Father of advertising” David Ogilvy defined brand as “the intangible sum of product’s attributes”. In other words, according to “The Dictionary of Brand”, brand is person’s perception of a product, service, experience or organization (Emotivebrand.com). So, you could say that the brand itself is an important thing to build and maintain. Neither of the previous definitions include personal branding. In a world where individualism is becoming more important and social media is rising, personal brand is now a thing. People want to stand out to make an impact. Because of the media and nowadays also the social media we admire people with great personal brands. Strong personal brand can help you in many ways. A great example of personal brand is Greta Thunberg, a young Swedish environmental activist. Thunberg became popular in social media as an innocent student who skipped school every Friday to raise awareness of climate change. Thunberg has been on the lips of many people during the last few months, she has even been nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize (BBC 3/2019). What about Winfrey, does the name ring any bells? What about if I say Oprah Winfrey? Oprah has so strong personal brand that she is mostly known by her first name. Oprah is one of the most known media executives and tv host. Oprah has also been ranked as one of the most influential women in the world (Telegraph 8/2007). So overall the conclusion is that personal branding is important if you want to achieve your goals. But how do you brand yourself then?
The meaning of vision and values
Values and vision act as a base for the company. It is way easier to build a brand on top of those. Without a clear vision it’s hard to define the company’s road to success. And without a clear path it’s not easy to build a brand for your company. Same applies to personal branding. (Ind N, 2007).
According to the well-known Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, self-actualization is the highest step. Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be (Maslow, 1954). Most people want to build relationships and want to be recognized by others for their worth. And by that people sense fulfilment. This step is based on the person’s values and vision. Personal brand mostly develops on one’s values. When you publish your values it’s easy for others to relate. People with same values recognize you as same minded person. You mostly admire people with same values and goals as you. This is also based on a step of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The step is called social belonging. According to Maslow, human beings need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance among social groups. Personal brand is nowadays somewhat also connected with the number of followers you have. The more you have the bigger your fanbase and influence is. (Maslow, 1954).
But in what kind of values should you concentrate? Mitch Joel is a journalist, entrepreneur and the president of Twist Image. Mitch Joel has worked over 20 years in marketing and with that experience he has come up with 10 key values for personal branding.
First of all, and in my opinion the most important one is honesty. Joel argues “If you’re not sharing who you really are and are simply trying to get others to pay attention to you, everything is lost.” This applies to everything when building a personal and company brand. If you are not honest you are not giving others the right image about yourself. You are lying to them and when they find out it’s a disaster for you brand, so it’s better to be honest all the way from the first step. Second one is open. This means that you must be open to feedback and criticism. Most importantly you have to be you. Be open about your flaws and imperfections, show that you are not perfect. Third one is to be consistent about what you post and say. A great way to a winning personal brand is being emotional. Making a connection through social media is sometimes hard because you can’t appeal on one’s feelings. So, if the things you post and say are emotional, it helps making a better connection. To make an impact you have to be candid. An important thing especially on social media is to share. The better content you share, the more findable you become. When people find you, they want to engage with you. Remember to engage with honour and good faith. Step eight in Mitch Joel’s list is focus. Joel argues that too many people spread themselves too thin. Focus on the thing you are really good at and then produce that kind of content. Remember that you are always a student. Even if you have a big fanbase that follows you, don’t think that you are the best teacher. There is always something to be better at and you can always learn something from everybody. Last on the list is care. Always care, not just about yourself but also on others. Gary Vaynerchuk is a great example of a person who seems to care about his audience and fans.
Personal brand – how?
In the book Brand you 50, Tom Peters talks a lot about the importance of taking your life into your own hands. For many years big corporations has been in charge of their employees’ careers. Same door, same office. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year. Well that’s over now. Peters states that “It’s over. The world in which we – the best and the brightest, the college kids – depended on them, the Big Corps., to “guide” our careers.” (Peters, 1999)
So, what should we do if “it” is over? Nowadays it’s important to stand out from the mass. For example, if you’re applying for a job it’s really helpful to have a strong personal brand that attracts people. Make the employers to want you and only you to work for them. With a good personal brand, the “game” is way easier.
Peters has dedicated his book to three real Brand Yous; MJ, Oprah and Martha. He says that these brands don’t need full names. Getting to a point like this requires a lot of hard work and dedication to your personal brand. Jordan, Winfrey, and Stewart (here’s the last names if you couldn’t figure them out) has all built their personal brands really well. With the media and especially social media coming into our everyday lives, it’s now possible to build your career for example on a social media platform. Making money through your own personal brand, just being you. Sounds pretty good, right?
There are a few things to think about when creating your personal brand. Start by asking yourself these questions:
What do I want to be?
What do I want to stand for?
Does my work matter?
Am I making a difference? (Peters, 1999)
The first question is important. Make sure you think about what you want to be regularly. Always have a clear vision of you, or better yet the Brand You. Peters suggests taking a couple of friends out to lunch with a discussion topic: What do I want to be? A big part of you is the way how your friends sees you. They know you the best and might give you a better point of view of yourself.
Along with the lunch, Peters suggests doing a few things if you don’t really know how to continue with building the Brand You. To make your dreams a bit more concrete, you can ask yourself what would “cool work” look like? Write down phrases that define for you work that matters (Peters, 1999). When you have listed some phrases down, you can start to think how can you apply these to your next project? How can you start making your work a bit more you? Peters asks to think about the ballplayers, hairstylists, carpenters and movie-stars that you admire. How could you make your work more like their work? Being really specific gives you tools to change your way of working to better, more suitable way for you. The most important thing to realize is that you must start doing something. The same applies here as in Proakatemia; you’ll learn by doing so get on with it!
When you’ve built your personal brand to the point where you should start spreading it, take it to social media. Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook… Just anywhere you want. Be honest when posting something and try to affect on people’s feelings. Be the person who stands in front of the pack. (Fastcompany, 7/2015) People tend to listen to strong leaders and that’s what you are going to be to them. A strong personal brand makes you look like a natural leader, a person who knows his/her stuff. This gives you credibility, but with it comes responsibilities.
Like mentioned before, be honest when posting something. Don’t lead your followers with a lie. You’ll get caught eventually, since it’s not really you. If you happen to get in to a conflict, always remember that your future employers might find it from the internet. That’s why honesty and openness are the key to a successful personal brand.
We hope that this essay has been helpful for you in a way that it’s easier for you to build your personal brand now. There are many small things that we did not cover, but you can start with the things you learned from this essay. A great way to start and test your personal brand is with the people you know. Ask honest feedback from you colleagues and friends. And always remember to be relentless and devoted, because building something new takes time. A great example of personal branding is Myyntimies Jani, who is a member of our neighboring team Value. Jani has branded himself as a seller, he even has his own website with blogposts and videos about selling (www.myyntimiesjani.fi). Jani is particularly interested in business and selling, and he is constantly learning more. Jani already has a fanbase which is constantly growing. You can always count on Jani if you have any questions or problems with selling. Jani is a good example, that you have to start somewhere, small of big, but with a consistent mind and a little bit of work you can achieve a successful personal brand. So why wouldn’t you start today?
Maslow Abraham - Motivation and personality, 1954
Peters Tom – The brand you 50, 1999.
Ind Nicholas – Living the brand, 3rd edition 2007.