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HMC NEWS: Five foundations for building a personal brand

This article is about building a personal brand. Now, you might think, “This is not relevant to me. Building a personal brand is something celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Richard Branson do, right?”

Well, yes, that’s right, many celebrities spend every day building their personal brands. And many like Kim and Richard do it really well. 

What might surprise you, however, is that building a personal brand has a lot of advantages for normal, everyday people like you and me. And by ‘personal brand’ in this context I’m talking about building a positive reputation – as a leader, an innovator, an influencer - among your peers.

There are several big advantages of taking a purposeful approach to building your personal brand. Just a few include: opportunities for career advancement, peers respecting you as a thought leader, ability to advance your governance career or media seeking you out for industry comment. And don’t forget the advantage of social media followers if your career aspirations include being a brand ambassador and social influencer.

Building a personal brand makes a bit more sense when you consider these sorts of advantages, don’t you think? 

So, if you want to build your personal brand and develop a reputation as a leader in your field, here are five purposeful PR activities to put on your to-do list: 

1)  Lead in many circles
If your career goals involve leadership, you need to look for opportunities to practice leadership in many different parts of your life. Building a reputation as a leader isn’t just about being the boss at work. 

2)  Be visible
You can’t lead from behind a desk. Leaders must be seen in the circles where their leadership passion lies. 

3)  Hang with leaders
Cultivating a reputation as a leader requires that two things happen: A) you act like a leader and B) people perceive you as a leader. 

4)  Cultivate deep relationships
The last recommendation leads logically to this one. Once you begin ‘hanging’ with other leaders then you’ll have opportunities to build relationships.

5)  Provide considered opinion
As you emerge as a leader, a great way to solidify that reputation is to provide considered opinion on your area of expertise. However, the reason I’ve put his recommendation last is that you need to earn a bit of respect first before you start. Opinion-sharing must be a logical step that flows naturally after working on the above four recommendations.  

You need to seek out a range of opportunities to demonstrate how well you can step up and take charge.

Look for governance opportunities – maybe start with a favourite not-for-profit organisation. Lead on sport or school committees. Stick your hand up to manage additional projects at work. 

The most important place to ‘be visible,’ of course is in your primary leadership role at work. Nothing undermines a leader’s respect more than being away from the office and away from their team an inordinate amount of time. If you do have a job that involves lots of travel, then make it a priority to connect with your team members in authentic ways. If you don’t, the murmurings from disgruntled staff can undermine any good reputation you are trying to build.

Outside of the office, you need to look for other ways to be visible to industry and business peers. A few ideas are: look for conference speaking opportunities, join an industry body committee or volunteer with well-respected charities.

This third recommendation is all about the latter. It’s not enough to act your way to the top, but you need to impress the people who will help you get there. 

At work, this means getting in front of those who will give you your next promotion. To advance in your governance career, this means impressing other respected governors. On social, it means interacting with other social leaders.

So, work on getting in front of the people who can help you achieve your goals. This could involve joining some business clubs or organisations such as Rotary, Institute of Directors, Chamber of Commerce or others.  

Purposeful networking is a major key to getting off on the right foot in building new relationships. 

Another great way to build deep relationships is to seek out a mentor or career advisor whom you respect – buy them lunch or a coffee every so often and pick their brain. 

And remember: always give something back to the people you’re connecting with. Authentic relationships are a two-way street; it’s not all about you.

When you think you’re ready, a few great ways to provide considered opinion are: pitch yourself as an expert in your field to media so they contact you for comment on certain topics; write a blog and share on LinkedIn; and join discussions on well-read social media accounts in your industry field.

Following these five PR recommendations will give your leadership reputation a boost and get you on the fast-track to achieving your career and personal goals.

By Heather Claycomb, HMC Communications
First appeared in Waikato Business News January 2018