Richard Branson has used his adventurous personal brand to enhance the Virgin Group Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash Busy entrepreneurs often think working on their personal brand makes them an ego-maniac, creating a personality cult worthy of Stalin. While for most people it feels easier to talk about their company’s achievements, the fact is
Busy entrepreneurs often think working on their personal brand makes them an ego-maniac, creating a personality cult worthy of Stalin. While for most people it feels easier to talk about their company’s achievements, the fact is that the startup leader’s personal brand is a company asset. As any company asset, if it is tended to with care, it will bear fruit.
The company’s leader its public face, and it is inevitable that the company will be evaluated on that individual’s strengths and weaknesses. If they are seen as chaotic, their company will be seen as chaotic. If they are known to have strong personal values, then their company will be perceived to have values too. Good investors assess founders first, before they evaluate their ideas.
While promoting yourself should not become an obsession, the simple question is: when people Google you, what do you want them to find? To build a personal brand that helps you grow your company and achieve your career aims, approach it like any other business strategy.
Assess what you already have: begin by evaluating what you are already known for and which of your skills people need. If you have already written content on Medium, your blog or in industry publications, which articles have had the most views? If you do not yet have any content up, think about what you most frequently get asked about.
Your specialty does not necessarily have to be exactly the same as that of your company, but it should translate. For example, Richard Branson is known as an adventurer, which translates to Virgin being seen as a risk-taking exciting brand. I run a fashion tech startup, but began my career in PR, and am often asked by fellow entrepreneurs how to get press coverage for their startups. Marketing skill in one area translates easily to another.
Show your strengths: when you are clear on your special strengths, you need to show them to people in a way they find useful and interesting. Create content that shares your knowledge, not just your views. For example, if you believe that AI is going to play a big role in creating advertising content in future, give advice to what creatives, advertisers or clients should do to prepare. Just stating a view is not enough.
You can begin by self-publishing on Medium, but after you get some traction, pitch your guest articles to industry publications. Becoming a guest contributor takes work, but it will establish you as an expert and lead to new opportunities. My guest posts have led to speaking opportunities at international conferences, partnership offers and advisory positions.
Get other people to promote you: beware of being seen as a self-promoter. While building your personal brand is hugely important, in his book “Power” Stanford Business School Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer warns that self-promoting behavior can turn people off and make you lose your credibility. Instead he suggests asking other people to help you establish your brand. For example, if you are a web design expert who has helped a friend out with their new website, ask them to make a public post about how you helped them on their social media or get a LinkedIn recommendation.
Make a business plan. Since your personal brand is a company asset, treat it as such. Create a three-month plan, with goals, actions you plan to take to achieve them, and how much time you plan to invest. Be specific, for example, aim to create two pieces of content per month, and have you first guest post in an industry publication in the three-month period.
Accountability is crucial to making any plan stick. If you already have a coach or an accountability buddy, ask them to keep you on track. Every month, review what worked, what did not and adjust accordingly.
Building a personal brand pays increasing dividends throughout your career. The more time and effort you invest in becoming known as an expert, the better opportunities you get. However, do not expect the conference of your dreams to invite you to be a keynote speaker after your first blog post.
Building a personal brand takes time, effort and lots of trial and error. But you owe it to your company to start.