By Melissa Wait, PR manager, Gray Management Group

As consumers come to demand relationships with people not corporate entities, personal brands are commanding more of a focal point in the cluttered marketing space, and how your personal brand offers value to others is paramount.

With brands recognising the shift and the significance of personal brands, trust in brands, similarly to how people trust people, is moving to the forefront of interactions online and in person.

Personal branding is not a new concept, but with the advent of social media centred on personal profiling, this has raised the importance of personal brand management and being strategic about your approach.

Personal branding forms part of your work and personal persona and shapes the way people see you. Not many people take themselves through the process of assessing their personal brand, but establishing a personal point of difference, credibility and respect is a good start.

Marketing and branding principles that apply to products and services also apply to people. Your personal brand has a lifecycle and has complex layers. At the core is your character, then your personal brand, and then your personal reputation. Your character frames your values and beliefs, personal brand is what people see, and personal reputation what people say and think about you. Tiger Woods is a perfect example of how the three layers to personal branding did not align and hence his fall from grace was much greater.

Anna Bligh, Gail Kelly and Steve Jobs are all classic cases of those who get it right. Their personal brands are powerful commodities that have significant influence on politics, profits and shares respectively.

Growth, maturity and decline are common terms used when referring to the lifecycle of a product; these remain the same for the personal brand lifecycle. Assessing your personal brand and where it sits on the lifecycle is an important step. Your personal life cycle correlates with where you are in the stage of your career and it is determined by four core measures; influence, power, trust, engagement, and value.

In the growth stage, your personal brand is gaining momentum, you are learning new skills and adding value, people start saying good things about you, you are invited to events to speak and your blog gains traffic, and mainstream media also begin to take notice.

Maturity sees you speaking at events and managing clients needs, more time is invested with the family at home and less time on self promotion is required, awards have been won and the legacy of your personal brand carries you.

The decline stages hit and you begin to plan your exit strategy and look to retirement. You have occupied high Google search results for years but it is now time to hand over the reins and serve as a mentor and resource along the way.

Each stage needs to have a strategic framework to support it to ensure your goals are achieved. Like every great campaign, there is a plan and strategy behind it, personal branding is no different. Deciphering the clutter and deciding who you are, and want to be is as vital as the way you build your brand. Start with acknowledging key influencers, personal brand messages, an appropriate online presence and events you need to attend.

An online presence is essential. But, what goes on in Vegas stays on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, so make sure your brand is represented effectively and portrays your personal brand ethics. For online, be engaging and have a descriptive bio, be current, and use correct grammar and spelling.

An online professional profile is different to your Facebook profile and being active in this space should be a priority. Adding professional connections, joining groups and forums, and being available is important. Don’t: be a spammer, have an ego, confuse quality for quantity, abuse the find colleagues function, or be afraid to disconnect with people.

However, online forms only a small part of a personal brand. When you think of big brands like Coca Cola, Nike, McDonalds, and Qantas, they all have one thing in common – strong brand imagery. Personal branding also needs relevant imagery. Visual impressions are made in the first eight seconds, and 30 seconds of conversation, so selling yourself needs to be done quickly as if you are pitching; the ‘elevator sell in.’ Nail your elevator pitch and choose the right net of people to network with, in line with who your influencers are.

A rabbit can’t be a fish – with personal branding you need to be true to your character and personality, flaws and all.  If you start your brand journey by being something you are not then you will be uncovered at some point in time, and it becomes a very difficult road to travel. Don’t be the next Tiger Woods.

  • Stan

    Given the rise of the concept of personal branding over the last few years I wonder how long it will be before we see this offered as a subject in university degrees?

    • Katharina Pilgrim

      apparently it took 5 years 😀 – im researching the lifecycle of a personal brand for the subject international brand management within my grad school program – cheers from germany