Is personal branding relevant for small and medium sized businesses?
Over recent years there’s been much discussion about the value of personal brands in a business. Fuelled by research findings (such as Weber Shandwick’s which found 44% of a company’s market value is directly linked to a CEO’s personal brand), the discussion has prompted businesses and individuals alike to assess the merits of personal branding.
Many businesses we support sell expertise in some shape or form. In personal branding forums, this is an ideal offering for a personal branding approach. When talking to the expertise specialists in those businesses, however, there’s often confusion about what personal branding really is in a business context – particularly in relation to smaller businesses.
Some see personal branding more akin to celebrities in the fashion, entertainment, sports or political arenas – the influencers and commentators who command massive followings on social media and regularly feature in the press.
If they think of personal branding in a business context, it’s often in the form of leaders of global corporate organisations who preside over multi-million pound businesses and who epitomise ‘commercial success’.
In thinking of personal brands in this way, they struggle to see the relevance for themselves. But:
- Everyone faces competition for what they do
- Everyone is distinctive in some way
- Success comes in many shapes and forms
At a basic level…
A personal brand helps you stand out in your field. Done well (and yes it needs to have a strategy and plan behind it) it can differentiate you from others doing what you do.
And, with too much choice available for every purchase and need, the credibility and reassurance that a personal brand brings can encourage people to then favour you when they need the expertise, insight, approach, skill etc that you are synonymous with.
Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room
– Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon
So isn’t a personal brand just the same as having a good reputation?
Another area that people get confused about is whether a good reputation is a personal brand. It’s certainly hard to build a personal brand without a good reputation but reputation alone isn’t a personal brand. Here are our thoughts why…
Reputation tends to focus on a singular aspect – he’s a good negotiator, she saved our client tax, he always answers my queries, she gives good advice.
Personal brands cover a broader spectrum. Think of a personal brand as more three dimensional – he’s an expert on the financial challenges facing my industry, she is passionate about issues facing business start-ups, he is an authority on diversity in the work place. Personal brands often blur work with other aspects such as the wider interests or values etc of a person.
In short reputation takes you so far, but a personal branding strategy will help you gain greater recognition, awareness and interest.
3 key ingredients for a rock-solid reputation from which to build your personal brand
- Credibility – this comes from your skill, experience, knowledge, strengths. The ‘what it is that you’re good at’
- Authenticity – if in reality you’re not what you seem, or the experience of working with you is disappointing, then a good reputation will be hard to forge.
- Accountability – delivering as promised, being true to your word
Personal branding approaches
So how do you build a personal brand? We set out a number of pointers in our article How to turn your good reputation into a personal brand but as a starting point consider how people value you and what they value you for.
Other things to recognise from successful personal branding strategies are:
- They’re led by a central goal or objective of what you want to be recognised for
- They focus on more than your daily work and tap into your broader strengths, values, interests, personality – people will be drawn to different aspects that are distinctive to them and their life/work.
- They fully understand the preferences, nuances, challenges, needs, interests etc of the target audience which the personal brand wants to attract. That understanding influences what the brand says, when they say it and how they say it. It ensures whatever is communicated remains engaging and truly resonates with the audience.
- There is a planned approach to make the brand visible in the communication/media channels its target audience favours.
- There is a long-term focus and built-in flexibility – personal brands take time to build and the world continually evolves. Good personal branding strategies have patience and perseverance but are also agile to adapt and capitalise on any changes that relate to its underpinning proposition and core message.
One final fundamental…. Resonance
Be mindful that to successfully build a personal brand you need to resonate with your audience. People are drawn to personal brands because of something more they give them – inspiration, escapism (the brand is living a life we’re not), positivity, an answer to a question or challenge, a sense-check, enjoyment.
Yes what you say and do is important, but so too is how you do and say it. A person may be an expert on the latest legal development affecting businesses, but if they can’t articulate it in a way business owners understand they’ll fail to gain resonance.
Similarly an expert who wasn’t the first to market to reveal research findings, but came later and explained the relevance of those findings in practical terms people understood would attract greater interest. For more insights here – see: How to get recognised as an expert and build a following
So does personal branding have a place in smaller businesses? Most definitely. Remember:
- Everyone faces competition for what they do and so it’s important to differentiate
- Everyone is distinctive in some way – and people are drawn to specific distinctive aspects the resonate with their life and work
- Success comes in many shapes and forms – you don’t have to have built an empire or headed up the biggest organisations on the planet for people to be interested. People are interested in all manner of things in business.
For more insights and help in formulating your personal branding strategy, please contact us on t 01483 429111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org