With this piece our agenda is to understand the 101 of Personal Branding. We will essentially define a framework along with personal experiences to help build a better brand of yourself.
The author of this piece is Saurabh Bajaj, he has more than a decade worth of experience working with some of the most iconic brands out there.
Let’s jump right into it!
101 of Personal Branding in Digital times
Over the past couple of years as our socialization evolved over the digital medium, I had the good fortune of making friends with several entrepreneurs on various stages of their personal & professional journeys.
Some were just starting out and wondered how to build a name for themselves while others had already lived out the best years of their professional lives and were seeking social impact. However, one nagging question, often kept them awake at night.
What’s the right way to build their personal brand?
Over the course of several conversations, I found myself offering advice to them, much as I would build a strategy for a brand. Let me take you through the process and you may perhaps find it useful if your own journey.
A Framework for building a great Personal Brand
The journey towards building the strategy for your Personal Brand like any Brands journey can be covered by answering 4 primary questions:
1. Who is your Target Group?
2. What are the Needs of your Target Group?
3. Who are your Competing against?
4. What is your Unique Offering?
Now, let’s proceed down these questions one by one and identify the usual pitfalls that confound us.
Consumption and Communication TGs
Please note the word consumption TG is the consumer (the person who would consume your content). While the communication TG could be the customer (the indirect consumer / future consumer / someone who might influence your consumption)
Like in the case of most Brands, the Communication Target Group & the Consumption Target Group could be very different. You need to understand both in order to build a compelling strategy.
The Communication Target Group could be those that you are really seeking to build an impression with, these could be potential investors, senior management, recruitment specialists or potential collaborators. The Communication TG may not even engage with you, but trust me when it matters, they would have been paying attention.
However, the more important segment to talk to would be your Consumption Target Group. These are the cohort that will actually engage with you. They are also the individuals for whom you have something to offer. These could be students, vendors, peers or partners.
In building your Personal Brand you need to nurture both cohorts. Understanding the Communication Target Group guides the language you use and the topics that you engage on. The Consumption Target Group engages with your content and give you reach & scale.
Now, let’s bring this to life with the help of a few examples,
Say, you are Biking enthusiast and wish to make a name for yourselves through moto- vlogging. Then your Communication TG is likely to be Brand Managers in the top Motorbike companies like BMW, Hero Moto Corp or TVC or their agencies. But you will only make an impact on them if you are able to build a connection with your Consumption Target Group that are biking enthusiasts and those millions who would love to ride with you vicariously through your reels.
Again, you could be a Leadership Coach and would like to attract the attention of your Communication TG that are HR professionals across organizations or recruitment specialists. Here you may wish to attract a Consumption TG that are management students, early jobbers or middle management executives on Linked in.
Finally, you may be running your Baking business in your own home and then your Communication TG could be those that may order from you online or through Foodybuddy but the reach you get may come from the Consumption TG that are your friends on Facebook.
Needs of your TG
Now, while ultimately it’s your Communication TG that might help you build your business, get you the right contacts or switch your job. It’s really understanding the needs of your Consumption TG that makes all the difference in how you build your Brand. The reason for this is that the Consumption TG gives your content scale and reach. It’s what drives engagement and affinity. Eventually, it’s the proof of the pudding that you have what it takes to matter to your Communication TG.
So, how does one go about understanding the needs of your Consumption TG?
The secret of course is to participate in their world!
Going back to the examples that we used in the previous section. If you are a moto vlogger, how often are you participating in group rides? If your TG lives through you vicariously they are interested in every aspect of your journey from the way you select your accessories, to how you maintain your bike. And most importantly, are you there where the action is? It would be criminal on your part not to participate in the launch of latest bikes or not to have a point of view on whether Java is a truly legendary brand or not!
It’s the same for you as a leadership coach. Have you expressed your point of view on the new behaviours expected from professionals in the times of Covid? Do take some time out to understand the stresses and strains and how they are evolving in the lines of the cultural zeitgeist that your TG is living through today!
The most common question that I am asked at this stage is, “Isn’t Personal Branding is about me and what I am good at?” And my answer is usually, that actually it isn’t!
Personal Branding like most marketing is about participating in the consumer’s conversation & not about just sharing what your proposition is. That comes much later in the journey.
So the bottom line is, after you have identified the needs of your Consumption TG, build your content buckets around the lines of what is really ‘Compelling’ for your Target Group.
This takes us to the next section of the process.
Read more about Target Groups
After you have spent enough time understanding those that you are planning to engage with, it’s now time to understand what else they have on the buffet table. Thanks to the rise of digital, the social world is today quite crowded and your TG would have their fair share of options.
So if you are a motovlogger there are virtually an infinite number of biking channels and influencers. If you scan and study the most popular it might led you an idea of how do they cut through the clutter. What is so unique about the content that a Mumbaikar Nikhil, Bikewithgirl or a Supercarblonde produces? What sets them apart and are there any clues to crafting your own strategy?
Again as a Leadership Coach you could be competing with professional HR consultancies like DDI or with the hundreds of individual HR Coaches.
My recommendation at this stage is again to keep yourself out if the picture. This is not the time to figure out your own strategy. It’s the time to immerse yourself in the landscape that you find yourself it. Spot and identify the various models that exist in the market. Decode their strategy and what does their content tell you about their strengths and weakness.
I would in fact recommend that you spend time with some of your potential competition. Because your competition today, could well become your collaborator tomorrow!
Your Unique offering
This brings us to the final step of the process and the only time that you are allowed to start thinking about your own content strategy.
Once you build a deep understanding of what the cohorts that want to engage with you are interested in and what is already available for them to consume you start introspecting on the gaps in the market.
It’s now also crucial to ask yourself what is that you are passionate about. Someone once said, find a job that you love & you won’t need to work a single day in your life!
It’s the same with Personal Branding, it only works if you take out discretionary time for what you are truly passionate about and are willing to invest time it without any explicit rewards. In fact indulging in the act should ideally be reward enough.
While we might all have day jobs there is usually an artistic side to all of us. Some of us are closet singers, stand-up comedians, writers, film makers, painters or actors. Bringing in a part of what your hobbies are makes the journey of building your personal brand fun & liberating.
However, the crucial part of the puzzle that you need to solve for is, can you build content or find a voice that is an extension of the professional that you are? Because that’s really when you strike gold!
So if you are a motovlogger, sure your consumption TG would love to hear about what you did in the gym or how you are teasing your brother. But those sought after endorsement deals are likely to come your way if you also invested in your travels.
Again it’s easy to get lost myriad discussions on politics and brands, but if you are eventually a leadership coach, it might help to also think once in a while about what your Communication TG is grappling with. And you offering genuine solutions that are helping real HR challenges today?
In fact the content that you create on the various social platforms are eventually free samples of the skills that you hold. Ensure each sample that you hand out is curated and is of the highest quality so they reflect well the Brand promise that you wish to communicate.
While it make take a finite amount of time & effort to craft your Personal Branding strategy, however it can take a life of its own & suck you into it.
So it’s crucial to set some ground rules for yourself.
The first is of course ‘Consistency’, agree on a minimal frequency, say one a week or once a month. Whatever you promise yourself, ensure you stick to it. Consistency builds anticipation & a follower base and it’s only then that you make a difference.
The second is to allow for organic growth of your content through collaborations and new avenues. You only expand your reach and explore your potential when you are open to new linkages.
And finally, enjoy yourself. If any part of the journey starts to become tiresome, either you are doing something wrong or the effort is not worth it. So it’s time to introspect and take stock of where you are headed.
So all the best of luck for new adventures!
The author of this piece is Saurabh Bajaj, we hope you enjoyed the piece, if you did please head on to LinkedIn, and drop a thank you to the Author. You can also share the piece with your best friend on WhatsApp.
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