Lifting the cover on personal branding and thought leadership

Not everyone is, can be or wants to be a thought leader, major influencer or a big brand personality. And that’s perfectly ok. But everyone can be relevant, real and the best version of themselves. 

There are so many misconceptions and myths causing confusion and overwhelm to professionals and businesses. In this article I lift the cover on personal branding and thought leadership to cut through the rhetoric to the reality. 

But first you must grasp the concept that:

No one does exactly what you do in the exact same way you do it !’.

That is not an opinion or perception but a fact. It’s impossible for a direct duplication of your skills, super powers, value, personality and character.

And  every professional can build visibility and credibility as a subject matter expert in their field. Standing out, owning your value, genius and power is available to all.  But it has to be the real deal, not fabricated fluff or smoke and mirrors.

It has to feel right for you and there is no cookie cutter approach. And further, reality statements are not value judgements.

The truth of thought leadership

There is a lot of hype swirling that you must sit on a  pedestal of self grandeur and hoopla which is nonsense. We observe this zeal on social media which is  mostly counter-productive to authentically communicate and leverage a personal brand. There is much confusion about what constitutes a thought leader. And it’s not a title you bestow on yourself but the essence that you communicated which demonstrates such.

Other people can bestow and promote you as a thought leader.  And personalities and characters have zippo to do with being a thought leader. My definition is:

A thought leader is different to a leader (but not always mutually exclusive). Thought leadership is being truly innovative. Thought leaders develop and create unique solutions, ideas and concepts for significant impact and change.

 

Influencer branding can also be different to being influential and having influence.  We all influence in some way shape or form – be it at micro or macro levels.  The notion that everyone has to be a powerful influencer with 10,000+ followers is illogical.

Thriving in business is challenging and even more so since the internet revolution.  We are drowning in content, digital overwhelm and an ocean of choices.  Grabbing a solid chunk of our sector’s $$ pie is both harder and easier than ever before.

Standing out in the busy ocean

But a strong and enticing personal brand is vital to stand out in busy oceans  – especially for service businesses. It is the strategic marketing differentiator to grab that chunk of pie and hold your own/

In his 1997 Fast Company article The Brand Called You Tom Peters challenged us to harness the significance of personal brands alongside the importance of big business brands.  Whilst much has changed since then with social media overtaking the world, there is still relevant tips and value. He wrote:

“If you want to grow your brand, you’ve got to come to terms with power — your own. The key lesson: power is not a dirty word!  In fact, power for the most part is a badly misunderstood term and a badly misused capability. I’m talking about a different kind of power than we usually refer to.

It’s not ladder power, as in whose best at climbing over the adjacent bods. It’s not who’s-got-the-biggest-office-by-six-square-inches power or who’s-got-the-fanciest-title power.  It’s influence power. It’s being known for making the most significant contribution in your particular area. It’s reputational power. “ Tom Peters

In essence personal branding has been in existence for eternity.   We all have a personal brand. School teachers, tradespeople, CEOs, university students, store managers, TV celebrities etc – no one is exempt.

Perception and experiences of that brand can be negative, neutral or positive. And those perceptions have a long bow based on many factors.   We cannot be everything to everyone and we won’t resonate with all – and that’s ok.

Your vibe attracts your tribe

One of my favourite coaching and life mantras is Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe.    

Embracing that ethos reduces stress, empowers confidence and guides positioning your value. 

Getting in touch with your own vibe though starts with self-awareness, mirror work and a bucket of courage.

You cannot be everything to everyone. Not everyone will resonate and like you. And that’s ok. Focus on what and who you resonates to your vibe to attract more of those.

Five elements of branding perception

There are 5 key elements that make up Brand YOU which culminate in how you are perceived and experienced:

Your Motivations, Values, Personality, Equity and Visuals are displayed and woven into all written, media and verbal communications.  And ultimately you must check what other people say about you.  Doing this may uncover a few ‘ouch’ moments if there is a disconnect between rhetoric and reality.

Diving into each element can be pretty confusing and confronting.   Many people seek assistance with the equity content as they grapple with seeing their genius and impact on others with clarity. 

There is a huge line between overt bragging and championing skills and outcomes.  And I promise that everyone has numerous golden USP nuggets, purpose and style that no one else shares.  They may be simple, complex or multi-dimensional

And those unique nuggets hold the key to your brand differentiation. And it’s that differentiation that needs to be powerfully communicated in a way that is authentic to you in an engaging and real manner. Storytelling has a big part to play there also.

The 3 traps to avoid

The impact of identifying, communicating and managing a great personal brand can be immense.   However many people respond to the concept very poorly.     You will see this on websites, LinkedIn profiles and other social and digital channels of opportunity for visibility and influence.

  1. Ignore : Head in the sand –  no information, excuses and fear to be seen
  2. Neutral: Boring, vanilla tone, no gravitas or differentiation
  3. Over the Top: Hyperbole, self-aggrandisement, look at me presence

Attracting for joy and being real

An extra aspect around your Values-Goals-Passions is to reflect on the clients and networks you do and do not want to attract.  Who and what brings you joy and satisfaction is equally important as who doesn’t. 

Getting clear here gives an edge in your communications that instinctively repels those who you don’t wish to attract and draws more of those you do.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being real and direct without hyperbole. 

The metal needs to meet the road for congruency, trust and brand consistency as a human being.

Brand promise and confidence

We are not perfect humans and sometimes we can go off brand. But we need to strive for a 90% consistency rate.  Overall, the personal brand promise will benefit business enormously in attracting and retaining loyal aligned clients.

And as humans we all grapple with confidence at times so need clarity and strategies to keep a lid on self doubt.  Check out my top strategies to conquer self doubt here.

Be daring and fearless in how and what you communicate.  You are the only person who does what you do in the way you do it.   Step up and out into the world in a way that showcases your brilliance and as the best best real version of yourself.

 

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