There’s been a lot of write ups about personal branding recently. And even more expressed opinions about it. Whether you’re for or against it, the only thing you can’t do is to ignore it. Every individual has a personal brand. Either you take the effort to build it in a way that reflects positively on you, or you let nature take its own course. And you may or may not like how it’ll turn out if you leave it to run its own course.
What Exactly Is A Personal Brand Anyway?
In its essence, a personal brand is the quality that you project for others to see. It describes who you are, and what you stand for. It’s the very meaning for the phrase “Your reputation precedes you.”
But why is your reputation so important?… Why indeed… Before anybody actually gets to know you on a personal basis, your reputation is what others see you as. To understand this further, we’ll have to breakdown the levels of intimacy of how others actually know you :-
1. Intimate Level
This is where your best friends and family are in your circle. People who know everything about you on a very personal level. Everything from what you really look like, to all your quirks and habits.
Your besties and family take you for who you really are. There’s literary nothing to hide from them. They know all the good and the bad about you.
2. Casual Friend Level
This is where people that you interact with regularly, but are not your close buddies. You talk to them, you work with them, you even compete against them for business opportunities or performance grades. This is circle where most of your “friends” reside.
Your casual friends know who you are, and what you generally look like. They may even know how you’d react to any given situation too. But you keep them out of your innermost circle, an intimate and exclusive club reserved only for your besties and family members.
3. Acquaintance Level
People whom you’ve only met once or twice, probably introduced to you at a party or event. They know your superficial qualities, and probably only seen your “well-behaved” side. They may not even plan to, or have the opportunity to meet you again in the future either. Basically, they know that you exist, and what you generally look like when you’re well-behaved.
What your acquaintances know about you generally come from rare opportunities to actually interact with you, but mostly from secondary sources. It is this secondary sources that your reputation fills in the most information about you to them.
4. Audience Level
As the name suggests, this is the group of people that have only seen you from afar. Whether they’re part of the audience in an event that you graced, or merely read about you from a secondary source. Generally speaking, these people know who you are, but you don’t know them.
What this group of people know about you is based almost completely on your reputation. What they know about you probably comes from an article you wrote, or an article someone wrote about you. They hear about you from other people, whether in active discussion about you, or only in passing conversation.
5. People You’re Seeing / Presenting To For The First Time
The final group of people are those who don’t even know you at all. You’re basically seeing them for the first time. It could be a talk that you’re presenting live, or even a watching you in a public event remotely, like in a prerecorded video.
This group of people are “meeting” you for the first time, hence they have absolutely no preconceived image of who you are. What they will eventually know about you will be based 100% on how they perceive you presenting yourself to them. And it is from this that they will from the perception of who you are, and what you stand for.
So, What’s Personal Branding, And Why Is It Important?
A personal brand is essentially the qualities associated with a person. Whether he or she is a charismatic extrovert, who can make everybody comfortable, or an introverted deep thinker. It can also “predict” how he or she will react to any given situation. Basically, it’s a qualitative description of what that person projects. Now, whether or not this projection accurately depicts him or her is up for discussion.
What’s important to know is that the personality and characteristics that is projected isn’t limited to only good traits… It tells the whole story, of both the good and the bad qualities. So the question is whether you have more good traits than bad?… Or is it the other way around?…
The most important thing that you have to realise is that whether or not you make an effort to control of the image that you project, it will be projected!…
Your characteristics will slowly be unveiled and observed as you interact with people around you. It’s an involuntary action. The more you’re in contact with people, the more your qualities will be rubbed off you. Eventually, a relatively comprehensive image of your qualities will be formed. And that will form the basis of your reputation!…
Can You Control How Your Reputation Is Projected?
If you asked somebody this question before the 21st century, they’d probably tell you that it’s not possible. This answer is actually quite inaccurate. Personal branding has been a well accepted concept long before then, though not widely practiced. In short, yes, you actually can control your reputation that you project. And that is the basis of what personal branding is all about.
Aside from hearing descriptions about you from third parties, the biggest impact on the perception of your personal brand are actually visual cues. A lot of information about you is projected by what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, and how you claim the space around you.
You can actively shape your own brand, and tell your story in your own words. All you need to do is to take control of how and what you project when you interact with people.
How To Project A Positive Personal Brand?
We shall explore how you can change your ways to mould and shape your personal brand to the exact image you want to portray in the next article. We’ll also discuss how to dress for success, how to make your presence felt, and most importantly, how to claim the space like a dominant member of a social group. In the next article, we’ll discuss more about how to control your personal brand.