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stand out using a personal brand

Personal Branding and the importance of building one in 2021

What is personal branding, who needs it, why you should start building one right now, and an interview with The Travelling Professor.

Personal Branding

Personal branding essentially deals with your own self being treated as a brand in the eyes of your audience. It’s about the building of your own unique identity separate from the company you work for or are an owner of. As the name suggests, it is all about positioning yourself as a brand in the minds of the people who come to know about you.

The importance of personal brands has only been accentuated over the last few years. The primary reason for this is that people are increasingly connecting much more easily to real human beings than to the companies they represent. Even really successful startup unicorns have equally influential founders at the helm, sometimes even more. Gone are the days when a company’s logo is all that people at large remember about a brand. Today, everyone wants to know all about the real people who are running the show behind the curtains.

If you are an employee working for an organization or a startup then you need a personal brand much more. You may switch a lot of jobs in your career and end up working for many different brands. You can’t rely on letting your work do the talking for you. If you do then you are going to be very disappointed in the long run. Most of your current work will be forgotten. Worse, someone else could be taking credit for it soon after you leave. If you focus on building your own personal brand then you can take your work with you.

Similarly, consultants and freelancers would be much better off landing new clients and keeping the existing ones happy if they have a strong personal brand to back up their work. Students and freshers are the ones with the biggest advantage since they can start early. An experience in building a brand of your own will surely help in landing those coveted jobs. The entry-level jobs that all want an experience!

2021 – A game-changer for personal branding

The coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot of things in all industries across the spectrum. It is still a long way from over. 2020 was mostly lost to coming to terms with our new reality. 2021 is going to be the year that will make or break careers. We need to strongly buckle up and prepare for what’s coming next, whatever that might be. This is when you need to fill your professional arsenal with all the tools you can.

A personal brand is the most versatile and durable tool that you need to start investing in to stand a fighting chance in the cut-throat competition in which we can be flung into any time in the near future. Building your own brand right now is the safest and most rewarding thing you can do. It will ensure that you are able to reap the benefits of your labour when the time comes.

Interview with The Travelling Professor

There are many channels that you can use to start building your personal brand. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Quora, Blog, Website, etc. are all the standard ones. However, since the onset of Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdowns, a lot of people have taken to starting their own podcasts. It is a great way to share your knowledge and opinions about your niche with the world at large. Therefore, I decided to interview someone with a podcast of their own and who is knowledgeable in the field of marketing itself.

Siddharth Deshmukh has been the Associate Dean at Mudra Institute of Communications Ahmedabad (MICA) and is presently a Senior Advisor and Adjunct Professor. He is also a consultant and a mentor for other educational institutes and across industries, covers subjects like Business transformation through Digital, Customer Experience Design, Marketing in a Digital World, Digital futures, and Entrepreneurship. He is also the host of the IVM podcast ‘The Travelling Professor’s Diary’. The show is about a curious human being with an eagerness for travel and observations.

I was fortunate to do a short interview with him on the topic of personal branding. The following is what he had to say on the subject:

Q. First of all, thanks a lot Professor for agreeing to answer my questions regarding personal branding. I would like to start by asking you about your own personal brand and your IVM podcast ‘The Travelling Professor’s Diary’. Please tell us about how you see your brand positioned and how you went about creating it as it will help people take that first step into creating their own personal brands.

I was travelling to different places, teaching digital subjects, and I realised that I am indeed a Travelling Professor. So I started calling myself that on LinkedIn and Instagram. I was then a guest on another IVM podcast, and after that show IVM asked me to consider developing my own show. Lo and behold, out came “The Travelling Professor’s Diary”, which has more than 150 episodes now. I have designed it as an after class conversation with my students that I used to have in real life. So I’m fielding questions, talking about trends and concepts, in a relaxed, chill way. It is a microcast, as long as it will take for you to have a cup of coffee with me in real life. Thankfully, I chose something that is genuinely me, which makes it easy for me to be able to consistently do it.

Q. What are your views on personal branding in the context of the year 2021 amidst the ongoing pandemic. How important is it to start building one right now and what should one keep in mind while doing so?

It’s very important for you to have a strong personal brand- whether it’s the pandemic or otherwise. It helps you break the clutter and showcase the value you bring. What you should keep in mind while building your brand is to understand that Brand= Image + Experience. You can’t be creating an image that you can’t sustain the experience of. Find a way to do this consistently and effectively – and it’s different for different people.

Q. Which are the channels or platforms that you think will be ideal right now to establish oneself as an authority in their niche?

This really depends upon your community. Where is your addressable community? Choose 1/2 platforms, build your brand there very strongly first. I chose my podcast, through LinkedIn and Instagram, because that’s where my students and ex-students are, and wanting to listen to me.

Q. How should one utilise their personal brand to convert or get prospective leads for their business?

Tread carefully. Give a lot of value first, before trying to cash in, is my advice. It could go very wrong if your Personal Brand isn’t robust for you to try and drum up sales. That’s my honest opinion.

You can listen to many more insights from him on his podcast The Travelling Professor’s Diary. You can also follow the professor on Instagram or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Closing thoughts

It is indeed very important to give a lot of value to your audience before you can even start thinking about converting them into paying customers. Content is the name of the game and the more useful your content is to people the more likely it is that they will connect strongly with your personal brand. But the most important thing is to start somewhere, pick a channel and do it today itself. Why wait? Life is short, isn’t it?

While we are on the subject of brands, let me mention an important point. Just as you are not the brand you work for or own, you are also not your personal brand. It will be useful to remember this in the long run. You must aim at building a truly authentic personal brand by keeping a distance between you and your personal brand while also treating your brand as an end in itself rather than simply as a means to an end. You can read more about this strategy and the philosophy of building authentic brands on the internet in my book – Existential Digital Marketing.

If you are a small business owner you can read these 5 digital marketing tips that can help you stay ahead of the competition this year.

Best wishes to you and your family for this year in these testing times. I hope to see your brand shine bright in the digital sky very soon.

All the best!

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