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Building a strong strategic personal brand

Personal branding can be described as tactically positioning yourself as an epicenter of influence. A strong personal brand strategically increases your value in the marketplace. A personal brand can be described as what customers, employees, suppliers, associates and peers perceive you to be. The hallmark of every successful personal brand is substance. substance defines what you represent, who you are and what you offer, it entails essence, purpose and the image of an individual. Visibility, networking and strategically projecting yourself are some of the elements that build into optimising your personal image to become an unforgettable brand.

By George Manyaya

The definition of personal branding as indicated above alludes to the need to tactically and strategically position oneself in the market place. One of the key sources of literature to explore these concepts of strategy and tactic is the book, The Art of War by Sun Tzu. In this book, he presents two fundamental principles, namely strategy and tactic. These are pertinent in this topic because they provide the foundation and framework of success in business and consequently also in personal branding. Another key factor is positioning and coincidentally The Art of War posits, “A skilful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible and does not miss the moment….” Strategy, tactic and positioning are quintessential in waging war just as they are in personal branding. One must place themselves in the correct position and in connection to the correct inferences and conclusions by the market. The worst damage one can do is to blindly place your image where negative connotations and inferences may be drawn.

A strong personal brand is a business asset and if structured correctly it will attract the business you want and leverage your trade or services far above your competition. Your potential stakeholders have to be able to visualise and positively anticipate value when they interrelate with you .Tom Peters summed it up when he said, “To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called you.” Honesty, integrity, reliability, credibility and consistency are virtues and must always be concomitant with you.

Your personal brand must be unique and that distinctiveness should make you unforgettable. What is it that you do differently that attracts customers? In marketing management, they are called “core competencies”; you have to develop core competencies that set you apart from your competition. Suppose you walk into a barbershop and there is just one barber who is magnetic and people are queuing for his services despite the fact that there are other barbers in the shop who are free. This points to the superiority of distinctive service or distinctive personality that makes this barber overshadow all others.
A personal brand without an interrelating exceptional experience amounts to nothing. A personal brand must be accompanied by distinguished personality and service, which will set you apart. The late Emmanuel Manyika, he became synonymous with excellence and this drove his brand and business to success. He became an icon in the industry and there was a time you could not find a single state, corporate or private function where he wouldn’t be the master of ceremony. He had built a unique personal brand and became known as “The only ISO Certified MC” befitting his competence.

Perception is reality and the starting point is through honesty. Walk the talk and always deliver what you promise, as this is your branding iron. Keep your promises and commitments, respond to the media as promised, and be punctual and factual. Credibility is a cousin to honesty as they are all cornerstones of your reputation. This implies both personal credibility and credibility by association. Never underestimate the impact of credibility by association. Many brands lost opportunities because of associating with people that have negative stereotypes. Associate with respected authorities in your area of specialty as this shapes other people’s perception of you. Coca-cola ended their sponsorship with Wayne Rooney after an alleged marital cheating scandal as it tarnished their image. This builds to the fact that what you do in your private life and public life ultimately also builds into the brand you are trying to create. In the book, 48 laws of power, law number 5 is very relevant to this discussion as it says, “So much depends on your reputation, guard it with your life”. It is the bedrock of branding and must be unassailable.

Consistency is a success driver for personal branding. Customers must have loyalty and trust in you to necessitate repeat engagement. People admire and respect consistent personalities. Be authentic as it draws people to you, people see through you as your personal brand becomes one of your most valuable assets and attracts opportunities. When you are talking to people, “it’s not about you, it’s about them.” Talk about yourself less, listen to your stakeholders talk about themselves so that you know and can anticipate their needs. A lot of businesses lack the personal touch that stakeholders often want to experience. In most cases people will go for a service or entity that they perceive to truly care about their needs and expectations.

Amplify your visibility by tenaciously projecting yourself. In media, we talk about the magic bullet theory, which articulates that a media message is “injected’’ wholly into the recipient’s consciousness and is accepted entirely at face value if repeated and projected frequently and sufficiently. You need to have a strategic presence in both the traditional and social media. This enables your message to directly influence the intended beneficiaries’ perception. Manage your own personal blog and create a website, which gives an opportunity to communicate directly with your target audience.

The advent and proliferation of various interactive platforms has created multiple opportunities for market access and affordable branding strategies. Position yourself through visual interactive platforms, print or digital media as this does not only give people the picture of the face behind the product but also gives people a feeling of who you are and your target market can relate to you as an individual. Empower people through dissemination of topical information through writing relevant articles for television, radio, print media and social media platforms. Social platforms such as facebook and whatsApp have revolutionised access to markets by giving users access to a global customer base, use these platforms to build and market your brand
Never underestimate the power of networking as it enhances your social capital, create strategic networks, prioritise business events and take on speaking engagements.

*This article was published in the Zim Marketer Magazine

George Manyaya is a PR and marketing professional with over 13 years’ experience spanning the ICT, United Nations (IOM), banking, tourism, mining and aviation sectors. He studied business management, journalism and media, diplomacy and protocol, political science and has a Master of Commerce degree in Strategic management and Corporate Governance and another Master’s degree in International Relations. He is currently reading towards a doctorate in business administration.

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