Building your personal brand in the time of Corona

April 17, 2020

The who of personal branding 

Lots of us dream of starting our own business, or side business. It may be to pursue a more creative career, to be more independent, to spend more time with our kids, or to pursue our passion.

But whatever the reasons are, you need to think of personal brand equity as an asset like any other. A strong personal brand will create opportunities and attract investment and customers.

And more importantly, during a crisis, personal branding can be a matter of the life or death of your business. Think of the local or small businesses you are patronising now. Most likely the owners have made a connection with you through their personality, values and actions, and have won your loyalty.

The why and when of personal branding

Andrew Ford is the founder of Social Star and Build Your Own Business Social Club. After a decade of leading the digital marketing strategy for some of the world’s largest companies, Andrew turned his attention to discovering how people could best use social media and digital technology to lead more fulfilling lives through building their personal brand.

Andrew has a unique perspective, sitting on the line between corporate consultant and personal development coach. I myself engaged Andrew a few years ago and found his process extremely rewarding.

Andrew’s clients are people who want to start their own business to build their brand to fit their lifestyle, rather than having a job that interrupts their lifestyle.

‘The biggest challenge we have is it’s very personal. We take the insides of people and we put it on the outside. And we put it online for people to criticise. So part of the journey is actually to be more robust in talking about what you believe.’

He says, ‘WHY messages are super important. Particularly in these troubled times, this is when people see what your brand is about.’

He has one client who has stopped messaging during Corona and Andrew believes this is a big mistake.

‘This is when people show their true colours. What are you doing now? This is the most important time to brand.

Andrew recalls a Chinese proverb that states the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. But the next best time is today.

A lot of people think, well, I missed my chance. It’s too late. So they never do it. They focus on having missed the best time, but don’t realise today is the second best time.

And that proverb is never more apt than during a crisis.

‘Now is the time to start building these assets. Learn digital skills. Use this time wisely. It’s not for a job or a business but for your life,’ Andrew points out.

And it’s not just about selling your product or service. It’s about connecting to your community. To being helpful and engaged. Andrew says we remember those people and businesses who are there for us in a crisis. And we forget those who aren’t.

‘This is when people show their true colours. What are you doing now? This is the most important time to brand.’

The how of personal branding

In Andrew’s book, Creating a Powerful Brand, he marks out three essential categories for a successful personal brand:

  1. Stating your value offering. This isn’t simply your job description, such as accountant or consultant. It’s getting people to understand you as a person and how you can help them better than others in your field.
  2. Creating personal brand assets. These are ways for people to hear your message and start a conversation. The platforms you use, whether Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., will depend on the kind of content you want to deliver and your target audience. But it’s imperative to build these out and keep them current. Have you ever gone to a website’s blog page and found the last blog was written nine months ago? What impression did that give you?
  3. Connecting. Building a network that allows you to grow and pivot. And which you can call upon in a time of shared crisis, whether to ask for help, offer help, or both.

Personal branding in the corporate world

If you still aren’t convinced personal branding is important, look at the effect of founders’ personalities on their brands in the corporate world, like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk.

‘Richard Branson has imprinted his personal DNA into the corporate fabric,’ Andrew says. ‘Virgin represents his personality. Fun, helping the little people, democratising, being a rebel entrepreneur. And the interesting thing is yesterday I was talking to someone about Virgin Airways in Australia and she was talking about Richard Branson and I said, he sold down his share of that business ten years ago! She didn’t even know, but she still imagined him being the primary owner of the business!’

Answer these 3 questions to improve your personal branding now

Andrew feels most business owners don’t self-reflect. This crisis has given those of us isolated at home extra time that should be used productively, specifically by exploring these deceivingly difficult questions:

Who am I?

What is my personality? What are my values? How do I communicate these? Do my friends, clients and potential clients perceive me as I think I am, or is there a disconnect I need to correct?

Who do I want to help?

What is my real market? So many businesses fall into the trap of selling to everyone, which is the same as selling to no one. Or they think their market is identical to their competitors’ market. We all need to eat, but restaurants don’t simply market themselves to people who are hungry and leave it at that.

How can I help?

Many businesses fail to solve a problem, or solve the wrong problem. Reflect on the HOW of your solutions and whether they are meeting the real needs of your market. Then ask yourself if you are communicating those offerings in the best way possible.

So think of today as the second best time to plant the tree of your brand. Put what’s on the inside on the outside; connect with your tribe; help others, and thereby create opportunities for them to help you. The idea that we’re all in this together has never been more true.

Andrew Ford can be contacted on Linkedin here.

This blog post was inspired by an interview between Darren Taylor and Andrew Ford on Rebranding Branding: The Podcast – Discover your brand mojo. If you would like to hear the interview, listen or subscribe here.

Picture of Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor

MD & Head of Strategy and Research

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