Why Personal Brands Are Not Overrated

#10 - 06/03/2024

Proven fact.

Leaders who invested in their personal brands five years ago are better off today than those who don’t.

To some, personal brands seem like the only thing occupying their LinkedIn feeds. To others, it seems like a mysterious, dark art.

The truth? Maybe it's somewhere in between.

But there’s one thing that cannot be denied - for leaders to be relevant, for those leaders to offset their own personal risk and for leaders who want to scale financial success, they need to have a presence.

And often, that presence needs to be a personal brand.

But first… What is a personal brand?

So I’m not going to pretend to you that the below is the dictionary definition of a personal brand (google “What is a personal brand and you’ll find the reasons as to why I didn’t include that #Boring).

What I much rather prefer is Jeff Bezos’ statement where he said:

Branding is "what other people say about you when you’re not in the room."

Okay, granted he was referring here to the brand of a “traditional business”. Think bricks and mortars. Maybe Amazon itself.

What immediately comes to your mind when you think of the online juggernaut? It's all those intangible things that you love (or maybe loathe) about the brand.

Heck, I’d argue his definition probably doesn’t go farther enough though.

Personal brands are a manifestation of our life experiences. 

It's the summarisation of our likes and dislikes.
What we stand for and what we don’t.
Our core beliefs and principles.

It also indicates to the world, "this is what you can expect from me."

It educates and addresses the burning questions everyone asks themselves when they look at your profile, the question of "what's in it for me?" 

And most importantly, a great brand addresses someone's "why". 

Often all this is done to the subconscious mind. To the inexplicit. Providing an intangible experience that can't be explained - but only lived.

It’s the ability to take someone on a journey. Often a journey of transformation.

So why is this important to our CEO from five years ago?

A typical full-time entrepreneur works anywhere between 60-80 hours a week. Whilst according to Forbes, the average weekly work commitment of a fortune 500 CEO is 62.5 hours a week.

That’s a lot of time to be committing to something that’s not yours. Or something that may be taken away from you.

Oh. Wait. You didn’t think about those things?

Think about it. That means you’ve committed almost 15,000 hours of work for something that may not be in your life in five years time. 

Yet if you would have:

- Documented the journey

- Shared your wins

- Given people an insight into your daily life

- Summarized your best learnings

- Detailed any painful losses

You would have not only been involved in the process of building those companies. But you would have also built your tribe.

So if anyone has to take your company away from you, if you were to lose your beloved role in "that dream company" that you had worked so tirelessly to develop, one thing they wouldn’t be able to take from you is your community of followers.

- Steve Bartlett

- Satya Nadella

- Ben Francis

- The maverick Elon Musk

- Richard Branson 

Are all examples of leaders who invested in themselves first. In the process, amongst the tumultuous nature of business, they were able to preserve or even grow their community to leverage for their next step in life.

So how do you build a personal brand?

The first step is to first develop your platform for your voice and personality.

Can you speak in public with ease and maybe have a humorous streak to you?

TikTok may be the platform for you.

Like writing and sharing perspective? 

Twitter (now X) may be the one.

Want to leverage a platform with more disposable income than any other?

LinkedIn is the one.

Whatever the platform, and even if you’ve had one of those platforms all along, your job now is to turn into a consistent machine with it.

Pick one day. Any day. And turn up, week in, week out.

No excuses. 

"But I find social media obnoxious and distracting, I don’t want that."

Then here’s a bonus point for you. You still have to turn up. But focus on building not just any personal brand, but a purposeful personal brand.

Think about if you were on your death-bed - what big problem would you have wanted to solve for the world? What legacy would you have wanted to have left?

Make that your north star and make your content work backwards from that. Just focus on once a week, consistently for 3 months, then once you’ve built that consistency muscle, ramp up.

It’s as simple as that. Because you can build a personal brand as a leader without losing yourself.

In life, nothing is guaranteed (well except for death and taxes).

So yes, you might be committing your whole life to your dreams and ambitions as a visionary entrepreneur. You may even be leading the company you’d always dreamt of.

But the reality is that in 5 years, you may no longer be in that leadership position. It may even be taken away from you. And if so, you may not have anything to show for it.

That though may be a setback that’s made less painful if you did one thing; built a community along the way. Not only does it create you your tribe. It’s great to attract potential recruits, even help you secure future investments into your company or sales. 

But most importantly, it’s your leverage. Leverage no-one can take away from you.

And that is surely when the business of leading becomes win-win.

Think about it.


Originally Written on 13th Dec 2022