By Lulu Raghavan
A prominent publication recently featured the 20 most influential people in Indian advertising. Only three of these were women. That’s a scary statistic, considering that I’m constantly meeting and interacting with people in leading positions across industries, a significant number of whom are women.
So, Sheryl Sandberg is indeed right. Compared to the total number of women in the workforce, only a negligible percentage make it to the top.
As the managing director of a leading global branding agency, I find this shocking. As a woman, it is embarrassing. Why are our opportunities to grow so limited when the career options we have are unlimited? We’re qualified. We’re multi-taskers. We’re good problem-solvers. We have the EQ advantage.
Maybe the fault lies with us. We’re too busy building our business brands than building our personal brand.
Why we do that, is a different discussion. How can we change that, is what we’re going to talk about.
It is time for branding You.
We’re not talking about your name. Or, your designation. Or, your organisation. We’re talking about what makes you, YOU! And, what would make you matter to the people you want to attract. If you were a website, would you be bookmarked?
We live in a world where memories are short and attention spans even shorter. Whoever you are, whichever company or industry you work in, whatever your designation, there is only one way to stand out – Create your own brand.
With USPs on the decline (and technology being able to quickly replicate it even if you were fortunate to have one), a product has to work that much harder to become a brand. Nike sells more than just sportswear. 3M conveys more than just innovation. Fastrack is a youth anthem.
A brand is more than just a product you need. It is a promise of value that is inconceivable to live life without. What value do you offer?
Create your brand’s DNA
It is an involved process and requires soul-searching. Here’s how you can do it:-
1. Understand who you are
Identify what makes you different. What makes you memorable. Zero in on your unique contributions to your organisation and industry.
For instance, my strength is vivaciousness. I am always high on energy and this is what I leave behind. Whatever your uniqueness, you must project this everywhere, in your personal and professional life, in your environment. Find this and convert this into a motto for yourself.
Like any brand, the key is to approach this from a long-term prospective. Ask yourself whether the trait will apply when to you five years from now?
2. Develop a visual and verbal expression
Once you’ve accomplished step 1, convert your uniqueness into a mental picture. Once again, this has to sync with what you project. Usha Uthup is always identified with her Kanjeevaram saris, heavy jewellery and gajras. Marilyn Monroe’s trademarks were her blonde locks, red pout and flowing dresses. The way a person interacts with you is based on perception and, however much we may argue otherwise, perception is reality.
Equally important is developing a set of language or behaviour codes to match. Would you trust your wealth manager if he showed up pierced and inked?
Alignment of your own image with the image of the brand you work for is not just necessary, it is crucial. Use your business brand as a filter for developing your own. Treat it as your inner voice.
3. Cautious digital footprint
Your personal brand does not have office hours or weekends. Social media has turned our lives into a voyeuristic paradise. Your digital footprint is also an expression of you and needs to be curated with extra care.
4. Stay relevant
Like everything else, you must look at the changing environment and reinventing. Take on new challenges. Make significant changes, however subtle or serious, that’ll reboot your career. Create new impressions and memories. The last thing you want is to be left behind. There is a reason why Amitabh Bachchan and Madonna still get the most hits despite being well into their 50s and 60s.
Building Brand You with the brand you work for can be symbiotic, driving business ambition for both. But proactively manage it.
This blog was originally published by Business Standard magazine (December 2014).
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