It’s no real secret that, since the last recession, the employment market has shifted. Just a few years ago, businesses could rely on a revolving door of talent. If they made a mis-hire, it didn’t really matter… there was always someone willing to take up the reins, and the downtime from the loss would be negligible.
Today, however, we’re in a candidate driven market – what some employers see as the bane of their hiring practices.
Worse, we’re also seeing some of the lowest unemployment figures in the last decade. Businesses can no longer rely on the same tired strategies that saw success in the past – they need to not only be seen as an attractive proposition but have to actually be one.
As anyone in sales knows, people buy from people. Unless you have the budget of Apple, Amazon, Google et al, it’s a remarkably difficult scheme to increase your brand holistically, too.
The personal brand, therefore, is a cost effective and remarkably useful way to increase the reputation of your business – with you at the helm. This guide takes a look at the top strategies.
The branding stocktake. How are you perceived?
As anyone who has ever held a map will tell you – to find out where you need to go, you first need to know where you are. There’s no North
Star to use as a reference point when it comes to personal branding, but fret not!
One of the first steps to developing a truly sensational employer brand is to perform a stock-take. Ask yourself:
- What channels are being used?
- Which is most effective?
- How many followers exist on each of these accounts?
- How does this tie in with the activity of your business?
- What content has the most interaction? Why?
- What are my three key areas of focus?
Identifying the answers, and more importantly, the underlying effectiveness behind each of these queries is vital in building the foundations of your own personal brand. Equally as important, however, is the attention to perception – the current brand that you possess in relation to your end goals.
Once these questions have been answered, and your specific podium and key messaging has been selected, we can move on to personality and activity.
Assess your personality; tailor it to your activity
Ultimately, too few business leaders actively work on their own personal brand – despite the variety of benefits it can bring.
As such, there’s often a barrier between understanding that a brand needs to be developed, and how to actually do it.
The previous CEO of Air France / KLM, Alexandre de Juniac, is one key example of personal branding done right.
It ultimately comes down to leading from the top and leading for all to see. On his departure from the travel giant in 2016, share prices dropped in value by €2.4bn.
To be done effectively however, business leaders need to keep one thing in mind above all else.
From this, we trickle down to content, to writing style, and even to the correct audiences.
One example to bear in mind is Elon Musk, current CEO of Tesla, The Boring Company, and numerous others. His style comes across as casual, confident and informative. It takes a supremely confident leader to discuss business strategy with the President of the United States over Twitter.
Because of this personality, Musk has engaged audiences the world over – not necessarily because of the content that’s being put out (while this is a factor), but from the tone. His content is entertaining and directly linked to the mind-set of customers. Innovative, exploratory, curious and informative.
It’s through this personality that one of his most recent ventures, selling the “Not a Flamethrower” (at least for customs purposes) through the Boring Company, raised $10m through 20,000 sales.
After all, people buy from people.
Define your three top messages
The ‘Key Messaging Document’ is a mainstay of any marketing function for one simple reason – it works.
Who are you? What do you stand for? What’s your Unique Value Proposition (UVP)? Your answers should be simple, free of jargon, and most importantly, short.
As Einstein once said, if you can’t explain what you do to a six-yearold, you don’t understand it enough yourself.
Defining the top three key messages allows for not only a consistent, authentic tone of voice, but gives the person disseminating these messages some kind of structure to follow.
Better yet, it means that in your capacity as an influencer for your company, your own personal brand can shine through.
If you’re a recruitment specialist, some key talking points could be:
- The skills shortage and possibilities for a solution
- Information around a candidatedrivenmarketplace
- The introduction of RecTech (recruitment technology) and its effect on the industry
- Whether education today creates the right skills that are needed in the workplace
This can all be summed up in one word: authenticity. Practice what you preach.
The value of authenticity in branding
Did you know that just 48% of regular staff in a company have any form of trust in the organisation of its leadership? It’s a staggering figure, and it’s one almost exclusively down to communication.
Business leaders, through developing their own personal brands, will begin to notice that audiences will listen. The first people to take note will be the ones that will see the most impact through your messaging.
Whether you’re talking about the latest business trends within technology, the economic climate in various countries, or simply how well the company you represent is doing, your staff will take notice.
Within business, we increasingly see a ‘us Vs. them’ mentality – pitting the lower-level employees against the higher-ups… and this isn’t a problem that can be fixed with a quarterly newsletter.
In the age of instant communication, business leaders are required to use their own personal brand to influence business outcomes. Staff retention stands at the front of a long line.
Through authentic, information rich communication, staff retention can be increased due to the simple fact that they know what is going on, what their boss is thinking about it, and can deduce how it affects their own role. The key is to be authentic, and to talk about real issues or trends.
This isn’t Instagram, though. Try not to over-share.
Storytelling: provide value and depth to your audiences
There’s a scene in the critically acclaimed Robin Williams movie ‘Good Will Hunting’ that involves a joke about airplanes, coffee and a frantic air staff. On telling the joke, the main character is questioned “You ever been on a plane?”
Hunting, a low-income genius bouncing from job to job, has not. He says “No. It’s a joke. It works better if I tell it in the first person.”
Before social media, before the printing press and before the written word, humanity was united by storytelling. Word of mouth was often the only way to get a point across, and really, the best way to do this was to tell stories with meaning behind them.
Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, jokes about airplanes. Each of these take that nugget of effectiveness behind storytelling and successfully engage audiences. The first two with warnings – cautionary tales. The third, a commentary on the nature of the story itself.
In developing your personal brand, storytelling is remarkably effective. Tying in to your own branding, storytelling doesn’t stop at the words you use. It’s about the images you use, the tone of voice and even the profile information that’s provided.
In developing your personal brand, use the story unique to you – your career path – to give your audience something they just can’t get anywhere else.
As Sinek once said: always ask ‘why’
Sinek is a prime example of someone who does personal branding right. The speaker performs his most important value remarkably well – imparting business advice to those who need it and offering improvement suggestions to those that don’t.
One of the best statements that he’s made is that it “all starts with why”.
Sinek developed the golden circle. The outer layer is made up of ‘what’, changing to ‘how’ in the middle, and finishing with ‘why’ at the core.
Sinek found that when marketing themselves, companies and people always started with what. What product was being sold, what service was being offered, or what was happening in the industry that people should know about.
These people, he stipulated, had it backwards. He confirmed that “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”
This is one of the driving considerations behind developing a personal brand – it cuts through the less useful information and allows a platform to explore the ‘why’.
Using Recruiterly as an example, this can be:
- Why: To change and improve the perception of the recruitment industry
- How: By giving recruiters the space to brand themselves through external reviews and accolades
- What: Through developing the Recruiterly platform
Starting with the ‘why’ gives you the chance to, firstly, identify the core of the issue. Secondly, it allows you to pique the interest of your audience and bring them along for the ride.
Most importantly, however, it immediately differentiates you from the competition. With such a huge amount of content out there today, audiences are beginning to experience a new phenomenon – content fatigue.
It’s down to those with excellent personal brands to buck this trend and provide information that people really want to engage with.
“Doing one thing even better than the competition means that audiences will gravitate towards your unique way of doing things.”
Specialise. Which platform do you want to own?
There are, frankly, a huge number of platforms available today. From Facebook and LinkedIn, to YouTube and Twitter.
Each has its own audiences – its own tone of voice. One of the key considerations behind a personal brand is the direction you wish it to go in.
This, naturally, depends on the sort of platform you’re looking to utilise, and ties in to your tone of voice and personality (see point 2).
If you’re looking for a more casually toned personal brand, and are comfortable with video, YouTube may be the place for you to make a mark.
Any modern smartphone can be used to record brief snippets of thought – ideas that may seem obvious to you but could provide genuine help to a lower-level employee in their career path or could act as an informative opinion on modern trends.
For LinkedIn, as the home of business professionals, the tone is far more professional. For Facebook, again more casual. Twitter encapsulates each of the above themes but is limited by the brevity of the post lengths. This is often circumvented with ‘threads’, tweets sent in reply to other tweets, but this somewhat defeats the point of the platform.
It’s often said that specialization is for insects, but not so when it comes to personal branding.
Doing one thing even better than the competition means that audiences will gravitate towards your unique way of doing things.
A focus on the end results
The best personal brand in the world won’t mean a thing unless there’s a reason behind it. Great – you’re an influencer in your field. You’re loved by many, and your opinions are well respected.
As with any activity, having an end-goal in mind is vital. So, we hit
the age-old discussion of strategy Vs. tactics.
The strategy, naturally, would be increasing the number of incoming business leads for the company you’re representing. That’s a given.
Tactically, however, there are a number of methods of doing this.
One of the most popular we’ve seen is including a call to action – perhaps a newsletter rounding up your latest thoughts on industry trends, market activities or hiring intentions for the next year in your industry.
Another is to host full length content on you company website; providing previews through social media outlets and driving traffic to the first step in your sales pipeline – content.
As with Sinek’s advice on ‘why’ businesses often get this strategy backwards too – looking at the platform, the message and only then the outcome.
The most successfully branded people will explore this strategy with results as the first concern – working backwards from there.
We work in a crowded marketplace. With audiences becoming increasingly deaf to neutral, toneless and processed advertising copy, there’s a huge gap in the market for content that is engaging, socially motivated, opinionated and informative – doubly so when these attributes come from a person.
Developing a personal brand does sound suspiciously like marketing, but really, it’s just about using the tools already at your disposal to make an actual business impact.
Yes, branding has traditionally been the mainstay of the marketing department, but when it comes to authentic and compelling insights, there really is no substitute for the original.
In attracting and retaining the top talent that you need in a candidate driven marketplace, there really can be no substitute for a strong personal brand.