Putting down my thoughts in an attempt to share a story isn’t usually such a challenge for me, as it was writing this piece. This time around, the task was to convert a keynote address I had delivered into an article that can be easily accessible to my audience at the time. The Corporate Canvas, a contemporary magazine for young professionals, led by the phenomenal Zimasa Qolohle Mabuse, invited me to deliver a keynote at an event termed, ‘The Polished Professional’. The Mercedes-Benz East Rand sponsored event functions as a finishing seminar that seeks to elevate the young professionals in our country, by ensuring their personal and professional success. Hosted at the upmarket Four Seasons Hotel in Johannesburg, guests were treated to a variation of topics, including Personal Branding, which is the topic I was assigned for my presentation.
Before speaking at any event, it’s crucial that one considers their audience. What are they like? How are they going to receive my message? Will they find me interesting? Will I be relevant to them? I must admit, the thought of addressing young professionals was daunting; I wanted to pull all sorts of stunts. I’m one that cares about coming across as a thinker and intelligent, so I was tempted to use graphs, stats and verbose words in unpacking the power of personal branding in a young professional’s life. But then again, if I was going to say anything about personal branding, I’d have to honour its key attribute, which is being authentic and true to one’s vision. My goal for the day was to invite my audience to embark on a journey with me, a journey that will see them gain personal and professional success, a journey that requires one to become and embrace being UNAPOLOGETICALLY BRAND “ME”.
Upon arrival at the Mercedes-Benz AMG performance centre in Bedfordview, guests were given the opportunity to test-drive the brand’s latest offerings to the prestigious Four Seasons Hotel. The exhilarating energy quickly took over. I felt a sense of inspiration looming across the room. That feeling was not too foreign as I could instantly recognise it. It’s a feeling that comes naturally after experiencing the Mercedes-Benz brand. That feeling is not by chance, we don’t find the brand desirable by chance. There is a team that orchestrates things behind the scenes, to ensure that we feel exactly that way when we encounter the brand. Whether you’re in Germany, Kenya, Dubai, Italy or South Africa, the experience with Mercedes-Benz remains consistent. That consistency stems from standards that have to be adhered to i.e, the brand values. We feel the way we feel about Mercedes-Benz because a visionary drew up an intentional brand book, which chronicles a brand’s DNA, consisting of image, characteristics, behaviour, tone, voice etc. Personal branding is no different to brands such as Mercedes Benz. The same intention and commitment is required when treating a personal brand.
“Personal branding is a purposeful projection of self, which involves intentionally managing your image towards an intended audience, in an effort to achieve your vision” – Zoe Msutwana
Personal Branding starts from the inside
Most people think the idea of personal branding is a narcissistic one and one that only entails what you project to the outside world. It’s called personal branding for a reason. It very much begins with you and should end with you. It requires much introspection and self-critique before being packaged and presented externally. Your vision is a direct reflection of how your see yourself and how much you believe in your abilities to realise your goals. Such self-actualisation comes with the wisdom and tenacity to take the necessary steps to get you a step closer to your vision. The results, are of course the components that make up your personal brand.
Personal Branding requires an end goal
My first memorable encounters with brands were in my early teens, thanks to my love for TV. I know my mom wasn’t always proud of the fact that I spent more time watching TV than reading a book, like most kids in my community. I’ve always been a fan of consuming content and educating myself in things that I found interesting to me and I’ve always felt that should count for something? MTV’s Cribs, Laguna Beach, VH1’s Life In The Fab Lane, The Fabulous Life Of… and The Oprah Show were some of my favourite shows on TV. A few years later, I fell in love with the pop culture hub that E! Entertainment is. All these platforms exposed me to the concept of brands, from getting access to the closets of the rich and famous and getting up close and personal with some of Oprah’s favourite things. These platforms also exposed me to women that I look up to, from Kimora Lee-Simmons, Oprah Winfrey, Anna Wintour, Kim Kardashian West and our own Khanyi Dhlomo. While I may not have known what I wanted to do, I’ve always known the woman I want to be. I became so clear about the woman I want to become and that helped me in formulating an end goal (vision).
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I always knew the woman I wanted to be.” ― Diane Von Furstenberg
Personal Branding takes intentional action & commitment
Unfortunately, the work doesn’t end when the vision process occurs. Seeing your vision to life requires immense work, consistent steps and commitment. Life as we’ve come to know it will try its hardest to remind you that you do not deserve such a life, that you are not worthy of such a vision and that you are not strong enough to get over the hurdles you will come across in your journey. Personally, I’ve found that its not always strangers who will not believe in your vision, its often the people closest to you, family even, who will question the steps you are taking. The biggest lesson for me has been to know and accept that my vision doesn’t have to make sense to the next person and that I shouldn’t let the distractions sidetrack me. With all this, it is important to always have the end goal at mind, remembering why you started and continue to take those necessary steps towards those goals.
Personal Branding is relevant to all professionals
One of the biggest misconceptions of personal branding is that it only applies to people in showbiz or the marketing/comms industry. As mentioned earlier, personal branding is a reflection of how much potential we see in ourselves. It is a projection of our visions. You do not necessarily need to be a public figure to want to package and present yourself as someone of value. Essentially, implementing the concept gives you your “It” factor, and sets you apart from your counterparts. In any profession, one should always strive to present the best version of themselves to their audience, whether it’s as a trustworthy employee or entrepreneur. The idea is to always portray the image that one is an efficient professional who is in charge of their being.
HERE ARE THE 10 STEPS TO GETTING STARTED ON BUILDING YOUR PERSONAL BRAND:
1. Start (The easiest, yet difficult step. Get started)
2. Dig deep (interrogate yourself, get to the root of who you are, where you are going, what makes you truly happy)
3. Define Your Vision (What is your purpose? What legacy do you want to build?)
4. Crystalise Your Vision (Why? How? When?)
5. Give your Vision an Image (Character, Voice, Tone)
6. Pursue (Your vision will require constant pursuit)
7. Be intentional (Be intentional in your pursuit)
8. Commit (re-commitment will be required to stand against turmoil in your journey)
9. Be Consistent (consistency, consistency, consistency)
10. Have fun