I have, in many earlier posts, tried to bust myths around personal branding.
People imagine personal branding to be talking about the self. This is not true.
Personal branding is not about gathering Likes and ‘engagement’.
Personal branding is not about being the first to talk about something.
Personal branding is not about opening up all your life to the world via social media.
Despite all this, given the seemingly huge effort required to build and maintain a personal brand, people still do not grasp the full scope of what it entails.
So here is an easy way to contextualize what a personal brand really is in a way that most people would be able to fully understand and appreciate.
Think of personal branding the way you think of your physical health.
There are so many ways the two topics mirror each other.
1. You need a plan for both
Any kind of health-related effort requires you to take stock, understand your current situation, and build a plan towards a goal. Personal branding is identical. The starting point is to define the kind of brand you want for yourself, based on your current situation, background, strengths, objectives, and so on. Then you carve out a plan based on these.
2. You cannot outsource the heavy-lifting
You can work with a trainer, but it is you who has to do the actual heavy-lifting (pun intended). With personal branding, sure… you can outsource some parts of the content creation where necessary, but the thought needs to be yours. The thought is the heavy-lifting, not the execution.
3. What goes in and what goes out
In the case of your health, the basics of the effort are mainly about what goes in (food and nutritional intake) and what goes out (how you burn what you consume). Personal branding is identical. It’s literally about what you consume, in terms of content that is relevant to the brand you have defined for yourself, and about how you create and share content from what you observe. In, and out… at its very basic.
4. The glamor of the winners
When we seek inspiration from people who are healthy, bodybuilders, incredibly built/toned, and are visible and vocal proponents of good health, we see the culmination of their efforts and not the path they took. For that, we need to go behind what they did to get where they are. This is all the more pertinent for personal branding. You see people with lots of followers on social media platforms and all you can take away from that is the result of efforts put in over a period of time. But just like health, this is just the culmination of efforts, not achieved overnight.
5. The results take time to manifest
Getting into shape, losing weight, or keeping oneself healthy is not a quick fix. It takes time, consistent effort, and commitment. Personal branding is identical.
6. It’s a habit, not an affair
Working on your health will eventually become a part of your daily routine… a habit. We already have healthy daily habits like brushing our teeth or sleeping for 7-8 hours. Sometimes we are forced to break the habit, but by and large, we stick to these basic habits. Working on your health seriously would eventually become a habit that you cannot imagine breaking out of.
Personal branding is identical. It’s not a time-bound short-term affair. For habits, you focus more on long-term, sustainable results than short-term effects. Focusing on platform-centric metrics like Likes, Shares, Comments, and Engagement (as defined by the platforms) are what I call outtakes, and are very different from outcomes. Even for a social media influencer who charges for what they write (words—which is the output—are for sale, in essence), the outcome is what they get paid, not merely social media platform metrics (which are outtakes).
Brushing our teeth or sleeping for 7-8 hours consistently don’t produce any results immediately. They result in long-term outcomes in the form of better overall health. Treat your personal brand the same way.
Most people who guilt-trip themselves by paying the gym membership for a full year as part of new year resolutions (health-related resolutions are the No.1 in the world, above any other resolutions people make during the end of the year), would imagine the results to accrue from the first 15-30 days itself. So they would constantly look at their biceps or belly fat, and imagine that there has been some tangible change. But things don’t quite work that way, do they?
Personal branding efforts work in identical ways. After your brand definition, planning, and the start of execution, you cannot expect results in 15-30-60 days. It takes time to build up a reputation. You can keep looking at short-term wins and metrics like one viral post here or one well-Liked comment there. But that’s just part of the larger effort and results.
So how do you know that it is working? Next point!
7. People realize the change!
With your physical health, besides you realizing it inside you, people will notice the change and tell you! We tend to have blind spots about ourselves or underestimate ourselves, but the people who like us, follow us, or live with us notice the subtle changes and tell us, or ask us more readily.
Ditto with personal branding. People will tell you if you are being useful, interesting, purposeful, and humorous over a period of time consistently.
8. A daily, back-of-the-mind obsession
Over time, a daily schedule to stretch, run, or work out becomes a back-of-the-mind obsession. You start looking forward to it. You keep looking for ways to do it better – like considering better fitness trackers, shoes, t-shirts/shorts, and so on. You constantly, in the back of your mind, plan the kind of music or podcast or audiobook you can listen to in the background. And the less said about the considerations and thoughts around food, the better! Basically, you build the many things that can make you stick to your daily schedule more consistently.
Your personal branding efforts are identical! You constantly look for things to read within the domains you have defined for yourself as the contours of your personal brand – not just online, but books, podcasts, events, news items, etc. You look for ways to better the tactics and help you stick to your schedule better: what kind of note-taking tool works best? Which speech-to-text software can you try next? Image-editing tool to best repurpose the content for Instagram? Which feed-reader helps your build the most customized content pipeline? New subscriptions for newspapers, magazines, podcasts, newsletters? The similarities between how we end up building up the process around a healthy regimen and around personal branding are glaring and endless!
9. There are good days, great days, and bad days
In my daily run, there are days when I feel totally elated with my effort. Then there are days when I feel drained out and barely manage to complete my 5 km. I’m sure your experience may be similar no matter what kind of daily routine you stick to.
My effort towards personal branding is very similar. Some days, what I share gets some really thought-provoking inputs and feedback that makes me think a lot more about the topic and I relish that experience. But there are days when something I share online evokes reactions I did not expect at all and I’m either forced to relook at my own thoughts (this is always good – adds more perspectives for me to consider and expand my field of knowledge) or manage the conversations from multiple people online.
10. Enjoy what you do!
This, to me, is the most important point. For maintaining a consistent and regular health regimen that includes food-related lifestyle changes and physical activities, it’s not enough that you flog yourself every single day to stick to the schedule. That’s definitely not a sustainable strategy to build a habit. Unless you enjoy the process and the effort, you cannot sustain the habit over a long period of time. As a daily runner, I sometimes joke that my best, and most favorite, everyday addiction is sweating profusely after a run. If I do not, it feels like my day is incomplete. The high of post-run sweat is something that I have come to totally love and enjoy.
The very same enjoyment occurs to me while I’m reading and researching for writing content within my personal brand contours. The many different ways I can frame the title, the main points I’m trying to make, the conclusion… the ways I can write the social media post to introduce my content of the day, the kind of photo to go with it… I thoroughly enjoy this process. The high does not come from the social media metrics after I post something; the high comes when I’m questioning my own logic during the thinking and writing, getting the clarity of my own points and thoughts, and thinking through the counterpoints myself should someone raise questions on LinkedIn, and so on.
If not for my attachment to that high, I wouldn’t be able to sustain the effort or process on a daily basis. There are days when a post of mine gathers a lot of Likes or comments, and some days, it’s the total opposite. If I link my effort to only the former, I would be constantly trying to game my content in order to seek the metrics-driven high and lose focus on my personal brand tenets. Instead, I focus on my own feelings during my activity and do not tie them to an outside factor such as the social media metrics that are driven by a tiny set of people online while the vast majority are actually silent!
Whether you have a consistent daily routine/regimen around your health and your personal brand or not, it is never too late to start. But when you do start, please consider how similar both activities are, and work with that understanding. That would help you set yourself for more meaningful goals and outcomes.
Cover pic courtesy: Runner’s World