One of the foremost things that an individual or a business looking to establish their name in the industry needs to do is develop a personal brand. It will reflect everything that you do and are, which is why it is necessary to put your best foot forward and get it right every time.
Sometimes, despite your best intents, your personal brand-building effort can boomerang. You may spend hours trying to conjure up a desirable picture of yourself and/or your business, without realizing that overdoing it might lead you nowhere.
Tricky, isn’t it?
Mentioned ahead are a few blunders to avoid and prevent your personal branding efforts from falling apart:
1. Not Bothering with Making a Mark
We’re referring to making a great first impression. Remember, it’s going to stay with you for a long time, so make sure you don’t go wrong here. Whether it is your website or social media page, you need to hit the right notes to position yourself advantageously.
The problem with personal branding is that some people either go overboard with being omnipresent or go into hiding altogether. Both approaches are extreme and can work against your brand. Bear in mind that your personal brand is reflected in your marketing tactics, social media feeds and posts, images and videos, websites, blogs, and more. All of these can work as effective means of forging a connection with the audience. If done wrong, however, they can give the wrong first impression and you may lose prospects and consumers.
2. Not Being Authentic
American legend, Anne Morrow Lindbergh once said, “The most exhausting thing in life is being unauthentic.”
Personal branding is all about putting your best foot forward by being your true self. All strong brands are authentic in their ideas and messages because they understand that until and unless they don’t figure out their distinctive features, they will not be able to create a successful brand.
The same logic applies to your personal brand. What is it that you do that makes you special? How do you want others to think of you? You need to know all of this. You need to create a robust image by being authentic. Being anything other than yourself will prove to be a waste of time.
Take the case of cycling legend, Lance Armstrong. His carefully created persona and brand was based on a big fat lie. And when he finally came out with his admissions on doping, his image was shattered. Since then, ‘Brand Lance’ has gone into oblivion.
3. Not Putting Your Message across Correctly
It is important that you fully understand the message you’re sending across to your audience because each one will come with its own ramification. Put it out clearly and accurately and you will be taken seriously; otherwise, you will be ignored. This also applies to the audio-visual content you disseminate.
Whether it is using your pictures online or attending a business event in person, the way you present yourself sends either the right or the wrong message. So, be energetic, smartly-dressed and confident as that will help you win people over.
4. Not Considering Your Audience
In order to find the right audience, you need to be clear about the kind of people you want to attract to your brand. Refrain from marketing at your audience and focus on marketing with them instead.
An effective way of doing so is by researching about the deepest needs and problems of your ideal customers and working towards providing them with solutions. Remember, if you want to influence the way they think, you will need to be the brand they find affinity with. Communicate with them, and not at them.
Disney created the wildly popular personal brand with the help of screen teen idol, Hannah Montana.
To take advantage of this brand’s popularity, they moved quickly to merchandize various products. Although a few products, like the plastic karaoke mic were appropriate, in their haste (or plain stupidity), they also launched products like branded red cherries. This is an example of not considering your target audience when creating a business strategy.
5. Jumping into Action before Thinking
A lot of individuals and businesses employ social media platforms and tools to increase their brand’s awareness and visibility. However, this is not the same as personal branding. Building a personal brand requires planning, without which your messages and other communication can go haywire. This can result in confusion.
When formulating your personal branding strategy, make sure to think through your communication plan meticulously. Think before you act because once an action has been performed, it cannot be taken back. See to it that you have all bases covered.
A good example of jumping into action without thinking came in the form of the aftermath of Tiger Woods’ highly-publicized sex scandal and the way Nike, Woods’ sponsor, handled it.
After news of Woods’ infidelity surfaced, Nike should have immediately severed ties with him. Instead, they created a video featuring Woods and his father, Earl asking Tiger what he was thinking and let Woods share his guilt and admit his shame. It did more harm than good, and both brands suffered badly.
6. Being All Talk, No Substance
A lot of individuals and businesses make the mistake of using social media for personal brand building excessively. They post multiple times in an hour on Facebook or Twitter, share anything they come across, and repost the same content over and over again. This also happens on blogs. However, customers can see through this and will probably consider it clutter. That’s exactly what you don’t want.
It is, therefore, better to publish a few high-quality posts and social media updates as only that will add real value to your brand. Also, it is always better to be associated with features like freshness, uniqueness and high-quality rather than uninspiring, repetitive and bland.
Create content only when you have something valuable to add or thoughtful to say. This will bring credibility to your brand and help you put across content that makes sense.
7. Not Aligning Your Personal and Business Brand
While some may not realize this, your personal and business brands are the same. Both have bearings on each other in several ways. This is apparent from the success of modern innovators such as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates or Richard Branson. If you think your personal brand won’t affect your business, you couldn’t be more wrong. Your customers will definitely not make a clear distinction between the two.
When your personal brand becomes questionable, it finishes your business brand and you lose credibility. This is why both need to be in complete alignment with each other. It’s the only way to earn your audience’s trust and forge a bond strong enough for them to follow you and buy from you.
Do not underestimate the importance of creating an appealing and memorable brand experience that gets you’re an army of loyal followers.
While Oprah Winfrey will always be the “poster child” of successful personal brands around the world, even she couldn’t help herself from making a grave mistake that saw her ranking drop from 6 in 2010 to 50 in Fortune’s Most Powerful Women’s List, 2012.
Her only mistake was not aligning her personal brand with her business brand and not evolving her brand in the face of change. Her biggest asset was her daily connection with her humongous viewer base, which influenced her viewers with her views and thoughts. So, when she decided to end her show in May 2011, she lost total connection with her followers and loyal fans, and her personal brand suffered.
8. Limiting Your Horizons
By having a closed mind, you will only prevent yourself from receiving higher and better exposure to the things that matter. Broadening your horizons is crucial if you do not want to limit your beliefs or disrupt your chances of success.
We’ve all heard of the old saying that the only one stopping us from succeeding is us. It is, therefore, important to expand your horizons and give yourself a chance at achieving something great. This will help you raise the bar and set higher standards to push yourself to the next level. You owe it to yourself to contribute purposefully to your field and grow with it.
Eastman Kodak is probably a brand that defines this more than anyone else. It was a pioneering company that branded itself after its glorious founder, George Eastman, who became a legendary figure in his lifetime. The brand that revolutionized the world of photography by developing roll films limited its horizon, failed to gauge future trends and simply vanished without a trace. Kodak could have caught the trend of filmless photography as it was one of their engineers who invented digital photography and brought on a second revolution. But, it could not and the brand failed miserably.
9. Getting Stuck in a Rut
We all tend to understand and implement the basics of personal branding when we’re starting out in our careers. But after reaching a certain point, it is natural to feel stuck. This is when you want to move beyond the basics and stop stagnating. Explore your industry and its trends and feel free to evolve with changing times.
However, keep your voice and thoughts consistent. Not doing so will make customers doubt you. They want a clear, valid idea of who you are if they are to trust you and keep coming back.
No better example comes to mind in this case than that of Bill Gates. Yes, the master personal brand behind the success of Microsoft got stuck in a rut and made a blunder that he rues even today.
He failed to explore the future of search engines. Instead of developing his own search engine, he used the services of an existing search engine called Inktomi. Search wasn’t his priority and during those same years, Brin and Page were busy developing Google and the rest is, well, history. In Bill Gates’ own words, “Google kicked our butts!”
10. Undermining Traditional Methods
Because social media has made its presence felt everywhere, a lot of people consider personal branding an utterly Web-based exercise. While social media does deserve a lot of credit for making it easy to reach out to audiences and express yourself to them, it cannot replace the traditional methods of communication.
Those most effective in personal branding initiatives know that a combination of the real and the virtual world is a must. While attending to social media is critical, it is also important to write for traditional media, attend events, network, speak publicly, volunteer at professional organizations, sit on boards, and so on. The idea is to expand local real-time activities by making them discernable on the Web.
Personal branding can be complicated, which is why a lot of individuals and businesses can easily go wrong with it. Balance is key and achieving it the most difficult aspect. The above mistakes are quite common, but the good news is that they’re avoidable too! Steer clear of them in your personal branding efforts by promoting yourself adequately when needed and exercising restraint where required. Doing so will go a long way in helping your name earn good-will, credence and popularity.
Pratik Dholakiya is the Founder of Preceptist, a content marketing agency for SaaS businesses.