Why Personal Branding Should be Authentic
Why Personal Branding Should be Authentic
By Maggie Eyre
If I was a bracelet, I know exactly what I would be like. Apparently, so did two French sisters who in their seventies designed a spectacular chunky resin bracelet that became my favourite piece of jewellery. I found the piece on a sun-soaked summer’s day at the Brera market in central Milan, sold by a lovely elderly man with gentle eyes and wavy grey hair. Even if I hadn’t fallen in love with this bracelet I think I would have bought anything from Alberto, this gracious artisan who spoke about his products and their origin with grace and pride.
Back at home, after months of constant outings, the bracelet broke when the elastic threading holding all the pieces together snapped. I felt lost without ‘her’ on my arm, so I was on a mission, when I returned the next year to Milan, to track down Alberto. Sure enough, he was right where he’d been last year. Same stall. Same smile.
Alberto looked concerned and understanding as I told him my story, and seemed genuinely happy that he could put this piece back together. I asked him how much he would need to fix it. He almost looked offended. ‘No! No!’ he insisted. He would not take any money. This was his life’s work and I as his customer deserved his full service. Never in my life have I experienced such loyalty. Alberto was honourable and went out of his way to return my treasure, which not only made me happy but it generated many conversations about his integrity, so much so that here I am writing about him and his sincerity and inspired work ethic and practice.
When it comes to creating a powerful personal brand, we spend too long thinking about tricks and techniques, and too little thinking about values. Authenticity and integrity are the key to a personal brand that spreads around the world and sends customers and clients to you like magic. But how often do we make promises and not carry them through? How often do we taint our personal brand by not going out of our way to keep our word and make an effort to delight our clients? What do we need to do in our actions to build more trust and loyalty?
In a busy world, we don’t often pause to ask the questions, ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What do I care about?’ However, in answering these very big and existential questions, a template for defining your personal brand will emerge. And it emerges from honest and brave inquiry into what you believe and why because, as Gandhi suggested, beliefs rapidly manifest into becoming your thoughts, actions, habits, expressed values and ultimately your destiny.
Here is my brand definition checklist to help you connect with your values and create a personal brand as strong and authentic as Alberto’s:
- Identify your values
Placing importance on living your values is a way to build your personal brand. There are many ways you can pinpoint what your values are. Making a list of your five most important values is a start. To do this, ask yourself, ‘What do I stand for in life?’ and take note of the words that roll off your tongue.
- Prioritize your values
It’s not always easy to identify the values that mean most to you, but it warrants serious reflection so that you can pay more focused attention to what really matters in life. Look at your weekly schedule on your computer, phone or diary. If you value health and put it at the top of your list but you work 70 hours a week, then you need to make some serious changes to align yourself with this value.
- Align your values with your strengths
How do you match your values with your area of expertise? What are you good at? Are you doing what makes you happy?
Keep on asking yourself that confronting question, ‘Am I being authentic?’ And as you examine this question, imagine what it could look like if you truly were interacting in the world with a more genuine you and more genuine message. Pause on this for a minute, because in that understanding you can give action and voice to the real you. Therein lies your personal brand.
I acknowledge you for looking after your reputation, figuring out how you are perceived, investigating ways to re-think things when necessary and for taking the time to explore who you are as a brand in the world and why that should matter. Dig deep with this inquiry into your reputation and take steps to recreate your personal brand on solid foundations.
Always remember that, like everything in life, your brand will evolve just as spaciously and daringly as you do. I disagree with the expression, ‘people don’t change’. People do change — every day — and watching transformation unfold is quite simply a joy. I am not the same person I was a year ago when I started writing this book and an unexpected but much-welcomed consequence of committing to this work is that I have found myself contemplating my own personal brand and examining how I can keep growing it and better communicate it.
Being yourself is the opposite of following a social media trend, a step-by-step tip formula sheet or clichéd, safe talking points. We find out about what makes us grow by making mistakes and going easy on ourselves and others, with compassion and humanity, especially when we or they trip up. Having the courage to be vulnerable is what will also orientate you towards a true voice and a true personal brand. Whatever you do, savour the moments that make a defining difference and dare to touch the lives of everybody you encounter as you navigate your own unique path.
Being You, that’s my instruction and your mission. Use this advice to discover new ways to strengthen your work, your business, and your relationships based on the beliefs and values close to your heart. Being you is more important than being liked by someone else.
When you can answer the apparently simple, but actually complex, question, ‘Who am I?’ you will have found the most authentic starting place, or first block, to construct your brand. The next step is to follow through – and live according to these values in each and every stage of your business, just like Alberto.
About the author:
Maggie Eyre is a public speaking coach and personal branding expert. Her book Being You – How to Build Your Personal Brand and Confidence is published by Exisle Publishing.