To build a credible, visible and professional reputation in business and become a thought leader in your field, it’s essential that you first establish a personal brand that the likes of Don Draper from Mad Men would be proud of. From there, it’s all about the way you grow and manage your brand so that it represents who you are and the values you hold as you progress through your career.
What is a personal brand?
Put simply, your personal brand is your professional reputation. It’s how people see and experience you. How you choose to package and communicate yourself, your career and your unique skill set. Whether you’re actively managing it or not, you already have some form of personal brand in an increasingly engaged and online world. In a way, you’re now a marketer for your very own brand, brand YOU. And when you’re part of an organisation, who you are and what you stand for becomes a representative of that organisation.
How does thought leadership tie into this?
Thought leadership content has become a breath of fresh air among the multitude of product marketing material, promo gimmicks, deals, demos and peer reviews experienced today. It enables organisations, through personal representatives, to lead with authenticity and honesty, ultimately providing a bridge of trust for risk-averse buyers or consumers.
As defined by Thought Leaders International , “Thought Leadership is establishing a relationship with and delivering something of value to your stakeholders and customers that aligns with your brand/company value. In the process, you go well beyond merely selling a product or service and establish your brand /company as the expert in that field—differentiating yourself from your competitors.“
As you start producing and sharing content that’s relevant to your brand, your reputation as a thought leader in your profession grows. You begin forming trusting relationships with your network and start to become a credible voice in the field you know and love. The more authentic and accurate content you create and share, the stronger this credibility becomes—which leads to even more trust and a heightened sense of reliability as your network views you as an expert in a particular topic.
Why does it all matter?
Employers, customers, colleagues, business acquaintances and managers are increasingly turning to alternate channels to gather information about you. Just like reading product or service reviews before you purchase or use something, people want to know who they’re dealing with and what you’re about before they meet you. This is often something that a quick Google search can often turn up. A mistake many people make is by hiding or shying away from an online presence. Having no online presence can be just as damaging as having a poor one.
35% of B2B buyers are spending about 1-3 hours per week reviewing thought leadership content. (Source: Edelman)
Additionally, as a thought leader, you intrinsically become a representative of the company. You embody the company’s values and traits, while presenting them from your own perspective and with a personal touch. This has been proven to not only gain the attention from new business prospects and partnerships, but also to build trust and foster nurturing relationships with current customers, business partners and stakeholders. In fact, 50% of B2B marketers believe thought leadership builds trust in their organisation. But among actual buyers, that number is more like 83%. (Source: LinkedIn for Business).
How does personal branding and thought leadership benefit the organisation?
While personal branding and thought leadership have clear advantages to you as an individual as you progress through your career, it also benefits any organisation that you may be part of. It makes you an invaluable resource for the organisation and will further cement your place as a public representative for the company, as well as a functioning part of their integrated marketing strategy.
Here are a few of the key benefits personal branding and thought leadership hold for organisations:
1. A more collective, credible voice: Talking to the message and communication from the company and adding your personal perspective emphasises the message, adds more credibility to it, and builds more trust in the organisation from an outside perspective. In fact, thought leadership has a greater impact of ideas on potential buyers than all other forms of content marketing (case studies, collateral, advertising, etc.) (Source: Forrester)
2. Your brand as a representative of the company’s brand: As your reputation and influence grows, so it opens doors to new business prospects, trading partners, events, customers and interest from news and media. You are a representative of the company through representing yourself. Your network becomes an extension of the company’s network and vice versa.
3. Build and maintain stronger relationships: Current customers and stakeholders feel more validated for partnering with a company that employs and encourages high-caliber thought leaders who drive quality and value-adding content and conversation. More than half (55%) of business decision makers said they had increased the business they conduct with an organisation based on their thought leadership. (Source: LinkedIn and Edelman)
4. Thought leaders improve the ROI of company campaigns: A thought leader’s role is essential in spreading the message and focus of the company’s campaign. This doesn’t mean that it should simply be a repetition, but rather an amplification of the values in the campaign through the thought leader’s voice and various channels/ networks.
In my next post, I’ll provide an 8-step plan to galvanise your personal brand. It will include actionable steps that help you prepare for, plan, set a few workable goals and get you started on your very own journey to becoming a thought leader in your field or profession.