Harsh Pamnani is a storyteller by passion and a brand expert by profession. He helps business leaders communicate inspiring stories that highlight brand strengths, improve employee commitment and customer engagement, and drive business growth. He has authored several best-selling books on brand building, including Booming Brands and Booming Digital Stars. He earned his MBA from XLRI and has worked with think tanks like the World Bank, corporates like Deloitte, and unicorn start-ups like FirstCry and Icertis. He has spoken at fora such as TEDx, Josh Talks, Google Business Group, IITs, and IIMs.
Whether you are competing for a promotion, looking for a job, or planning to switch careers, working hard, perfecting a skill, or earning a qualification alone will not help you succeed. To propel closer to your goals, you need to build your personal brand. It is an exclusive combination of expertise, experiences, and credentials that distinguishes you from the competition and makes you relevant in the market. Whether someone likes you, wants to work with you, or trusts you, depends mainly on your personal brand.
Let me share with you a few lessons that could help you in establishing your personal brand:
1) Find a niche, and become a master in it: Al Ries and Jack Trout, the pioneers of the positioning concept, advised narrowing the focus so that your brand can own a word in the prospect's mind. People respect an expert more than a generalist. Therefore, to become a brand, choose one domain and go deeper into that. For instance, today, Chef Gordon Ramsay is globally known for his food recipes, restaurants, cookbooks, and TV shows. But his journey to fame started with his focus on a niche—French cuisine. In 2001, his flagship restaurant in London, known for French cuisine, gained the ultimate accolade of three Michelin stars.
2) Be open to doing things others have not done before: To stand out in your field, you have to come up with fresh ideas and keep trying new things. Comedy is a crowded category. From stand-up comedy to sketches, thousands of comedians try to make the audience laugh. In this market, Bhuvan Bam stands out with 19 characters, played by himself. This kind of character-based comedy by an individual performer had not been done in India before.
3) Earn your credentials: Your credentials create perceptions about you. To make yourself valuable, you should earn credentials continuously.
Arunima Sinha is a former national-level volleyball player. In 2011, at the age of 23, she was thrown out from a moving train by robbers. In this accident, she lost one leg. While still being treated, she resolved to climb Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. In 2013, at the age of 25, Sinha became the first female amputee to climb Mount Everest. By the age of 30, she had climbed the highest mountain peaks on each of the seven continents. The Government of India has honoured her with the Padma Shri award.
4) Express humility and empathy: The people who express humility and empathy, even after becoming popular, command others' respect. For instance, Amitabh Bachchan is one of the most popular Bollywood stars in the world. But in the TV show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), he interacts with the audience not as an iconic personality but as a dignified, friendly, and supportive older gentleman. He speaks the language of respect, care, compassion, and gratitude. Due to his humility and empathy, he commands massive respect from his audience.
5) Build your visibility around your domain: Public speaking either on stage or on TV, or on YouTube and writing articles in known publications can help position you as an authority, grow your network, and earn the audience's trust. India is a nation of cricket fans. And when people think about cricket commentary, Harsha Bhogle’s name appears at the top.
His relatable analysis of the game, fresh perspectives, and storytelling abilities make the cricket viewing experience enriching and enjoyable.
6) Add value to others: To become a brand, you should focus on adding value to others' lives. Annually, Anand Kumar selects 30 students from underprivileged backgrounds and prepares them for the IIT entrance exam for free. The success rate of the Super 30 has been close to 90 percent. Anand has received many national and international recognitions for his contribution to education. In 2019, the Bollywood movie Super 30, starring Hrithik Roshan, made Anand Kumar a household name.
7) Keep improving yourself in your craft: Brand building is a marathon, not a 100-meter race. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell emphasises that you need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become world-class in any field. Oscar-winning musician AR Rahman started playing the piano at the age of four. Imagine how many hours of effort must have gone before achieving a claim to fame.
8) Define your purpose: Simon Sinek said, "People don't buy what you do. They buy why you do it." If you are doing something just because many others are also doing the same thing or you just want to make money, then you are not building the right foundation for your brand. However, if you are doing something because you have a mission, which, if remains unsolved, will give you sleepless nights, then you are creating a solid foundation that will attract many others to support you.
9) Build your online presence: In the digital world, people Google you as soon as your name appears in their minds. If you have a nicely designed website with all your achievements and accolades, then it will appear in Google search. Also, understand the purpose of various social media platforms and then plan out how much time you want to spend on which platform. In the professional world, LinkedIn is the most important social media platform. Make sure that your LinkedIn profile has your latest professional details and credentials. A great way to build trust in your personal brand is to ask your managers and clients to write a recommendation for you on LinkedIn.
10) Collaborate with influential people: When you are new or unproven, some kind of collaboration with an established person in the industry could help to elevate your brand. But before reaching out to an influential person, you should be clear about what collaboration means. It means both parties bring something to the table. If an accomplished person brings in his or her hard-earned reputation and reach, you should be ready to put in most of the effort.
Marketing Guru Seth Godin says, “Brand humility is the only response to a fast-changing and competitive marketplace. The humble brand understands that it needs to re-earn attention, re-earn loyalty and reconnect with its audience as if every day is the first day.” So in your journey of becoming a remarkable personal brand—stay humble, stay consistent, and stay relevant!
The writer is an author of 'Booming Brands' and co-author of ‘Booming Digital Stars’. Views expressed are personal and don't necessarily represent any company's opinions.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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