18 Aug

Personal branding advice by Renata Cooper

This article was originally published on Gloss Magazine August edition, 2014 pages 32-33
Personal branding advice by Renata Cooper

 

Personal branding advice articles are a dime a dozen. Thousands of different opinions are churned out every day. Most of them are valid and do work. I am an entrepreneur and no expert in personal branding. I cannot guide you on this topic with authority. However, having built my personal and organisation’s identity, I can share some of observations on building a social brand.

I started from scratch, relying primarily on social media, and built my brand from zero to over 6,000 connections in fewer than three years. In addition brand building, these networks have helped me impact the lives of thousands on a daily basis through grants and support initiatives.

If the digital era has taught us anything, it is that:

–      there is no set formula for everyone. No textbook method or seven steps work the same way for a cross section of the population.

–      personal branding has elevated many entrepreneurs, thought leaders and ordinary people with a voice to the status previously reserved for celebrities.

–      easy access to information can result in lack of authenticity, leading to the quick demise of impact and relevance.

As media historian Leo Braudy noted, “What only kings could accomplish in the past is now available to those of more modest means”.

Honesty and authenticity

Back in 2011 when Forming Circles was born, I realised there are over 22 million people in Australia, each with their own story. This instigated me to find a unique way to tell mine – with authenticity and in language that would resonate with those I wanted to influence.

There is an overload of content online, giving most people the ability to build their brand using reasonable amount of intellect and a few ideas. To make myself heard, I had to take my core audience of budding entrepreneurs, mentors, youth and women through an interesting journey.

Forming Circles brand and everything I did was related to who I was as an individual. A migrant who came to Australia with only $20 in the pocket. A mother wanting to empower youth through literacy and financial knowledge. An equities trader with sound investment acumen. An entrepreneur wanting to help other women and start-ups find their way.

My communication, articles and voice reflected my background, what I learnt over the years and was learning along the way. Most importantly, I was comfortable with my public persona and positioning. This is a challenge for entrepreneurs who prefer privacy and grapple with going public for the good of the business.

As the brand grew, I started attracting other people with similar stories of success – most that were hard won.

Value in building social brand

I remember reading that a strong online presence gets you recalled and evaluated in settings where you are not present to sell yourself. If you are an entrepreneur or need to build your brand, you know the power of social branding. It amazed me how few people considered this to be important when I became an entrepreneur in 2011 and, how few still do so.

My day-to-day life consists of business plans, market prices, speaking to networks, financial management and other similar activities. As my business grew, so did my knowledge. While some information was easily available, I had to dig deeper for others. Through my journey, I shared observations and insights across social media – with the intention of brand building and also educating anyone who might not have seen the information previously.

Forming Circles was an extension of my beliefs, passions and vision. Its social brand would not have had the right tone if I maintained a layer of distance. Through commentary, dialogue and engagement in social media and online publications, I was able to give my business and myself a voice in a crowded market.

Community engagement

Personal or entrepreneurial branding was all about building the community. As with being part of any flourishing community, I had to play an active role by listening, interacting, supporting and engaging. The most common mistakes I saw people make were a) broadcasting messages on social media and not actively engaging, and, b) losing the personal touch by forgetting different emotions drive people.

We have more power than ever to reach not only our communities, but also the whole world. The realisation that if I had this power, so would others – this made me work harder to be memorable and impactful. In an era of short human attention span and limited relevance, I had to put in effort to crafting stories that would appeal to the community – not just what interested me.

As much as people want to learn about business issues, they also like to smile, laugh, be enthralled and inspired. My messages try to address these different elements by sharing pictures, inspiring quotes, life lessons and personal experiences – in addition to business information.

Over the years, I have come across many people holding back, thinking they might not have anything interesting to say. You never know until you try.

To read the article in full, click here and go to pages 32-33

 

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