Brand Marketing

Building your personal brand

Akshaya Chandrasekaran | Updated on September 19, 2021

Your brand is also about how the world perceives you

The custom of exchanging business cards is practically obsolete. We follow each other on LinkedIn and stay connected forever. Learning how to narrate your story succinctly gives you a leading edge, given the abundant reach of social media.

These new realities are captured in HR consultant Charu Sabnavis’ book #You: Build Your Personal Brand.

Sabnavis, who has been in the HR domain for over 30 years, explores all dimensions of personal branding — identifying strengths, communicating with credibility, and attracting the right kind of audience and reaction. She coaches one through the fundamentals of getting your brand, your story, right. The book is a bit of a mixed bag though — even as it offers some interesting insights, there are some aspects the author leaves untouched.

However, Sabnavis brings a fresh take to some old management concepts. For instance, she handles the subject of navigating through office politics innovatively. Instead of taking the clichéd approach of suggesting avoiding all of it, she provides an interesting framework to help one engage constructively. Understanding where power resides and how decisions are made is important to succeed, she says. Relationships act as social lubricants to elicit faster responses and to get things done. Knowing how to leverage your social skills to build such relationships makes a huge difference.

In the chapter about networking a room, she quashes many outdated ideas about making connections. If you feel big conferences and parties deplete your energy, she says, go ahead and skip it. There are many ways to build rapport, and some prefer to connect with select people over a quiet dinner at home to develop some long-term, meaningful, relationships. And if you’re excited at the thought of meeting new people, but are at an event where everyone seems to know everyone else, embroiled in conversations that are impossible to join, then she has solutions for that, too. How one likes to network is often rooted in their personality, and there is a takeaway for everyone, no matter where you stand on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. She talks about effective self-promotion. Everyone on social media and in real life has to engage in some degree of self-promotion to be noticed. But nobody teaches you how to. While it makes some uncomfortable, knowing how to do it tastefully, is definitely a skill. “Reframe it in your mind and think of it as a mutually beneficial conversation that not only helps you gain recognition but also equips your senior or colleague with data points that could enable them to make better decisions if it comes to it,” says Sabnavis.

Online presence

The book makes for a compelling read for anyone wanting to build an online presence as well. It aptly recognises the pull of social media in gaining visibility and expanding networks. She offers useful strategies that find applications across different platforms. “People perceive who you are based on how you present yourself in the virtual world. Your brand is not just about who you are but equally about how the world perceives you,” writes Sabnavis. The author has done a lot of legwork for her book and interviewed CEOs, COOs, and leading HR pros across the spectrum. It has reams of anecdotes, stories, case studies, and has takeaways for all. In some places, it tends to feel ‘overexplained’ and interferes with the flow, but mostly it adds richness and substance to the book.

The relationship between entrepreneurs and personal branding, and the lessons one can learn from it, is absent in the book. Influencers, typically one-person start-ups, bag huge endorsement deals with major brands, mainly by monetising their personal brand. This is a missed opportunity.

If personal branding is all about perception, then there is a wealth of research that shows that top-level women pros are perceived a lot differently than their male counterparts.

One wishes the book had explored personal branding through a gender lens. Sabnavis brings up a personal example in the book where she receives the feedback of being “unapproachable” from her manager in a meeting. I expected helpful advice based on her first-hand experience, or at the very least, a witty comeback. But it ended just as a moral lesson on the importance of feedback.

Check out the book on Amazon

Published on September 19, 2021

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