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Standing out, social media and staying away from Zoom filters – build yourself a great personal brand in five steps

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It’s never the wrong time to think about how you present yourself and make the most of what you have to offer – your personal brand. For Women’s History Month, our Founder and CEO, Melissa Davis, looks at some effective ways to help you stand out – and leave a lasting, authentic impression.

I’ll be honest. When I first set off on my career path, the words ‘personal brand’ weren’t top of my list. Other things took priority back then. In fact if I am honest I am not sure I even realised that my personality was my personal brand.

However, the problem for many people is that, years into their careers, those words still aren’t front and centre of their minds. And they absolutely should be.

But how do you build a personal brand – and then maintain it? Here are some tips that I hope will make it easier and help you create the impression you want.

1. Stand out – but stay true to yourself

Personal brand isn’t a buzz term. It’s not clever marketing speak. It’s much more important than that.

It’s about taking responsibility over how you present yourself – and how people perceive you. It’s about showing what makes you unique – what you’re about. It’s about personality, it’s about your skills and, most of all, it should be about being true to the real you.

The one thing it should never be is something completely different to who you really are. Even actors, who spend their careers playing other people, have their own personal brands. Why be someone else when you can be successful being the person you know best – you?

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I can’t help wondering how many successful women have felt the need to be someone else in their professional lives in years gone by. Those who have not been able to bring their whole selves to work. It should never have been necessary in any age. It certainly isn’t now.

So above all – be yourself. Be proud of who you are. Be authentic and other people will respect you for it. Who are you? I am a business leader, a mother to the most phenomenal super-hero daughter who has special needs, a campaigner on SEND issues and protecting children during and after parental separation, a mental health ambassador and in addition, I wholeheartedly encourage vulnerability. I say things publicly and privately like: ‘I am in pain because it’s the first anniversary of me losing my utterly amazing Mum’.

2. Build relationships – and keep them

If you’re being yourself, it makes it easier to build new relationships. And when you do, it makes them more effective if people know that they’re talking to the real you, not a professional persona completely at odds with the private one.

People buy people. It’s a simple mantra but it’s still true. Relationships and networks are the key to any successful career. Invest time in people you know and build networks that help them achieve what they want as well as you. That way, you’ll maintain relationships much longer.

At a presentation to a group of women recently I asked them which personal brands they liked and why. Whether it was Taylor Swift (that was me) or high-profile politicians the word authenticity came up time and time again.

3. Embrace social media

There are multiple opportunities to build your own profile and personal brand. Social media is one of the best and easiest ways to do so –and also show that you’re across key issues in your specialism and let a little of your personality to shine through too.

Working in the legal sector, it’s never ceased to amaze me how nervous successful people can be when it comes to social media, but there are four key pointers to bear in mind. Always remember the four Cs.

Social media isn’t going away. It’s a key part of life so embrace it and enjoy it.

4. Make the most of other media

Social media may be important but that doesn’t mean traditional media isn’t vital too. It is. To build a successful personal brand, you need to maximise the opportunities for people to see you and to learn more about you.

As ever though, the media doesn’t wait for anyone so being quick is just as important as being interesting.

We always work with clients on both aspects. Making their comments stand out with some clear, interesting messages – but also reminding them that if they want to be noticed and featured, they need to be quick. Either responding quickly or having comments prepared is key. With the media, fastest fingers first definitely applies!

5. Learn to use Zoom – just don’t be a cat

‘You’re on mute, mate….’

Surely the catchphrase of 2020?

And so we come to Zoom. Or Teams. Or whatever system you choose to use.

Whether you liked virtual meetings before last March, none of us can make that choice now. They have become a staple of daily working life so it’s really important to make sure you know how to use them and how to come across well.

Don’t be afraid. Everyone is in the same boat. It’s not the same as a face-to-face meeting, it can’t be. But they can still work for you.

Prepare for meetings as you would do if you were all in the same room and make sure, when you speak, you’re not on mute. And you’re not talking over someone.

If you’ve got to present, try and avoid relying on PowerPoint too much. Death by PowerPoint is an issue in face-to-face meetings. On Zoom, it can be far worse. As a consultancy we don’t present at pitches – either in the real world or video. We send our presentation in advance and then we use that time to build a relationship on screen. If we all connect and like each other this is going to be a lot easier, enjoyable and the results will be exceptional. It has won us a significant amount of new clients in the last year. It’s brave but it says ‘relationships are important to us’.

Have your camera on as much as possible (it may not always be feasible and there could be a good reason someone doesn’t wish to appear on screen). For me it helps connect when I can see someone, but I have also started offering a walk in the park instead with contacts I know well enough. As a mental health advocate it fits with my brand to suggest a walk and talk because I have been on seven hours of back-to-back Zooms already that day. How can you make the video world fit your brand?

And of course, be careful with filters. Unless you want to be famous for turning yourself into a cat ….

Remember you are your brand so let’s see who you really are.

Watch a recording of our resilience webinar which took place on 11 March.

More information about our Purpose, Brand DNA and Values Workshops.

More information about our Social Media training.

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