In the startup world, building a brand or having good branding for a business is something almost everyone agrees is essential. People talk about it, read about it, write about it, and we see great (and not so great) examples of it constantly. The branding of a startup, or a well-established large corporation for that matter, is what lets a company speak with its audience. Good branding connects a company, and their service or product, with their customer base, makes them feel emotions through storytelling and can create a community between their users.
But what about personal branding?
The concept of personal branding is one that is starting to pick up more and more buzz. In the Female Founders community it is definitely a topic that we are focusing a lot of attention on: in the Lead F – leadership accelerator for women and Grow F – startup accelerator for female-led ventures, there is always a session focused on developing the participants’ personal brands. The topic was also brought up often in our flag ship event Lead Today. Shape Tomorrow. 2021, and in a smaller Everything About event this past December. We even made an instagram how to post!
But if you haven’t participated in one of our programs, or been to an event where the speaker is focusing on the topic, it can be tough to really know what is personal branding? Why is it so important, especially for women? And what can you do to make sure your personal brand is on point?
What is personal branding?
There are a lot of misconceptions about what a personal brand is. I myself am not an expert but Christina Richter is, and when she led a session on it for the Lead F participants, she began answering this question by talking about what personal branding is not. Your personal brand isn’t about selling yourself or self-promotion, it’s not about your current career or position.
It’s much much more than this. Your personal brand includes it all: your career path – both previous experiences and goals for the future – your skillset, your expertise and know-how in specific fields. It’s your values and beliefs, your voluntary commitments, hobbies or free time activities and interests. It can even involve small details like the colors you wear to business events or meeting with external partners.
Your personal brand is what sticks in people’s mind about you when you’re not around. Everyone has a personal brand to some degree whether you put effort into it or not. That’s one of the reasons why it can be so important to pay attention to your personal brand and work on branding yourself the best way possible.
Why is personal branding so important ?
Like I said, everyone has a personal brand, if you have a Linkedin profile or any sort of online presence… you guessed it: that’s an example of personal branding. So optimizing your Linkedin profile or any other account, and making sure your branding is communicating what you want it to communicate, is key. But why is this so important?
A great personal brand means that you have a great reputation within your field. A good reputation translates to: your skills, talents and interests being known. The more you grow awareness of your reputation and the more people know about what you are great at, the tasks or projects you like doing, or the topics you know a lot about the more you will be thought of or suggested for new exciting opportunities.
For female professionals, good personal branding will help build a great network, and more importantly, find a mentor or sponsor. Research shows that professionals with a well-established personal brand are 23% more likely to have a sponsor in their career. Having this senior person throughout your development can be crucial to progressing and reaching the positions and milestones you have set for yourself.
For female founders and entrepreneurs, both of the above two reasons apply but there is one more huge reason for personal branding: it can be the key (or at least one of them) to getting funding. Especially in the early stages of fundraising, investors are deciding if they trust the founders and believe they have what it takes to make their venture a success. Having a well-known positive reputation in your field can be a huge advantage in this situation.
Why is Personal Branding especially important for female entrepreneurs and talent?
If you read my last article posted on the wecanbeheroes.io platform about diversity and inclusion, you know that there are way fewer women in management positions and way less funding goes to female-led startups. Anyone else seeing a pattern here? – these are two of the major reasons to focus on developing an incredible personal brand.
But unsurprisingly, women are far less likely to develop their personal brands. Of course, this is not true of all women, but women struggle more than men when it comes to being confident in developing their personal brand. Women are often less likely to speak about their accomplishments in public or talk about success they have had and are proud of. Women also tend to use “we” instead of “I”, this means when a woman talks about a win she or her team had she will credit everyone involved whereas men will often use I, crediting only themselves by default. One more reason some women are not as quick to develop their personal brand is that research shows women often see success as the opposite of likeability.
There is no doubt, these struggles can be largely credited to the societal stereotypes and unequal treatment that women receive in workplaces. These things are slowly changing but there is still a long way to go. That being said, women can and do help push these changes faster by going against the norm and showing off their incredible skills, talents, and achievements. But how? Glad you asked!
How can you develop your personal brand?
As I said before, at Female Founders we focus on this topic a lot, in our accelerator programs, events and more. From all of the expert speakers, deep-dive sessions and shared resources, I have put together a little list of tips to rock your personal brand.
- Start defining your personal brand by asking yourself: what do I want to be known for?
You can even take this one step further. Think about if you were speaking at a big conference or event. What would the title of your talk be? What lessons could you teach people? What expertise would you be sharing?
This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s too important not to mention. You need to network both inside your company and industry as well as outside of it. The more people who know about your talents and interests mean you are more likely to be thought of and recommended for new projects or opportunities.
- Control Your Narrative
This one goes perfectly together with networking. Never assume that people know your background, work ethic or successes. You need to tell them. It’s not bragging, it is simply making people aware of how you got to where you are now. You can do this by coming up with a 30-second elevator pitch about yourself by writing down a list of all of your past experiences until you get to your current position.
- Show Credibility
As mentioned earlier, Linkedin is a place where personal branding is happening even when you don’t know it. It’s a great tool to get messages you want out there about yourself. You can gain credibility by sharing photos of you reaching a goal, a presentation you gave or a report you wrote for work.
- Share your ideas publicly
Linkedin and many other online platforms provide opportunities to share your ideas and expertise in creative ways. For example you can create an infographic, publish a blog post on your own website or for an established blog that features external authors like Medium, or write a special feature in your company’s newsletter.
- Be Authentic
This is a big one. Make sure your personal brand truly does depict you. This means your online presence and identity need to match up 100% with who you are and what you do. Being inauthentic or dishonest about your own accomplishments or skills will not only come back to you in a negative way but also be much harder to develop. When focusing on personal branding, stick to what’s real, be confident in yourself and own it!
If you want even more advice on the topic of personal branding and so many more topics of professional and personal development, think about applying to Lead F- the leadership accelerator for women. You can apply until the 30th of July for the program starting in the Fall. If you have any questions, reach out to the head of the program, Amelia Suda at [email protected].
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