Author Garry Browne on building a personal brand in a pandemic
The past few months saw video-calling platforms like Skype, Zoom and Google Hangouts become the offices and classrooms of today, and our devices replaced televisions as the window to the world, and gave the world a window to our homes.
Personal branding has always been important in all jobs, because our ‘brand’ is how we would like the world (especially our future employers) to see us.
We create our own personal brands, whether we’re aware of it or not and whether we’re actively managing it or not. Like our reputation, our personal brand is built throughout our lives, but it can take just one mistake to lose it.
Our personal brand is what makes an impact in our careers, but with jobs and work looking different in “the new normal”, how different does building our personal brand look?
Garry Browne is the Chairman and former CEO of one of Australia’s largest and oldest privately-owned companies, Stuart Alexander & Co. He’s launched international brands such as Tabasco and Mentos in Australia, and now he’s launched his debut book, Brand New Brand You.
In Brand New Brand You, Browne shares his insights on the essential dynamics of personal branding, even through challenging times such as COVID-19, job losses, changing career paths, redundancies and graduations.
COVID-19 has been a game-changer which has created a new normal. As we forcefully adapt to a new way to live, Browne says this new fast-paced environment we live in today calls for the need to be "far more innovative and creative”.
And the first step to targeting your personal brand? Browne says it’s about “understanding what your purpose is and what is the impact you want to make in your job, your community and on those around you”.
"Try asking yourself what are the qualities and characteristics that make you distinctive from others, what do you want to be known for and what values are important to you.”
"Your purpose needs to be something that is needed or wanted by others to be able to make a positive impact,” he said.
THE IMPACT OF ONLINE LIFE FOR UNIVERSITY STUDENTS
Work and life for university students this year was moved to our electronic devices.
Being at university is one of our pathways to the real world and for some, the beginning of career paths. It’s where we get first jobs, first internships, and the first few contacts of a potentially long list of professional networks.
But who knew all this would, and could, be done in front of a computer screen, with campuses being closed?
If you’re guilty of attending a zoom meeting in your bed hair and pyjamas, you’re not the only one. But it’s still important to dress up for your job, even if it’s through a computer screen.
"Wearing a t-shirt and board shorts for your first online meeting or interview would come across as overly casual and perhaps that you don’t give a stuff,” Browne said.
On top of our apparel, our body language is also under a watchful eye to the audience who we present our personal brand to. In video calls, body language includes eye, head and shoulder movement, and our posture and facial expressions as well. How well we project our voice also matters.
"In virtual settings the spoken word does become more important and effective, so make sure you are pre-prepared for any meetings and interviews with relevant research, key bullet points to hand, practice runs with friends, etc,” he said.
WHY SELF-PRESENTATION MATTERS
Browne encourages us to present ourselves in a way we feel comfortable with. After all, everything we do (whether we’re aware of it or not), and choose to and not to do, “communicates the value and character of brand you".
While instagram posts and tweets of celebrities and political figures make the headlines of the mainstream media, our own social media activity makes the headlines of our reputation.
Connections and interactions are an important part of our personal brand, both face to face and online.
Social media gives us a wider network of people who can help "navigate the changing environment and secure exposure to new opportunities”.
But even though isolation made us spend more time on social media, Browne believes connecting exclusively via social media "is not the same as building a strong, committed network of trusted people".
Our social media profile is our chance to give people an impression of what we stand for and what our expertise is, and this is more than just pasting our names all over social media without a focus.
"If you’re featured in every channel with just your name, you’re not going to be relevant to your audience. It’s not good enough,” Browne said.
COVID-19 not only changed workplaces, it also changed work expectations.
Unemployment is rising, and adding fuel to the fiery competition for jobs, a tough shift that’s happened in a short period of time.
Browne’s advice to exceed expectations and impress employers from home is to understand what the new expectations are by asking your employer, or manager, then work on exceeding them. He also finds seeking some forum discussions with peers and a mentor helpful.
"This is an unknown and unprecedented time for everyone – being able to share that experience, knowledge and understanding with others in your cohort will help you when dealing with your own organisations,” Browne said.
Conveying your personal brand is an ongoing process, rather than a “set and forget approach”.
"The most effective environments may change over time but it’s about being adaptable when you recognise that you’re not getting the traction you think you should have and finding a way to improve that,” he said.
Browne’s debut book, Brand New Brand You, helps us understand how to maintain our relevance and reputation over time. He says it can also help "anyone who may be feeling lost or stuck, lacking self-esteem or for anyone who just wants to craft a more powerful position for themselves in their career or personal life”.
REPUTATION IS EVERYTHING
For our readers in media and communications majors, Browne’s advice is to "make sure to protect your reputation, be credible, be authentic and deliver useful information to your audience to be considered relevant“.
Reputations don’t work in isolation, ironically, they need people to spread the word.
The way Browne puts it, “getting others to sing your praises if far more effective than you trying to do it yourself”.
However, Browne says isolation is a great time to “keep learning and up-skilling”.
Learn a new language, take up a new hobby, or a short online course, because Browne says we become less relevant to an organisation if we stop learning new skills or extending our knowledge.
Business author Tom Peters once said “we are all CEOs of our own companies”.
Browne’s advice for students facing their jobs and internships in isolation is to be “head marketer for the brand called You”.
"You need to be aware of and understand your own abilities, strengths and weaknesses so that you can position yourself as a unique asset to a company, and so that you can also identify what you might need to work on and what you might need support with,” he said.
And never forget about the value of mentors or course lecturers who can provide guidance and help us to find our way in our careers.
In an excerpt of Brand New Brand You for The Swanston Gazette, Browne has outlined 11 starting points for establishing “brand you and your reputation”:
Stand by your word
Help others realize their potential
Show integrity in action
Be consistent and have tenacity
Get engaged with your community
Show thoughtfulness in your actions
Show compassion in action
Look the part
Create visibility and connections
Nobody can decide not to have a reputation, whether it’s actively managed or not. But once you're really in tune with your personal brand, values and purpose, all that’s left is to walk the walk, and talk the talk.