The Why and How of Personal Branding
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We pay more for a branded product. The reason why you chose a particular mobile and not the other had to do with the perception you have about the brand. When asked to search for any information on the web, most people say, "let me Google it" because that brand has become synonymous with search.

Every company likes to describe its brands in superlative terms, but the users have their own opinion. It is the user's opinion that matters about a brand. People make purchase decisions based on user reviews. The brands that are "perceived" as innovative, aesthetically appealing or customer friendly, command a premium over their competitors.

Brands are adjectives. If someone had to think of you as a brand, what adjectives would they use to describe you? If you had to describe yourself using five adjectives would these be the same as the ones others had used for you? Would these be the adjectives that would want to be known for in the eyes of others? Would these adjectives help you achieve your dreams?

Your personal brand is not what you say about yourself but what others say about you. You are the CEO of Brand You. You can take lessons from what big brands do to make sure they are always seen as top of the mind for the buyers. They have marketing experts to help them craft the brand. You can apply the same techniques to build a powerful personal brand.

Seek Feedback: In marketing terms this is called consumer research. You need to know exactly what others think of you. Start with your friends and family, but don't stop there. Real opportunities for improvement will come from people who may not know you but still have an opinion about you. You may not have met Mahatma Gandhi, but you still have an opinion about him. It is the same for Brand You.

People are wary about sharing feedback, which is not positive, or they couch it in polite terms. Build a few relationships where people can give you unfiltered feedback. Look at all the strengths and areas of improvement you have heard from them and identify those that come up most often. Then ask yourself which of these you would like to be associated with your brand and which ones dilute your brand.

Build Your Expertise: The world is changing fast. Make sure you are constantly learning and reinventing yourself. Identify an area where you will be better than others. If you wish to pursue your career as an engineer, then make sure you are an expert in engineering. That means knowing about your area of specialization in depth - say civil engineering. Then learn about other adjacent areas of engineering as well. In this case you may wish to know more about metallurgy, electrical and mechanical engineering as well so that you have a holistic view of your profession.

Read professional magazines, blogs and follow discussion groups to know what is the latest development in your field. Each time you come across a new idea, try and make your own notes about how you could use this new piece of knowledge. Better still; help others to apply it in their areas too. This is one of the fastest ways of building a personal brand - help others. If you are a better writer than a speaker, then write a blog. If you are better as a speaker, then try speaking in professional forums. Communicating your personal brand is an important step in brand building.

Watch Your Digital Reputation: There is no delete button on the Internet. What you have posted on your Facebook page or your status updates on Twitter are like tattoos. They are permanent. So think before you post or comment. Your online reputation travels very fast.

Don't post disparaging comments about others, especially your colleagues or even previous employers. Your digital reputation is far more complicated to maintain. It is a powerful tool that can build your personal brand, but a wrong move can also destroy Brand You very easily. It is not what you say about yourself - it is what others think and say behind your back.

Beyond Work: Your hobbies are not just great stress busters, they can actually be an integral differentiator of Brand You. There can be many engineers, but you could be the only engineer who blogs about magic, engineering and music. Your musical talent or acting ability can be great hobbies to pursue and they in turn can make your personal brand special.

Marketing gurus tell us that brands are not built by advertising. Great advertising not backed by a matching product or service is a recipe for disaster. Building a brand requires careful thought and sustained effort. So today is a good day to start.

What are other ways to build a personal brand? Share your ideas in the comments.

Join me on twitter @AbhijitBhaduri

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