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Fake it till you make it? Terrible advice when it comes to building your personal brand!
There is a misconception that personal branding is all about creating a composite image of ourselves, and it’s a misconception that needs to be passionately refuted. So many customers come to us asking for just that, only to find out that our core value is Brand of a leader is: radical authenticity. We believe in the undeniable power that comes from embracing your individuality, whatever that may be, rather than trying to channel a disconnected image of yourself.
This misconception is certainly not unfounded. When we think of social media, we think of filters, facades, and image editing exercises. Indeed, this is all part of Instagram’s “lifestyle influencer culture.” But for us as opinion or opinion leaders it should not have any relevance. Let me prove this to you. Think of a business leader, australiabusinessblog.com or politician that you love or loathe. Really think about them. What’s the one thing they have in common? I’d say they’re all – for better or for worse – unapologetically real.
Related: 5 ways to build a powerful personal brand
The ROI of authenticity is undeniable: authenticity means being honest about our values, our beliefs and our actions. This, in turn, builds trust, which is a core priority of all inspirational leaders. This was revealed by a 2020 survey by Salesforce 92% of customers consider trust to be the single most important factor when deciding whether to do business with a company, following Accenture’s 2019 study that found that 81% of consumers would switch to a more trusted brand. And yet trust in CEOs is at an all-time low, with a 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer study indicating that only 37% of people trust their CEOs to do the right thing (down from 49% the year before!) 63% of respondents. Shocking numbers – but an opportunity for us as Founder CEOs to build trust towards our radically authentic brands.
This should also be welcome news for introverted leaders. I work with a lot of introverts who are hesitant to build a personal brand because they fear being molded into a louder version of themselves that doesn’t match reality. I debunk the myth that you have to be extroverted to build a personal brand my previous article.
So, how do we do? How do we build a radically authentic personal brand? Let me share with you the five-step process:
Step 1: Self-awareness
Go through a process of deep discovery to understand who you really are. We cannot be deeply authentic without first developing a deep sense of self. At Brand of a Leader, we take clients on a journey of introspection that makes them reflect on their entire life’s journey and all the important moments, starting in childhood.
Step 2: Define your values
Knowing our core values is a crucial step, and I’m talking about the process of exposing them here. A radically authentic brand is rooted in clearly stated, open-minded and crystal clear core values. Some people build their brand positioning entirely around a compelling core value, often something that aligns with their life mission. Even if that’s not the route you take, being crystal clear about your values and incorporating them into your content (bio, social media content, thought leadership articles, etc.) can empower you to meet like-minded people based on shared values.
Related: Why authenticity is a key ingredient to entrepreneurial success and how to make sure you have it
Step 3: Get feedback
Validate your core values and the key components of your radically authentic personal brand with those who know you best. It can be daunting to get radically authentic feedback, but it’s immensely helpful. Do you want it to get really real? Ask people to submit their answers anonymously. Use a free online survey tool; complete the questions and share the link with your network. When people are not afraid to hurt our feelings and can express themselves freely, the level of honesty usually follows. And yes, feedback can hurt sometimes, but it’s a price worth paying for insight and clarity.
Step 4: Self-acceptance
In the words of the hugely inspiring Brene Brown, “authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we should be and embracing who we are.” A daily practice. Drown out the outside noise, what your company dictates your brand should be, the market gaps you perceive, and what may or may not work for someone else. Embracing who we really are in this exact moment is not only liberating, but necessary on the journey of building a radically authentic brand.
Step 5: The right platforms
Once the brand is clear, the next step is to market it. I often see people watching others and mimicking their marketing plans. Instead, I recommend choosing the platform(s) that feel most authentic to you: if everyone is taking TikTok by storm, and yet you feel like a complete fake when you’re on it, then it’s not the right marketing vehicle for you. If the world tells you that long writing is dead, yet you feel most “yourself” when you express yourself through an artfully woven web of words, drown out the noise and dominate a blogging platform.
One of the biggest fears we have about being radically authentic is that we will be disliked, judged, or hated online. And this is true – deeply authentic brands are meant to fend off the misaligned brands. And yet they are also wired to magnetically attract a very loyal and connected following. This translates into enthusiastic fans, among employees, customers and those we inspire along the way.
Related: The Most Powerful Thing You Can Do Is Be Yourself
In short, personal branding isn’t about creating a curated image of yourself, it’s about embracing your individuality and being unapologetically authentic. Trust is a critical priority for all inspirational leaders, and authenticity is key to building trust. Following the five-step journey to building a radically authentic brand will help you attract like-minded people and build trust with your customers. As the wise words of Ralph Waldo Emerson say, “Being yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you into something different is the greatest achievement.” So, don’t pretend until you make it – be true to yourself and watch your brand shine brighter than the sun.