Self Branding in 2021

Is 2021 the year for a brand-new 'Brand You'?

Hustle Marketing Published on 06 Jan 2021

Ananda Shakespeare, founder and CEO, Shakespeare Communications, and a PR guru shares 101 of Personal Branding for 2021.

In this new era of changing work patterns, working from home, more flexible hours, pivoting and all the other much-mooted buzzwords, there’s never been a more important time to engage in self-branding.

Put simply, it helps you stand out from the hoi polloi – whether you’re looking for a new role, aiming for more industry exposure, or perhaps positioning yourself as a thought leader.

So how do you begin to ‘self-brand’? In some cultures, it’s considered crass – let’s pause a moment to consider the Danes’ unwritten-but-widely-adhered-to Jante law – which considers individual success and achievement as inappropriate and in bad taste.

But unless you’re Danish – and quite an old-fashioned one at that – most modern societies celebrate a degree of self-aggrandisement, albeit tempered with appropriate modesty.

self branding examples

And yet here we are, at the turning of the year faced with more and more people looking into career changes, starting out on their own, and even fighting for diminishing work opportunities.

My advice, quoting Carl Jung – is to remember: “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

We all hold our destinies in our hands, our hearts – and perhaps our resumes. So be bold – be open to controversy – and put yourself firmly outside your comfort zone.

Self-branding 101

In a simple way, expressing opinions exactly as I am here, for this exalted newsletter, is a great kick-off point for self-branding 101. Discussing industry trends and opinions will help you stand out, and as I said above, be controversial if you wish – but be prepared for backlash.

Content is king, and if you are not a confident writer, you can always discuss your ideas with a more competent wordsmith who can help you sculpt your ideas into something more poetic than prosaic – just make sure to give credit where credit is due.

As a PR person, I help individuals and companies mould their image every day, whether it be for personal gain or corporate profits.

It might feel like I’m saying this from the ‘90s, but there are still those among us who do not have a website or social media accounts – and believe me, we see a lot of outdated and static websites every week.

Personal branding has to come with the modern accoutrements the world expects – I’m thinking Gordon Ramsay on TikTok, for example – and if you need some solid advice on what the most zeitgeist manoeuvres for 2021 are, speak to me.

If the sexist old adage that content is king does still resonate, then let’s add social media content is queen, and you should never underestimate a woman…

Events in 2021 may still be largely online, but represent an excellent - and more time and cost effective – way to get Brand You out there. It’s a great way to build an industry presence, position yourself as knowledgeable and maybe vaunt your experience. Of course, even when hosted online, an industry event is a perfect opportunity to network.

So how do you want to be perceived?

A brainstorm, vision board or perhaps a close look at your future finances are excellent ways to polarise the vision, mission and goals of Brand You. Look at how the rest of the world perceives you.

Those (crass) jokes you made on Facebook ten years ago? Yep, recruiters can - and will - find them.

Branding Yourself

You might even consider employing an online reputation management tool, but in our experience, it’s simpler to examine your own presence, both online and IRL (in real life). Reach out to your contacts, and ask for honest testimonials.

Some may surprise you – good and bad – but it’s all grist to the mill, right?

A good testimonial can be shared via your social media channels and website. A poor or less favourable one can be cogitated, ruminated and acted upon.

Think about your presence, but also your appearance and diction – sadly, both do make a difference.

I’ve spent days with professional stylists and photographers making clients look their best, and advising on angles which subliminally project the sort of image you want to project – warmth, power, energy – you’d be surprised by what can be achieved with a sprinkling of professional nous.

Smile on the phone, and the person at the other end knows you are smiling. Scottish accents are widely renowned – with scientific backing – to reassure angry consumers.

There’s a plethora of anecdotal evidence to suggest understanding other’s perception of you is half the battle in winning them over. Zoom has perhaps made us all excruciatingly self-aware, but it’s a great exercise in gaining deeper understanding of how the world sees you.

Be who you really are

And yet, the crucial aspect of Brand You – especially in the delicate mores of 2021 – is perhaps authenticity. Let’s not pretend we are something we are not.

Don’t join the ‘bandwagon’ of an online simply to engender likes, for example. Don’t write opinion pieces if the opinions are not your own. Worst of all, don’t exude knowledge and experience you don’t possess – you’ll get found out.

Because, dear reader, your followers, network and business associates must like you for who you really are – not who you want them to think you are.

We can all better ourselves, and that’s never a bad thing, but in building any sort of digital presence, you are effectively building a community of like-minded people, who enjoy following you because your content is relatable, aspirational, knowledgeable or enjoyable.

Think how powerful that might be for you?


Personal Digital Brand

Consider personalities in any field, and examine their online presence. Many will write numerous articles, books and ensure they get media exposure at every opportunity – think Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey or Lisa Nichols, for example. They’ve had controversies, they have opinions, and they all use the media unashamedly – and effectively.

In our connected digital world, a personal digital brand is essential to winning clients and jobs – hanging out at the odd industry event and grabbing handshakes is not only inappropriate during these pandemic times – it simply isn’t enough to develop a bold, renowned persona.

Concluding with more wise words from Jung – “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”

If you are considering developing your personal brand, contact Shakespeare Comms for a chat to get the ball rolling. 

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