Blogpost and slides by German Ramirez, THE RELEVANCE HOUSE
Stand out in the Supermarket of People
We are living in times of VUCA… As I’m sure you already know (if not, you did a quick google and now know), VUCA stands for “volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.” And yes, it’s been around for a while. But I think we can quickly agree that it has taken on a whole new dimension in 2020. Yep, 2020, the year of the pandemic and a global economic crisis, the “perfect storm year.” The year of masks, video conferencing and toilet paper hamster purchases. And what does all this have to do with personal branding? Plenty.
You and You Alone
This year, of all years, many see their existence threatened. The crisis we are currently experiencing – and yes, we are still in the midst of it – has led, among other things, to many becoming aware of one thing: We cannot rely on anything or anyone to secure our future, except ourselves. The world is becoming more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous… There is only one guaranteed constant in your life: yourself.
And when it comes to shaping your professional future, there’s only one guaranteed weapon: your personal brand.
You Are a Brand
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that this topic is only for C-level people, celebrities or influencers. Not true. Some smart person once said, “Your brand is what others say about you when you’re not in the room. Each of us is a brand. Whether we think of ourselves as one and specifically work on it or not. You ARE a brand. And as such, you are your brand manager. It’s a low-paying job that no one will do for you, but:
Your success actually depends on it.
Your Profile: You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression
This used to be a little easier: Our brand was there when we were there. We were always actively present when our brand was active. But that has long since changed. Now, at this precise moment, as you read this, there’s someone sitting in London or somewhere else right now, and they’re getting a picture of your brand. You don’t know who. You don’t know why or what for. But when you think about it, you realize it’s true:
Our digital brand is, more often than not, the first impression someone has of us. Before we meet someone, we Google that person.
The question is: What kind of impression does the virtual counterpart get? Your digital presence, your profiles, your activities… Your brand’s digital footprint is active even when you’re not in the room. The personal presence is important. I’m always amazed at how much effort people put into dressing appropriately, doing their hair, styling… on the one hand, and on the other, how little effort many make when it comes to the digital image of their personal brand.
Yawning emptiness in the profiles. Silence on the timeline. The profile quickly tinkered with on a Sunday afternoon five years ago… and updated at most in between. Think about it.
Your Activities: The Phenomenon of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde
In addition to your presence, there is a second, crucial construction site: your activities. The less we interact physically, the more important our digital interaction becomes. We all had a chance to find out during the lockdown. Suddenly, there was always a screen between us and the world. What if ALL interactions are digital only?
Our needs don’t change. Our values and mindsets don’t change. Whether it’s on screen or physical. We are still us. We are still the same people.
I’ve been talking about a phenomenon for many (many) years that never ceases to amaze me: the phenomenon of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. Why do we behave differently when we interact physically than when we do it online? Example: I meet someone at a convention. Reach out to introduce myself. Say a few friendly words. Then hand over my business card. Perfectly normal behavior. Dr. Jeckyll at work.
Now we switch over to a professional digital network. I meet an exciting profile, throw down my virtual business card without a word, and move on. Mr. Hyde at work. What is wrong with you?
Treat the digital meet-and-greet a bit more like you would a physical one.
The Era of Authenticity
In general, digital networks try to make our lives easier. A friend request is sent with one click on Facebook. Accepted with one click. And – no matter who the person is and how we feel about each other – Mark Zuckerberg has the gall to say “Congratulations: You are now friends”… Are you serious, Mark? We all know that it takes more than one click to call someone a friend. Click, invited. Click, “you are now connected”. No, we are not.
It takes time, interest, conversation, exchange… and one thing above all: authenticity. So put a visible effort into it.
Another example: It’s someone’s birthday. The networks are great and remind us. Thank you! And they are even so “nice” that they suggest congratulations for us “Happy Birthday! Never in my life would I, for example, walk up to a work colleague or co-worker and articulate “Happy Birthday!”, turn around and keep walking. But online, we do just that. Mr. Hyde at work… And where’s the human? Is THAT your brand? For the networks, it’s all about frequency, stickyness, time-on-site…
But for us humans, one thing still matters: authenticity.
Especially in times of VUCA. Especially when the difference between “pretending I care about someone” and showing I care about someone is just 60 seconds of effort.
It’s all about your brand. Offline as well as online.
And the more important your brand becomes, the more critical it is to do a decent job of maintaining it.
No one is going to do it for you. Not even a chatbot!
Are you interested in more on the topic of personal branding or other strategic tips, tricks and hacks? Check out German’s website for additional content.
German Ramirez is an entrepreneur, digital pioneer and recognized expert in branding, marketing, digital communication and social media. He is an author, sought-after speaker and lecturer at leading universities and international conferences on topics such as digital transformation, branding & marketing, social media, blockchain, the future of work or innovation.
German is also Co-Founder and Chief Relevance Officer at THE RELEVANCE HOUSE, a full-service branding, marketing and communications agency for firms in the blockchain and emerging technology sector. THE RELEVANCE HOUSE focuses on helping innovative start-ups and projects build and communicate a relevant brand and story.