The news that Rishi Sunak has appointed Amber de Botton, the ITV head of UK News, as his new Director of Communications shows just how critical he sees building ‘Brand Rishi’ to restoring the Conservative Party’s reputation in the run up to the next election. As Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” This doesn’t mean trying to be all things to all people. It’s about making a conscious decision about what you want to be known for, not just what your job title tells people you do. So, whether you’ve just become Prime Minister or are starting out in your career, here are 3 ways to help you build a compelling personal brand.
1. Create a strong first impression
Like it or not, human beings are hardwired to make snap judgements. These judgements are formed the moment people come into contact with you. As a rule, we tend to prepare for formal interactions but underestimate the importance of managing ‘brand you’ in these informal settings. You, therefore, need to take active steps to present your unique combination of skills, expertise, values and personality in the best possible light as soon as you meet someone. A powerful way to achieve this is to focus on the ABC of first impressions; your Appearance, Behaviour and Communication. Firstly, you need to dress the part. This doesn’t mean spending a fortune on a new wardrobe of clothes. It’s about wearing clothes that fit you well and are situationally appropriate. Then, you need to manage your body language. 55 % of what you communicate comes from non-verbal cues so remember to walk the talk. Smile, make good eye contact and stand tall. Finally, your opening lines need to position you as an expert in your field and articulate the benefit of your personal brand in a succinct and confident manner. Take the time to rehearse your personal brand statement beforehand, so there is no hesitation. Your overriding aim should be to use your personal brand to help you find common ground and make a genuine connection with the person you are interacting with.
2. Establish trust and credibility
Gaining the trust of your audience lies at the heart of building a powerful brand. To build credibility and trust you need to practise what you preach and behave in a way that is congruent to your brand. It’s helpful to view your personal brand as a secret weapon that enables you to establish your credentials and create value in the minds of your target audience. Zig Ziglar highlighted this when he said, “If people like you, they will listen to you, but if they trust you, they will do business with you.” The key is to remember to present your authentic self. In this age of social media, it can be tempting present a filtered version of yourself or try and fake it before you make it. Be brave and have the confidence to present the real you. Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability – it will make you appear more human and believable.
3. Behave and communicate consistently
Brilliant brands behave consistently – you trust them because they deliver their brand promise in a consistent manner through all their stakeholder touchpoints. It’s important to apply this consistency to your personal brand whether it’s remotely via social media, email, webinars or in person via meetings, one-to-ones and phones calls. Inconsistencies in behaviour can undermine trust as the other person will quickly conclude that you are not what you appear. Bear in mind CEO Warren Buffet wise words, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Powerful advice in the light of recent events.
By following the steps above and proactively taking control of your messaging to present the real you, you will attract like-minded people, who will be more likely to listen and trust you. As Sunak is well aware, you can’t build your personal brand in a day – it takes time to perfect and will evolve as you develop as an individual throughout your career. The secret is to carve out time on a daily basis to refine and polish your personal brand and present the best version of yourself at each and every touchpoint.