OutStandingBrands24: What drives a personal brand? The intricacies of perception and reality


By Mohammed ALI

Before reading this article, take a second to ask yourself, who am I and how do I want to be known? Notwithstanding, whether known or unknown, natural or self-made, positive or negative, every human has certain elements or characteristics that define his or her personality and how he or she is perceived. These elements, by extension, form part of the attributes that constitute the person’s identity (personal brand, as the case may be). Indeed, knowing yourself is as crucial as creating a personal brand that will guide and help shape one’s conduct, behavior, and life as a whole.

Accordingly, the process of identifying and advancing your personal values can be referred to as personal branding. It is the result of combining the qualities, abilities, and experiences that set you apart. Your brand is a reflection of your values, identity, and desired public perception.

In a conference paper titled “Personal branding: A review on a contemporary phenomenon”, Stefan Scheidt et al argue that “personal branding has become a vital part of society, culture, and economy”. Indeed, it is a crucial part of positioning yourself both in the minds of people as well as in the realm of reality.

Also, creating a personal brand is an essential aspect of establishing your identity and presence in both personal and professional spheres.

A personal brand is driven by a combination of perception and reality, both of which are influenced by various factors. An effective personal brand requires a synergy between perception and reality to close any possible gap(s) and create positive moments of truth at a given time. The following literature makes an effort to explain how fact/reality and perception interact to form a person’s unique brand:

Perception and personal brand building

Perception refers to how others view and perceive an individual’s image, values, and expertise. It is shaped by interactions, communication, public appearances, among others. Some key factors that influence perception are:

Perceived expertise, Competence, and skills: Being able to demonstrate knowledge, abilities, and expertise in a certain sector is referred to as perceived expertise. It raises a person’s stature and legitimacy in the field. Thought leadership, writings, and recommendations from reliable sources are all effective ways to shape this perception. Although it is not far-fetched, it requires constant effort and perseverance at all times.

Consistently Visible: Being visible in the right circles, whether through networking gatherings, social media engagements, or leveraging public speaking opportunities makes it more likely that people will learn about a person’s personal brand. Similarly, a person’s brand is shaped in part by the consistency of their appearance and conduct. Reliability and trust are developed via consistent and generally acceptable behavior.

Emotional intelligence and emotional connection: Creating a strong emotional bond with a crowd and demonstrating emotional intelligence via shared values and genuineness both contribute to a favorable impression of a personal brand. People who they believe to be sincere and relatable tend to resonate more strongly with others.

Managing personal reputation: This is the process of influencing stakeholder views and public discussions, especially about you. In addition to reacting to reputational concerns and proactively leveraging opportunities, managing reputation entails keeping an eye on conversations and perceptions. Therefore, creating an effective personal brand is as crucial as jealously managing and protecting your reputation since it can easily make or unmake you.

The Realm of Reality and Personal Brand Building

The real traits, deeds, and attributes of a person that serve as the cornerstone of their personal brand are referred to as reality. It’s the expression of who you really are and shows your true self in what can be called “moments of truth.” Therefore, although first impressions are shaped by perception, the core of a person’s personal brand is grounded in fact, reality, or real nature. Here are a few essential components of reality that contribute to personal brand development:

Integrity and ethics: Acting with integrity and adhering to ethical standards are fundamental to building a reputable personal brand. This can also be related to reputational management. Trust is easily eroded by unethical behavior or inconsistencies between actions and stated values. At every level and channel of social interactions, one’s constructs and communication may reflect his or her ethical standards and integrity. Likewise, the actual skills, knowledge, and expertise possessed by an individual play a significant role in shaping their personal brand. Continuously honing skills, maintaining high integrity & ethical standards, and staying updated in one’s field contribute to long-term success.

Authenticity and Consistency with Values: Authenticity is a core component of personal branding. It involves aligning one’s actions, values, and behaviors with their personal brand identity. Accordingly, authenticity can positively influence sentiments, or otherwise, toward branded individuals and constitutes a critical component of a personal brand. It helps build trust and credibility with one’s audience. Besides, personal values serve as guiding principles that influence or inform decisions and actions, as a result, consistency between stated values and behaviors reinforces authenticity and credibility. Therefore, to build an effective personal brand, one needs to be credible, genuine, and authentic.

Feedback and continual improvement: Building a personal brand is certainly not an event but a process. This requires intermittently seeking feedback from peers, mentors, and audiences to help identify areas for continual improvement. Intermittent self-introspection and adaptation are essential for maintaining personal brand relevance and resonance.

In summary, there’s no doubt that perception and reality interact to shape a person’s personal brand, making them a crucial part of personal brand building. Although perception shapes first impressions and public perceptions, a personal brand’s core principles are competence, honesty, authenticity, and integrity. A powerful and enduring personal brand is ultimately a result of balancing perception with reality, which entails matching true traits, behaviors, and activities with how the outside world perceives a person.

Therefore, to build a successful personal brand, one must work towards aligning his or her real traits, deeds, values, and attributes, among others, with how others view or perceive him or her. While the alignment may not necessarily be 100% at all times, failure to ensure a balance, between how your audience perceives you and who you really are, MAY lead to an identity crisis or personal brand failure.

The writer is a Banker and Brand Advocate

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