Most people pursuing a professional career have heard about the importance of personal branding and building a reputation with a given niche. However, branding and reputation building is only as effective as the message it sends, and people and professional expertise are much more complicated than just a slogan or a set of ratings on a LinkedIn profile.
In fact, many professionals have approached personal branding as an exercise in thinking of what their target audience wants and then building a brand based on that end result. This is very similar to how branding is done for sales and marketing, but perhaps without the focus group research!
The problem with this type of personal branding is that it is a “vision” of what you want your colleagues, potential employers, clients, or even your employees to see. It is not who you really are, but rather a picture of what you think your target audience wants you to be. When people personal brand themselves in one way and then perform or behave differently, both the brand and the personal reputation suffers.
A better option for personal branding and reputation building is to take the time to get to know what you want to be known for and what you want to accomplish or provide. By matching this message and branding effort to align with your values, goals, and beliefs, the message is complete, accurate, and personalized to truly represent what is important to you.
Being authentic is also an effective way to allow for the complexities of multiple situations. Most professionals play many different roles, and it can be challenging to remember how to work to a branding message and reputation that is not personally meaningful and integrated into your way of doing business across settings.
In being authentic, a professional can manage differences in how they handle situations in a relevant and open way. There is no need to try to contort to meet the branding message as the branding message is true to the behavior and process you are using.
Telling Your Story
Being authentic also allows you to tell a story that is consistent, connected to you on a deep level, and that is compelling to others. Most people recognize when they are hearing a real experience and a person with a genuine passion for the message they are expressing. They also are quick to spot people who are “faking it until they make it” or if they are modifying or creating a narrative to make a connection or to make a sale.
Being authentic does not mean being an expert in all things. It does mean being honest, transparent, and truthful to yourself when communicating and interacting with others. The result of this type of authenticity is a distinctive and memorable personal brand and the opportunity to build a solid reputation as a genuine person.