Storytelling. A flashing term that seems to be coming up a lot, noticeably in the domain of Public Relations (PR). Though I’ve stepped out of the practice, it’s a subject that remains close to my heart and still resonates with me as I go about my endeavours as a recruiter, engaging daily with professionals in the industry.
Part and parcel of PR, storytelling has become somewhat synonymous with branding and ubiquitous across the vibrant and multifaceted spectrum of communications. While we may read, share and maybe even create compelling brand stories for a living, the art of branding isn’t exclusive to businesses or commercial brands.
Often relegated as a secondary priority, personal branding is an essential aspect of our career and beyond. It has to start with us; our perception of ourselves and how that echoes through our demeanour and conduct, spoken and unspoken words.
What’s our story and how are we telling it?
Most importantly, what’s the takeaway?
A lot of us get caught up in our day-to-day responsibilities. We’ve gotten so good at segueing from one task to the next – if I may say so myself – cracking our backs to keep up with the influx of demands to fulfil obligations and meet expectations. By the end of it all, we’re knackered (who can blame us right?) and we can barely bring ourselves to reflect on our day (urgh, thank god it’s over!), but that’s precisely what we need to be doing.
Self-reflection and introspection are fundamental to building a personal brand. It’s like the preliminary research that inspires a story and puts it into perspective.
I’ve heard variations of the above scenario when interviewing. People seem to be great at narrating the frantic demands of their jobs. I admire the dedication, though what intrigued me were the responses I received to questions related to personal branding.
Contrary to common belief, telling our own story isn't always the easiest. During a pitch or an interview for instance. We're all familiar with the dreaded 'Tell me about yourself'. It's deceptively simple but hidden beneath the obvious is the intent to assess our self-perception and awareness.
Somehow, given the spotlight to describe ourselves (and this has stumped me numerous times too), we’re either at a loss for words or we go into waffle mode. Could be the nerves, but we somewhat reflexively begin scrambling for spiffy adjectives that could hopefully get us over the line. But I've realised from the many times I've had to face this that with enough thought put into it, defining ourselves gets easier.
As with any good story, our personal brand should be deliberately and thoughtfully crafted; clear, engaging and of course authentic and consistent.
And it can be lots of fun communicating our story once we've taken the time to unearth our unique attributes and identified the backbone of our brand:
How do we want to position ourselves? What are we good at? What are we not so good at? What are our differentiating factors? Who are we telling our story to? And what do we want them to remember about us?
Our brand is the way people think about us and what they say about us when we're not around. What we put out there and all our relationships add up to our personal brand and creating a strong one gives us more control over how we’re perceived. Of course beyond that is elevating it or simply retaining it, which takes gradual, steady effort.
Given the interconnectivity and accessibility of information, it's no surprise that we're facing a climate of brand-driven clutter. Everyone has a story to tell and if we're not making personal branding a conscious effort, how are we to stand out?
Our personal brand is, in essence, our reputation, which is inherently intertwined with one of the most defining virtues we strive to keep intact: credibility.