The aftermath of the election brought in a branding crisis for America, far more obvious than the economic or the social one. And that is because branding deals with identity first and foremost and it is a matter of an answer to the disarmingly simplest question: “What do you stand for?”
So the answer to “What do you stand for, America? ” is much harder to provide, if not impossible now, as we speak, because a subsequent question immediately arises: “Which America, which side of it?” The top of mind representations related to America are now confuse, diluted, contradictory, dizzy, as it is the very heart of the country.
In this crisis of “belongings” America lost its belonging.
“The best of all the possible worlds” seems to have reached, symbolically and concretely, its final frontier. Democracy touched its limits in America and it made an implosion. If this is the end of the multiculturalism supported by political correctness, then what remains? Will checks and balances (still) function enough as to counterbalance the excesses of the new governance and the whims of its new president? What is left of the “American Dream”?
“The land of all possibilities” now unearthed its last self-destructive possibility, as the effervescent melting pot of cultures proved to be an (under) pressure cooking pot.
The end of an era is certainly uncomfortable and daunting for any living creature. The Planet quake happened because a cycle might have ended: the global cleavage between poverty and extreme richness became extreme and the desperate need for fairness and equality became much more stringent than the value of freedom to seize opportunities. A new – and still gloomily old – undercurrent shows up at the surface again with new lessons, certainly. Trump is a pretext – the perfect pretext that the history needed – to embody and carry out in the daylight the unspoken, long forgotten dreams of humanity.
What can we, the rest of the world, make of this?
Not much and everything, if we look from the right angle. We can involve more in our politics and policies of proximity instead of being passive-cynical. We can build and enlarge positive communities upon human values and nurture empathy in each of our decisions, as this is the best checks and balances universal system that we can create, with no bigger expectations. We can start to consider ourselves as the most reliable and responsible person for whatever happens to us.We can search for certitude pillars far closer to ourselves. It’s safer, saner and ultimately more ethical.
During employer branding projects or corporate reputation consultancy endeavours, I came across lots of behaviours of owners or managers towards the human “resource”. The very resourcefulness of this force is sometimes badly understood so conflicts burst like out of the blue because no one seems to pay attention to a few signs. The bad habits I chose to write about today are those that come down to a single fault: the fault of taking by default. People motivation, expertise, effort, caring, teamwork are usually considered as self-understood and self-nurturing.
Here are my top 4 advice of employers to avoid situations that lead to painful divorce.
- Do not overwork overachievers, although it is tempting, I know.
High fliers and overachievers are usually those who end up working to burnout. This category of living creatures has an innate desire towards work anyway and the thin line between job time and overtime is easily crossed. So, if they work anyway let them work, they like it! This is bad. Extended and – passionately otherwise – strenuous overwork with no horizon and projected limit of time produces breakdown. Heavy load periods of time should be marked as such and acknowledged as limited.
- Do not elegantly ignore good performance, as self understood. Act now, not tomorrow.
With people nothing is by default, especially effort and expertise. In the transactional relation that happens in a job clear messages should be unearthed. The lack of a corporate ability to actually spot, nurture and recognize good performance is due to existing systems stuck and unable to remember the …curious cases of individual people. Performance appraisal is possible when there is a thinking system for it but also when people are held above the very system! Exceptions make the rule. People are live, they are here and now and motivation is what can make or break a business. Today, not tomorrow. An annual people review is as useful as an annual weather forecast.
- If you make unfortunate internal promotions, they are worse than the worst of new hires.
People accept that each new hire is wrapped in a certain dose of luck and are willing to resent less an unfortunate match coming from the outside. But when the wrong person is promoted internally, this is the worst that can happen. It creates waves of lack of trust and direction and even a sense of lack of common benchmarks with the employer. An internal promotion is a strategic move that needs a lot of preparation and pulse taking. Worse promotions happen when toxic people get more power that they already have. Total dismay!
- Don’t fail to challenge intellectually and emotionally people. Constantly.
People can sit on an unsatisfying salary for months if they have nice toys to play with daily. The intellectually-satisfying-and-growth-perspective-giving job is what keeps motivation high. Job fit is crucial. HR needs also a repositioning from “a hire and fire” department to an “employee experience” facilitator. And experience does not mean to strive to create stellar work environments, but the “decency of the fit”: the right position for the right person. But for this to happen a little effort to really know that person is needed.
Simply put, I believe people have several contradictory needs to be happy at their workplace:
Freedom and guidance in the right proportion,
The feeling of belonging to the team and in the same time the conscience of their unique contribution – praised, if possible
A sane alternation of work ebullition and hygienic break.
That’s all there seems to be, basically.
Whenever we hear employer branding we hear it used mainly in an external context: the need to attract talent, the need to have a great reputation as a better premise and promise for a successful hiring. I’ve seen lots of people at the top of the pyramid (be it executives or HR people) that hold a clear perception about what branding should do for an employer: project externally an attractive image for the company in front of those who are supposed to negotiate very little when faced with an interviewer. Once candidates reach the mighty Employer Brand, the privilege is self-understood.
I believe things function rather the other way around: corporate reputation is solidified upon what happens within the confines of a company and depends heavily upon how each and every day at work looks for each and every employee. The truth of a company resides in the internal life satisfaction and at a lesser extent in the events or the communication targeted externally: what employees talk about over a coffee during lunch break, the way they feel together, the pleasure they take in doing their job, the feeling of independence and appraisal they get with every success and the precious feeling that they matter at the end of the day. These are much more valuable assets for a company than any communication campaign no matter how smart and buzz generating it gets.
Here is my top list of improvement areas where companies should look at when approaching an employer-branding program:
Ground zero – a sine qua non condition: align remuneration packages with the market and the industry. Don’t necessarily be overpaying but certainly do not be underpaying! Extrinsic motivation is still here to stay at least as long as people will have to pay money for whatever they need in life;
First: Conceive personalized programs, don’t judge people motivation in bulk; offer experiences rather than goods; offer development tailored upon individual needs, elaborate thinking around what moves every person. At least top talents, and high stake employees with a strategic role in the company.
Second: Consider personal development at least as important as professional development. Personal supports professional, there is no other way. Personal is professional. And personal is not personnel. “Personal” is the acknowledgement of the simultaneous roles in life that people hold, affecting their professional performance: as an stressed spouse, as a caretaker, as an unhappy child of someone, as a current debtor in depression, as a sleepless young mom or who knows what else. People take all these roles with them every day. Ignoring this personal context when assigning a job damages the projected results. Companies must really connect to the personal history of their people (not to their privacy, though!) in order to retain and motivate them.
Third: Time and space of work are crucial. Time and space is all we have, basically. Invest in design thinking when refurbishing a new space, do not consider merely redecorating. Think the space as a fluid reality built around the needs of humans, give them the time to recharge, reboot, replenish. Flexible schedule and alternation between office and remote work start to become a common reality, not only in tech or creative fields. Decent collaboration, good ideas and fruitful cross-pollination, nice vibe and organic growth happen when time and space are well together and people fit in naturally.
A few summer tips to come back to business with intact reputation
So basically we don’t have to do anything for our personal brand, as long as we are in holidays, right? We took a vacation off our duties, our competent profiles and our connections that we always wanted to impress. Let them wait till autumn! We took a vacation off ourselves.
Cool, you might be right for the moment being. The problem is that you’ll still come back in business sometime…
Your personal statement is basically who you are so it’s not rocket science to imagine that your personal brand should not be far from your reality as a human being: your way of behaving, your temperament, your personality, your education and degrees, your body language, your field(s)of competence, your hierarchical position and even the significant other of yours, they all speak on your behalf when you expect the least. And they speak especially when the defending walls of your personality are down, when you’re relaxed and having fun. Your true nature might catch you off guard at any moment. How to be prepared for such unprepared situations?
Here are a few little summer tips for those who want to let go and still be in control of their reputation. All these tips refer not to what you have to do, but rather to what you have to refrain from doing. If you can, of course:
- Resist the temptation to fill daily your FB profile with shots of yourself no matter how proud you are of your rightly tanned complexion. You might need a more professional look when you are back and people have this strange habit to remember what’s fresher in their minds.
- Resist the temptation to bad mouth your employer over a drink or two. Your job and the company you work for define you after all and unless you are actively and overtly searching to change it, you should not hit the fan with anything …inappropriate.
- Resist the temptation to fill your social media walls with transitory moods or small happenings, unless they are really noteworthy or charmingly framed. Chitchat of any kind fragments representations about a person and it does not fuel coherence. Use the time off to recharge rather than discharge small emissions on everything.
- Resist the temptation to remain connected to the job. I personally might have a bias on that but whenever I see people that intervene in conversation threads from vacation I believe that they are bored with their significant other or not having fun at all. Except for exceptions, of course. There is difference between the vacations of a self-employed or entrepreneur and that of an employee, I know, but still. Etymologically, “vacation” means “empty, free or at leisure”. Why ruining such a blessing?
- Resist the temptation to counterbalance in excess: I worked a lot, now I let go insanely or I sleep all day; I refrained from doing this or that, now I indulge; I had enough of this, now I totally forget. Our extremes create unreliability; they instill insecurity in others and de-balance us. Vacations are for refreshment not for total reboot. Unless sabbatical, of course.
What has reputation and personal branding to do with all these? Everything, if we admit that what we leave behind us is an authentic trace of ourselves in our journey through this world no matter where we are. Personal reputation is about knowing well who you are and behaving according to conscious goals in life, not about projecting temporary images here and there. Vacations are for replenishment of self not for losing of self. Vacations are not exceptions but an integrated part of our same long lasting personal reputations.
What are our real chances as leaders and organisation managers to find out what our key stakeholders really believe about our performance? We send them satisfaction surveys questionnaires, you might say! Email questionnaires with as many questions as possible. The more questions the better!
Throughout the corporate and employer branding projects that I delivered in the last couple of years, I detected a recipe that never fails in relevance, astuteness and insightfulness: the 360 perceptional audit.
What is a 360 perceptional audit? An in-depth qualitative research on stakeholders perception performed on a large spectrum of clients, partners, collaborators using one to one in-depth interviewing methodology, and preserving the interviewee anonymity.
Here are below 7 reasons why the perception audit performs highly efficient when it comes to understand what stakeholders think:
- Objectivity: it is carried by an external consultant with no stake whatsoever in the organization or any link with projects or people who are subject to discussion
- Insightfulness: it is carried following an interview guide with precise indexes but it also lets people browse freely through their thoughts to unveil aspects that usually do not show up in an organized thread.
- Total transparency: interviews take place one to one, at client premises or in a place of their comfort. The importance of eye-to-eye contact is immense as the non verbal behaviour might reveal cues about what has never been said.
- Full honesty: the mention about anonymity is made upfront. For some people – declaratively at least – it makes no difference versus a signed statement, but for others it increases the comfort zone and generates openness.
- Quality feedback: preserving a one-hour discussion (max) with each client allows people to thinks deeply over a subject, focus on the key aspects and bring in arguments and even new ideas. Not at all rare are the cases when clients and partners brought in ideas that never occurred to the company. Because people are provoked to think they generate spontaneously valuable content.
- The 360 view upon one matter: perceptions related to the performance of a company are a puzzle made of a zillion pieces. There are aspects of consensus among interviewees and aspects of profound disagreement (as a sign that performance perception in that area is not consolidated). The combination of small data is what brings clarity to any future business and brand strategy.
- A professional thanksgiving. The personalized approach towards every stakeholder on the list functions both as a message of genuine interest towards the client and as a thanksgiving– a simple courtesy gesture that increases goodwill.
The perception audit is a sine qua non instrument in any branding consultancy process. Unless well researched at the perceptions level, a company might miss self-understanding of capital importance. Current perceptions are the very reality of a brand and in the same time the starting point for any future strategic shift.
I do personal branding for a living. I “brand” people and their businesses. I work for business and not for showbiz, as I believe the need for branding is a vital – and a more honest need after all – in the entrepreneurial world where the capacity of branding to articulate identities can be effectively put to work.
People who fall under these 4 categories usually contact me:
- corporate people tired of being employed with a more or less clear idea of what they would like to do next, in search for career advice and a sort of fulcrum;
- young entrepreneurs with a freelancer profile and an already established little business in search for a clearer positioning and a better defined role of themselves in their field;
- business professionals in lifestyle entrepreneurships – from coaches, psychologists and actors to medical doctors and technology geeks;
- CEOs of their own established entrepreneurial business with a clear structure in business but maybe with a poor or inexistent public profile as well as CEOs that need to reconnect the entire organization to a core ideology and vertebrate employer branding processes and …themselves along the way.
Irrespective of how different they are in life and professional stages, there is something that links all the up-mentioned profiles: what springs to their minds when they approach the need for branding is an irrepressible penchant towards being present, visible around the “me”, the “self”, the “ego” that others “need” to see, to perceive to monetize in a way or another. Nothing catastrophically wrong so far. The issue starts when we only remain to the “me” stage.
What is the “me” stage?
It is true that personal branding is about promoting a person, putting a human identity in some sort of social light as it is about ultimately taking sane pride in what you are and what you do. What is key instead is that stakeholders can effectively see value in that light. What is put forth, what is playing under the spotlight? Personal branding cannot substantiate anything unless… substance is on stage and a “supportive” person behind a valuable and relevant promise. Did I say “supportive”, “in the backstage”, in the “support staff” of their valuable promise in business or else? Oops! So it is not about being ubiquitous as a person? It is not about “me”?
There is a quite incipient – I dare to say – talking these days about humility in business. What seems an almost inappropriate word for the business world, might have gained the biggest of relevance lately. Humility and personal branding are not irreconcilable at all in business, in the same way that self centered posturing and a self absorbed personality might not make a valuable personal brand.
Briefly put, personal branding is not a gift made to the ego and certainly not a selfie. In the process of personal branding managers, entrepreneurs and freelancers are nothing but the humble servants of their ideas, deeds, projects, businesses, own contribution to the world ultimately. They are not the “servants of self”, they speak in the name of their projects and their major role is that of an endorser.
In personal branding I work for ideas and beautiful projects seen through the eyes and personality of their beholders but crafted and refined through the objective lenses of the outside consultant. A person-to-person job, it’s true, but what comes out it in the end must be about a long lasting new little-piece-of-value-that-someone-really-needs that is brought to the world.
Counter-intuitively introverts are better clients for personal branding than extroverts. That is mainly because profoundness and self-centeredness are key to the process, as I see it, at least. Personal branding does not equal personal promotion. “Pick me, see me” is not the way. When doing personal branding what proves to be the backbone of a professional identity is the sine qua non prerequisite for a long-term reputation.
Here are my reasons for why introverts, shy and even camera shy make better personal brands:
- Introverts are profound people, astute and observant They have the power to concentrate on everything they’ve got. They make a point of paying attention to nonverbal cues that might reveal hidden meanings, because they know words are only half of the story;
- Introverts are good at studying so they can become experts quicker in their field. Whatever they know, they tend to know well. They think deep before they speak and usually avoid chitchat;
- Introverts are self-sufficient, they are not dependent people. They feel free and empowered as long as they believe that what happens is pretty much in their control. They have a sense of balance that is innate and are not so prone to excesses;
- Introverts are committed to their goals. Introverts tend to be self driven and disciplined. They don’t need approval from external sources, so they direct their energy to the pursuit of an ambitious goal instead. This ambition often turns introverts into highly successful people;
- Introverts are thought provoking when you get them talking. They are inspiring people because what they have to say springs from their inner fountain.
Introverts have interesting things to say especially when these things passionate them. As they are not keen on shallow conversation you can engage vividly in a deep discussion and find intellectual satisfaction.
- Introverts are in touch with their feelings and empathetic.
Introverts are masters of their emotions. They reflect until they are able to understand the responsible triggers for their negative thoughts. This retrospection helps them dig deep enough to deal with self-defeating beliefs that limit their potential;
- Introverts are trustworthy people.
A reputation is built on public exposure, it’s true, but without a core of heavy meaning, it cannot be sustained. In a way, reputation is like a solidifying pearl around a tiny grain. And ultimately this grain of “interior-ism” is what distinguishes a self-standing and lasting human entity from an elusive social projection.
People not employees, lifestyle not work-life balance, “heartcount”, not headcount
A new era is dawning for corporations. Keeping people together in the effervescent and lucrative social glue that transcends even the togetherness of the office becomes the most provocative task for management worldwide. Employer branding through brand engagement sessions might become the most effective tool a managerial team has in its hands to collate durably the employer’s brand to that of each and every employee.
Employees are not resources and they do not need management. This is a quite recent discovery in the science of management that itself needs recalibration.
Employees are the most intimate fabric of a holistic system that can only work if each piece acknowledges its value in the whole and is granted enough freedom to influence the whole. They do not need to be “managed”, conducted, but informed, inspired, and let to be as persons. The rest will come naturally. Self determination well nurtured and rather gently guided seems to be the key.
In this context, brand engagement sessions, well rooted in the deepest organizational truths, have the energy to provoke a reset, be it for a corporation or an entrepreneurial endeavor. The decision to invest in them belongs usually to visionary leaders, as per the story below:
CFO:” what if we invest now in these training sessions and people leave?”
CEO: “what if we don’t invest and they stay?”
How can we obtain the so much praised intrinsic motivation, and how come it became the inside job …of the employer? Isn’t it absurd? The capacity to accommodate meaning within the object of work should happen on the employee side. As an employer might put it: “if I have to motivate you, maybe I shouldn’t have hired you in the first place”…
When things go well and performance goes as predicted, top management is not pushed towards reshuffling vision or adopting any preventive behavior. To prevent what? When the going gets tough instead, usually it is hard to pinpoint the real cause as it is already buried in effects. A general state of demotivation installs, with more or less explicit tension axes, toxicity that is suddenly revealed, anxieties or simply disorientation shows that something is boiling down under. But what is cooking?
People boil because something rather important is getting displaced: their trust. The trust in the integrity of that invisible spider net that holds people together in an office around whatever they have to do. The trust that each of them matters in the big picture is replaced gradually by the cynical air of “nobody is irreplaceable”. The common spirit gets thinner and thinner, unwritten laws are ignored and people resume dryly to whatever is explicit on email. Explicitness replaces tacit acknowledgments. Taken by the flow of how to reach monthly objectives, companies forget to adjust lenses to seize something further than the half-year assessment. And more importantly, they forget to nurture the togetherness that an honest and empathetic “How are you, really” addressed to people can bring in. The emotional link between the company and every employee is lost and it gets translated in a sad trade-off regulated at the end of each month.
Anthropologically speaking, we are gregarious beings and belonging together is what makes us human at the end of the day. We need to look in the same direction with peers, we need freedom but we thrive under the cozy shelter of a group. Is there any solution that employers can activate to grow togetherness and belonging?
As a branding specialist, I frequently had the opportunity to deliver brand engagement sessions towards corporate or entrepreneurial companies. These sessions are very atypical in the classical landscape of trainings as they are at the crossroad of three main axes: branding, organizational culture and personal development. The liaison between these three axes is stronger than it might seem and highly relevant in self motivational context – “self” is key here.
They are usually the last step of a rebranding process or in any change management framework where strategic shift needs to be internalized at all levels. Or even when there are too many things that remained unspoken during an accelerated growth process. Whenever there are strategic decisions to be communicated that bear consequences upon employees, these decisions have to be communicated with the right dose of transparency but also seduction. Employer – employee is a “transactional space” almost like a theater of operations – in the most pacifist sense of the expression – where goals and objectives need alignment.
Such sessions of symbolic “engagement” with the organizational values lead to personal and intimate little revelations that employees have at a very personal level about the umbilical link between the employer’s brand and their own personal brand.
10 reasons for why business leaders should be rather peaceful human beings.
The question is: do we still need, in the nowadays business world, this strong link between charisma and leadership? Do we still need to explain exceptional leadership with the help of this “ex-machina” trait?
Raise your hand if you believe that a good leader can live and perform fed by more affordably mundane character traits and liberated from the charms of charisma!
Leadership evolved a lot alongside society and its transforming needs. The career of the concept started when Max Weber first coined the term of “charisma”. He said there were three types of leadership: legal (rational, formally “elected”), traditional (inherited) and charismatic. Charisma made it so well that it almost magnetically got stuck to leadership – we all accept that leadership is a melting pot of ingredients but charisma seems to take the lion share among them.
I wonder why this happens: would it be because charisma smells like …rating? Its “divine” origin, elusive, mysterious and with enigmatic grace must be a part of what it takes to lead people. Truth might be that we simply need to believe in charisma: either to cover our personal incapacity to be a good leader (saying that not everyone is born with it!) or to give an acceptable explanation for why some people rise above others.
As any concept that incites, charisma was then called a “trap”: it is dangerous because it dilutes judgment through emotional manipulation and creates even irrational addiction. It’s true it works both ways, depending on whom it serves: charisma among political leaders led to both Ghandi and Hitler. But still, it throws the veil on the eye of objectivity and blinds judgment. So, no good. No good at all!
Despite the potential of charisma, leadership is by far the most frequent word in the business literature. Not a single concept unleashed a similar deluge of contributions. That’s because leading is an archetype that splits the world in the cardinal of “up” and “down”, North and South and there is no escape from it. The question is: do we still need, in the nowadays business world, this strong link between charisma and leadership? Do we still need to explain exceptional leadership by the help of this “ex-machina” trait called charisma? Why can’t we just let leadership breathe and live by itself in a little bit more mundane environment? Why don’t we figure it out as descending among us more often? Why can’t we make it a little bit more affordable?
Leadership in business requires a profile that might not resemble leadership in politics (nothing is like politics, actually!) or stardom. Leadership in business might require a human profile quite far from charisma.
Here is my take on it:
- Leadership is no longer about leading. It is about facilitating the growth of something.
- Leadership is not about showing the way but about mapping it progressively, step by step, with the full spectrum of uncertainty ahead, kindly assumed.
- Leadership is about relationship. A genuine leader nurtures relationships that grow into tangible realities, instead of pointing towards self achievements.
- Leadership is not about being in the front row of the battlefield (would it be because modern business battlefields happen on much more than one frontline?). A true leader is much better at knitting: ideas, opportunities, egos, facts and figures into a coherent picture.
- Leadership is not about an overwhelming truth that everyone must see, but about mitigating among personal, smaller truths towards a common goal. Leaders are not containers for certitudes, but rather deep reservoirs for doubts.
- Leadership is not about shouting from the top of the mountain but about listening deep to evanescent whispers in order to detect a more profound reality. #SusanCain talks about “moderate assertiveness” as a good skill for good leaders.
- Business leaders do not carry a flag to stick in the muddy puddles of unchartered fields. They carry colleagues’ ideas to untangle complexity, with humor, over a cozy tea.
- Leadership can be intrinsically introvert and camera shy and it’s nothing wrong with it. Shyness comes from naked self-awareness and decency. If it’s in there, true value will find a way out to shine for itself.
- Leadership might not have a smashing vision of the future as long as it makes the most out of each moment.
- Leadership and failure are pals.
I believe leadership is no longer about power but about the ability to empower and this is a thing we cam tame, practice and enjoy. I might not be right about that, either. And that’s ok. What do you believe?
- How has the Romanians’ perception changed when it comes to personal branding & development in the last years? Are personal branding & development trending in Romania? Do you see a rise in the last years and why?
I believe Romania follows naturally a worldwide trend shaped significantly by the rise of social media, communities of peers and the change in working time structure.
Personal branding is much more than a fad. The need for it, in business at least, became an almost sine-qua-non prerequisite for success. And that is due to one main reason: personal reputation, now easier to track anytime, anywhere started to matter a lot. More and more professionals (executives or entrepreneurs) realize the need to articulate clearly their own discourse, to put forth their own professional offer consistently. I dare to say that the noisier the clutter of daily news about everything, the bigger the need for standing apart through branding. Branding enforces clarity, unites perspectives, and creates a distinguishable and potentially memorable footprint for the business and its leader. Branding is a powerful (self) management tool and the first solid brick for public exposure: because indeed, branding is not (only) about exposure but about creating the very core of what you have to say so as to represent you at your best, to be relevant to others and, if possible, to bear a certain degree of newsworthiness.
- Tell us more about your personal branding courses and what you do differently in your company in comparison with the competition? Why have you chosen that niche? What do you foresee for the future?
There are two things that define distinctively my work.
Firstly, I don’t do personal branding courses and that is the very essence of my competitive difference. What I do is personal branding consultancy. I do not teach people self-help, I do not deliver public speaking about how to enhance your brand in general and I do not sell tips& tricks. Personal branding is …personal, therefore it is a one-to-one endeavor, a 100% personalized approach. It’s a made-sur-measure tailoring, meaning time and know how dedicated individually to each person that seems to need my expertise. Actually the very name of my freelance company – Innerout – encapsulates the quintessence of my approach: personal branding starts from the inner capabilities of the person in order to be sustainable, further builds on authenticity and then shows itself outside, in its best of versions.
Secondly I do not work for celebs or showbiz, as it is usually the common expectation in the field. I believe celebs and public figures need no branding, but constant exposure. My “niche within the niche” is the rising world of entrepreneurship instead, be it for startups or established businesses, be it for freelancers or mature business owners. I work for people who proved to really need this service because of two main reasons:
- Entrepreneurial businesses are intimately linked to the reputation and destiny of their leader. The personal brand of the leader strengthens the business and constantly feeds its reputational capital. And vice versa. In corporate businesses this doesn’t happen.
- Entrepreneurs feel the need to start, to make, to build (it’s the rather instinctual side of this special breed) but they usually lack a map and the objective eye of an outsider. They can never judge fairly their own baby. I firmly believe in the saying that even the best of the shoemakers with always be short on …his own shoes. It calls for an outside look to put things in perspective and the finger upon what is relevant indeed.
Personal branding is about creating a professional identity first and foremost, and then putting it in its best verbal and graphic shape in order for its most relevant stakeholders to properly reach its messages.
To put it short I’d say that personal branding is an effort to articulate the human complexity in the fewest words possible – a complicated way to simplify things, as I like to put it. People need simplification and clarity, and branding does that. Unless a brand is clear it cannot communicate efficiently and effectively. Branding articulates the reality of the output, whatever this is. From there on business decisions are smoother and communication follows. Branding does that: it always serves as a strategic management tool and an engagement around a certain meaning. People live for meaning, are driven to work by meaning. Brands, including personal brands, need to instill meaning, otherwise nobody is hearing them.
- Can we consider that Romanians are starting to be more and more interested in their personal development and the meaning of life? How do you see that manifesting?
Personal branding and personal development are neighbors but not relatives. Branding is publicly related more to communication and exposure, while development is more of a personal roadmap to follow. It is also true that it happens for both to occur more or less in the same period of life: at midlife, at career crossroads, after downshifting, or when the employee status makes room to the need for more personal freedom.
Still, the common denominator of personal branding and personal development is the need for identity. Branding is about shaping identity and consolidating a reputation based on that identity and starts with a solid portion or self-awareness and self-knowledge. Branding must unleash self-development otherwise the whole process risks flimsiness. Branding itself is a discipline in which fields as communication, psychology, social behavior theories, coaching, advertising and good writing skills dovetail.
- At what revenue a year would you consider is the Romanian personal development marketing situation? (courses, events, books) What are the trends in this area?
No doubt it is a market in growth or at least steady as people are more and more aware of this need, but I couldn’t give any estimate. Only by observing the dimensions and the positioning of the shelf in bookstores dedicated to self-development literature, the focus becomes clear. New terms and meanings are coined to describe social realities that did not exist 5 to 10 years ago. It’s the times we live in that accelerated the need to take faster and maybe more radical decisions regarding the work-life balance; opportunities are everywhere doubled by the mirroring risks, entrepreneurship and freelancing lures more people and there is a lot of talking around it in the last ten years, etc. So with lots of open doors and market dynamics as never before, people put more pressure on their careers and ask more of them. Generations gaps are still visible and not necessarily erased by technology while lots of challenges ahead leave us with very few certainties.