Last week we ran a workshop on personal branding - a follow-up to the successful workshop we held at the Rising Festival in March. At this latest session we invited the group to consider the way in which they present themselves, and how this can vary depending on the situation that they are in.
We kicked off the session by inviting everyone to ‘talk about their brand’, encouraging them to describe how they present themselves. This generated some really interesting and varied feedback: some people talked about their company or used a job title, while others offered personality traits or described themselves based on their hobbies.
The myriad answers we received clearly demonstrated that people often draw on the many different aspects of their daily lives to define themselves. But it also highlighted to the group the importance of a personal brand and its role in cutting through the complexity when presenting your ‘career’ self.
Building a personal brand, one that transcends the brand of an employer, is particularly important for people thinking of making any kind of career change – a point which resonated with many of the attendees who were facing a crossroads in their career.
We highlighted that personal brands are not static - they evolve as we grow and are influenced by many external events. We illustrated this by giving three examples of well-known women whose personal brands have undergone dramatic change:
Meghan Markle’s transformation from actor, campaigner and blogger to Duchess
In many ways, her personal brand was initially silenced when her relationship with Prince Harry was officially announced: she gave up her successful acting career, her social media profiles were deleted and she was no longer able to campaign for change as an individual. Interestingly, her personal brand has now evolved into one that is no longer built around her work but rather her relationship and all that entails: her new baby, her life with Prince Harry and her role as a royal ambassador.
However, despite all of these changes, the ‘Meghan Markle’ brand remains recognisable - she has continued to support charities and campaign for change, working within her new position to have an impact. Her personal brand has evolved as she has, but her identity remains familiar - even after some dramatic transformations.
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, channels empathy
The strength of her personal brand has transformed her role as the leader of the country as she approaches every new challenge with strength, warmth and unwavering empathy - particularly evident during the recent Christchurch shootings. As the world's second elected head of government to give birth while in office, Jacinda balances her personal brand between being both the Prime Minister and a mother.
Jameela Jamil, the first female to host the Radio 1 Chart Show
She now stars in the hit US sit com ‘The Good Place’ while also campaigning against female body shaming. Her work emphasises the importance of being brave in your personal brand - she has established herself as an outspoken advocate for female beauty and started the ‘What I Weigh’ movement which uses the hashtag #iweigh to detail all the things that women are grateful for or proud of.
Jameela has come a long way from her Radio 1 days, bravely criticising celebrities including the Kardashians and Cardi B, a move that requires tenacity because it might be seen to hurt her career in Hollywood. Yet she has managed to construct a personal brand that balances celebrity with body shaming activism, demonstrating both her courage and the strength of the brand she has created.
As part of our interactive workshop participants were invited to visualise what their futures might look like in five years’ time - using images and phrases cut out from a variety of magazines the group created mood boards to represent their own ‘future brand’.
By the end of the evening everyone was armed with a ‘through the looking glass’ interpretation of where they aspire to be in the next five years, offering a tangible starting point and clarity on the importance and creation of personal brands.
What will your brand look like in five years’ time?