Recap: What's Your Story? Building Your Personal Brand

This article was originally published by the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) 

As a young professional, I wish I had a dollar for every time I was told the importance of building my ‘personal brand’.  Let me tell you: I’d be sure to pop up in a “Young Rich List” or two.  Regrettably, personal brand conversations (or, PBCs, as I like to call them) rarely last longer than a few well-worn clichés.  And that’s a shame!  Especially for a topic that is generally regarded as pivotal to building successful career.

In partnership with Bartier Perry Lawyers, AmCham’s NEXT Young Professionals Committee in Sydney recently held an event titled “What’s Your Story? Building Your Personal Brand.”  Our aim as a committee was to delve beyond the clichés, and to really explore:  What is a personal brand?  How does one build said brand?  How does one acquire the swagger of Russell Brand?  All good questions.  Unfortunately, time ran out before the third question could be answered (over to you, Revel!)

At the event, we were privileged to hear from three leaders in the field:

  • Revel Gordon, an Executive Coach, and founder of Revel Gordon & Associates (@RevelGordon); 

  • Kara Hinesley, Public Policy Manager of Twitter Australia (@KaraHinesley); and 

  • Jo Gossage, Group Account Director at Tiny Hunter branding agency (@Tiny_Hunters).

Our Chair, Amy Selwood (of The Coca-Cola Company fame) drew out hundreds of wisdom nuggets (is ‘wuggets’ a word? It is now) from the experience and expertise on that panel.  To help the conversation flow, each answer featured input from each guest.  Together we journeyed through a genuinely helpful conversation about the brand that we each present to the world, and how to develop that brand.  I will now attempt (inadequately, no doubt) to summarise my favourite parts of that conversation, for each of you playing along at home.  Of course, those in the room will acknowledge that these points were merely the tip of the iceberg (Now that I’ve reached my cliché quota, let’s press on).

Establish your story:  Know yourself

The first step to building your personal brand is knowing that you don’t need to create a brand; the brand is YOU!  Personal brand is just another phrase that means ‘character’.  Your professional self?  Your personal self?  It’s all you.  In order to tell your story, you must first know you.

So, who are you and where are you going?  What is your BHAG?  That sounds gross, but it’s not.  It just means: Big Hairy Audacious Goal.  What’s your ‘ultimate’?  What are your goals to get there?  First consider these things, and you will be in a position to present your authentic self to the world, and perhaps most importantly, your story will be believable because it will be true.

Write your story:  It’s about what you do, but it’s also about how you do it

Nothing great is built overnight and your personal brand is no different.  Building your story is about progress, not perfection!  Don’t you know that Rome wasn’t built in a day?  Hey hey hey… (thanks Morcheeba).

At work, do the tasks that are assigned to you, and do them well. At times when you are able to choose your work, look for a ‘7/10’ stretch.  Not in too deep that you’ll drown, but challenging enough that you are continually growing. If you feel just a little bit uncomfortable, that's where you want to be.

Don’t just do the tasks, approach each one with integrity.  Think of integrity like a hurdle to get you in the game.  Without it, your story won’t have any lasting impact.  Like the Star Wars prequels.  I recently watched them again; they still suck. 

Your story also depends greatly on what you bring.  Think about what makes you unique.  Great leaders know what they bring that is unique, and they lean into that.

Tell your story:  Be the narrator

Once you know who you are and where you’re going, get your ‘hero stance’ on and bring it.  You’ve got this! 

Develop a one minute ‘elevator pitch’ about who you are, or what your business does, and where you’re going.  Cull your chatter down to your key messages, and get good at delivering them.  Be clear and conscious about what you want to stand for.  Take control of your brand and don't allow it to be attached to something that doesn't reflect you.

Be mindful, though, your key messages don't have to always be told in the same way.  Vary it. Tell the story differently sometimes.  Tell it online.  (Shout out to Kara from Twitter!)  Wisdom will tell you that there are times to be formal, and there are times when you can play it down.  But above all, you don’t need to pretend, because you are just being you!

Don’t be a lone ranger:  Build relationships, and watch them tell your story

As young professionals, it can be tempting to keep our work life and our home life as two distinct lives.  Double lives.  Like 007… but with less cool parties, and more Netflix. 

Of course you need a private life!  No one can be switched on 100% of the time.  But it is also important not to neglect your relationships at work.  Make the effort with your work buddies.  Go beyond surface-level chats at work.  Building your personal brand starts by giving attention to the relationships at work.  It pays to get on with your work colleagues.  Build genuine friendships at work and they will become your personal brand advocates. 

On a practical level:  Don't be the one to gossip about others at the coffee machine. It sends the message that you can't be trusted.  Also, don’t “white-ant" your boss.  Not only is it a jerk thing to do, more often than not it won’t lead to any lasting success. 

Wrapping up

Hopefully I’ve semi-coherently portrayed some of the golden wuggets that we uncovered at our last NEXT event (ok, that’s confusing). 

If, for some crazy reason, this article has not made your wildest dreams come true, I’ve got a proposition for you.  Hit us up at the AmCham NEXT Committee on our LinkedIn Group.  We want to hear from you!  We are here to help Young Professionals develop professionally, and to meet each other.  So shoot us ideas of topics that interest you, and we hope to see you at our next event.

Although it might suit your comfortable and risk-free constitution to be oblivious to the flurry of activity going on outside that aeroplane window, the reality is that to continue to do so will surely mark a missed opportunity.  The fact of the matter is that today’s market demands that the big corporate needs the start-up just as much as the start-up needs the big corporate.  And although pathways between the two are beginning to stretch toward each other, there is still a great deal of work to be done before they fully meet and both start-up and big corporate are able to interact freely with each other.

Author: Ryan Murphy

Leading Partner: Darren Gardner