Unless you’ve been living in complete isolation, disconnected from the rest of the world, with no access to social media, and without any form of job or career, chances are you engaged in building your personal brand.

Personal branding is important for anyone who wants to establish a professional reputation and advance their career. Personal branding is paramount for founders, too! Especially during the challenging beginning of a startup journey, potential investors and business partners look at founders’ personal brand more than at the technologically innovative solutions the startups may bring to the market.

We talked with executives from ASPAL Sardegna, the Sardinian Agency for Active Labour Politics, and from Sardegna Ricerche, the Public Agency assisting the Autonomous Region of Sardinia (Italy) in Implementing its Policies for Research, Innovation and Technology Development about why, in today’s highly competitive markets, building a personal brand is essential to stand out from others and clearly communicate your unique value proposition.

Extract, express, exude

We adopted the gem-analogy approach, originally created by John Antonios to compare the process of building a brand to the different phases that a gem goes through before becoming a shining stone: ‘extract’, ‘express’ and ‘exude’. 

We started from the techniques available to understand what we stand for, that is to ‘extract’ our true values, passions and goals. Discovering our unique value proposition is a bit like extracting the unique gem that each of us carries inside. 

We introduced digital marketing techniques to ‘express’ clearly what sets us apart from others and what value we can offer to the world. Building a strong online presence can take time and effort. It’s important to have a clear strategy for using social media, a website and other online platforms efficiently. Maintaining consistency in our messaging and presentation across all our platforms and interactions can be a challenge. This is why thinking SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) can help, together with a certain level of self-confidence. Watch out for your lizard brain! It’s not uncommon to experience self-doubt, especially when starting out.

Finally, we learned to ‘exude’ our brand by showcasing it not only in the digital world but also in the physical one. As your personal brand evolves, it’s important to stay current and relevant, by continuous learning and adapting, and to protect your reputation. Maintaining a positive reputation is crucial for a personal brand, any negative incidents can have a significant impact on our personal brand. As Warren Buffett said:  “It takes 20 years to build your reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it”. 

Hopefully, at the end of this process, we manage to build our digital reputation, authentic and true to ourselves. Thanks to the reputation we’ve built online, we may seek out leadership roles, maybe even become a public speaker invited to television shows. But is this model really sustainable? 

Is personal branding sustainable?

This is where Dorie Clark, in her article on the Harvard Business Review, illuminates us. To succeed you need three attributes: “content creation” (your activity on social media), “social proof” (your reputation) and “network”. The latter being the most important value you can bring to the market.

We concluded by talking about community marketing as a strategy to build and nurture a network of followers around your personal brand. We analyzed the best practices to build a community with the people, instead of for the people: from choosing the right members to focus on at the get go of our community, to designing the activities which will attract people into our network and will keep our community together. By following the community marketing principles, we will build and nurture a network of followers engaged with our personal brand. If we manage to balance authenticity in our digital communication and in our community marketing practices, our network will grow and possibly generate future brand ambassadors too.