Imagine the following situation. Two people meet at an event, your name comes up, but you are not there. You cannot influence what is said about you, but you want your expertise to be well recognized, as well as you. This is where your personal brand comes into play. It's exactly what others say about you when you're not in the room – that's how Jeff Bezos once defined it. And it's 100% true.
Therefore, if you want to be seen as an expert in your respective field, you should cultivate your own personal brand. Moreover, by establishing your personal brand you can build relationships with potential customers, partners, and investors.
Personal Branding – Not Yet on the Horizon for Many Women
Interestingly, women, in particular, have a hard time becoming visible. There are two particular phrases that I hear really often:
The first is the following: "Who wants to hear what I have to say?" I think it's important that women in particular use personal branding to make themselves visible around the topic they're passionate about. Women are often more reluctant about their visibility. They show their expertise far less than men and shy away from the spotlight. Yet, it is often equally said that there are too few women in leadership positions, and one of the most frequently cited reasons is the lack of female role models. Women urgently need to become visible! Not only to bring our issues to the forefront, but also to inspire other women as role models.
The second is just as important to reconsider: "Personal branding is only for braggers." On the contrary, properly applied personal branding and pure self-promotion have little to do with each other. Superlatives, bragging, and no authentic content – all of this is not professional personal branding. Let's be aware that, whether we like it or not, we all already have a personal brand. It happens more and more often that people tell other people about you. But the question is WHAT do they say and HOW do they describe you and your expertise? And that's exactly where you can actively shape your personal branding. And you should do that instead of leaving it to others.
I know from my own experience what personal branding can achieve. After graduating, I worked as an independent PR consultant. I always stayed in the background, letting other people take the stage. Only gradually did I realize how important visibility is. Today, I have over 15,000 followers on LinkedIn and can position my topics there. My community and I have exciting discussions, and my network grows day by day. I advise other people on all aspects of their personal branding, and I no longer have to make cold calls – customers find their way to me because they have heard or read about me. Personal branding is a communication tool that paves your way to the top. Use it!
How To – The First Steps to a Personal Brand
In order to create your personal brand, you should first position yourself.
What do I want to be known for? What is my field of expertise? What do I stand for? Who is my target group? Where do I want to go?
Once you've answered these questions, you can start right away. I always recommend LinkedIn. This platform offers one of the largest business networks. First, follow the people who are important to your expertise and network. See which content they are posting and sharing. That way you'll get a good idea of what's possible and what works well.
Spend 15 minutes a day – regularly and continuously – on community engagement. Comment on other people's posts and take part in exciting discussions. That way you will gradually become more visible.
If you want to become an opinion leader, you should also post your own content. In that case, it is important to make at least one post per week. For example, give people an insight into your daily work so they can understand where your expertise lies. Share interesting studies and write about why you find them important.
Good Role Models – Women Who Have Successfully Done It
Actively pursuing personal branding can open many doors for you, even if it sounds unimaginable to you at first. A few examples of women who have particularly inspired me:
Dr. Sigrid Nikutta is a member of the Board of Management at Deutsche Bahn and Chairwoman of the Board of Management at DB Cargo AG. With her topics around rail and freight transport, supply chains and sustainability, which she incorporates in her daily posts in a very creative way, she not only makes Deutsche Bahn approachable but gives it a face as well. This also strengthens her own expertise and shows how well positioned and, at the same time, highly professional she is.
Mina Saidze is the founder of Inclusive Tech, Europe's first advocacy and advisory organization for diversity in tech. The IT industry is predominantly white and male. This often leads to software reproducing prejudices. With her company, she helps to make the development of software and algorithms non-discriminatory. Mina manages to position her personal brand in a really great way; Through a balanced alternation of her own content and comments, she manages to draw attention to her topics and thus stimulates exciting discussions.
Natalya Nepomnyashcha is the founder of Netzwerk Chancen, a company that supports people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds in their own careers through workshops, mentoring, and a large network. She manages to give insights into her work in a very emotional way and at the same time draw attention to the problem of socially disadvantaged people.
I raise my hat to all of these women. They show how important it is to become visible to draw attention to the issues that affect both individuals and society. This only proves that people follow people, work with people, and trust people. Circling back to the beginning of the story, imagine you’re not in the room and people are talking about you. Let’s flip the situation. What’s the story you want people to tell when you walk out of the room? The message you leave behind is your personal brand.