Personal branding is non-negotiable

18 Sep, 2018

The future of branding is personal. That is the view of Dr Talaya Waller, CEO of Waller & Company, Washington DC, who recently visited South Africa as part of a personal branding series hosted by the UCT Graduate School of Business.

Personal branding is the perception of your value, and people who manage their personal brands earn more and have more career opportunities, according to Dr Waller.

“Branding has evolved: 92% of consumers trust a personal recommendation from someone they know over brand advertising; and the average employee has 10 times as many followers on social media than the average company. Technology has disrupted things.”

Dr Waller emphasises that corporate brands are no longer built in silos, but instead managed by consumers, the people in your company, which makes up your company culture.

It is more than a question of trust – people need to be able to like and relate to the CEO, the President of a country. When a CEO’s reputation suffers, so does the brand reputation of that company – as the many recent corporate scandals both locally and worldwide attest to.

Another factor is the fact that the average millennial is predicted to have 10-15 jobs in their lifetimes, which means that you can’t just brand yourself according to your job title, but rather, according to your values, such as experience, good work ethic, reliability, excellence, and so on.

“But we all must try to be our authentic selves. Differentiate yourself, whether it is a product, service or person. If you are trying to be a leader, you need to stand out, be noticed, you have to be different,” urges Dr Waller.

Whatever your goal, personal branding can get you there, says Dr Waller. She wants people to set professional and business goals and use all the tools at their disposal to have economic stability and empower themselves.

She also cautions that much of what we have been taught is incorrect. We need to be vulnerable in the workplace to connect to people. “Be as human as possible,” she says. “People want to get to know you. You have to talk about the things people don’t want to talk about. People are going through the same things. That is the future and the way it should be.”

And when times are tough and people try and damage your brand, whether it is a corporate or a personal brand, it is so important to get in there first and own your mistakes, be upfront, apologise and make it right, because in today’s world, people will come out with the truth or their version of the truth on social media anyway. Tell your story first, Dr Waller emphasises, as personal branding is a destination, not a journey, and has to be managed over a lifetime.

Dr Waller continues: “To grow your business, put yourself out there, teach, and lead. You have to unpack all those things that make you camouflaged. Embrace your authenticity. Be fearless. It is not about being perfect, it is about accepting all the things you are.

“Your tribe is out there. They are just waiting for you.”