This article was translated from our Spanish edition. Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
What can a legendary rocker and serial entrepreneur do to improve the world? This question was asked by Peter Gabriel and Richard Branson in 2001, at the beginning of the new millennium. His answer: pick up the phone . On the other side of the line, Nelson Mandela himself responded, neither more nor less.
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Together they created The Elders initiative, a group of highly influential and experienced individuals who coordinate peace and development efforts around the world. Since 2007 they have counted Mandela himself, Koffi Annan, Jimmi Carter, Ban-Ki Moon and many other recognized leaders among their members. It’s a great idea – and it started with a call.
Why can a rocker and an entrepreneur call Mandela? AND…. Why do they take the call? It is not only a matter of contacts; but also and above all: reputation and your personal brand .
Engrave this in gold letters. There is no card more powerful than your personal brand. Your brand is the key that opens many of the doors that would otherwise be closed, and it is the visible projection of your own reputation and prestige.
Along with personal brand gurus such as Steve Jobs, Tony Robbins and Barack Obama, the founder of Virgin Galactic (and 100+ other companies) Sir Richard Branson has managed to forge a clear image of who he is and who he is throughout his long career. the values he represents: not only a great businessman and billionaire, but a rebellious, smiling entrepreneur with a life project.
How can you create and grow your own personal brand? The recipe is simple, but not always simple: you have to know who you are, what you want … and know how to live and transmit it.
There are many tips available on how to create and strengthen your personal brand. Your clothes, your image, your way of speaking and even saying hello. All this is fine. But if you want to take the step to the next level, consider these five aspects of a transcendent personal brand.
1. THE PERSONAL BRAND IS NOT A HAT
In 2019, TV megastar Ellen DeGeneres suffered a spectacular fall. After years of maintaining a friendly image and being the face of his famous slogan “ be kind to each other” , a very different reality came to light: that of an aggressive, manipulative and cruel person; that he treated his employees badly and used his friends in order to get some rating point.
Ellen had a great personal brand… until it turned out to be a lie. And then … the collapse. Personal branding is not designed on a desk or in a beauty salon; not even in a strategic think tank. Personal branding is not a product that you put on and take off, like a jacket or hat, to appear in public media or events: your personal brand is the strategic visualization of the person you really are.
Like good makeup, a personal brand does not hide and transform: it is not a costume , but, on the contrary, it elevates your best characteristics: that which makes you who you are. It is the visible vehicle of your reputation. And the reputation that is not based on reality, sooner or later, explodes: gold falls and bronze appears.
The first two questions to create your personal brand are not “what color suits me?” or “How can I sell more?”, but something much deeper: “Who am I?” and “What do I want to achieve in the world?”
2. THE PERSONAL BRAND IS NOT A MARKETING TRICK
Politicians on the campaign have little time to create an impeccable, caring, generous and visionary image: campaigns, spots and retouched photos are the norm when the race is short-term and you have to win at all costs. Once the election is won, it no longer matters and the cracks appear very soon. The economic and social cost is very high.
Your life, however, is not a three-month campaign, but a continuous endeavor; a project that grows for many, many years. Politicians can maintain (barely) an image for a few months, but never for many years. His true character and his intentions soon emerge, while effectively maintaining two lives: a private and a public that are not alike at all.
Among other things, what distinguishes a true leader from a simple politician or salesperson is his personal brand , which includes his own vision, his values and his real personality. Richard Branson also parachutes himself from a building to promote his business (it is part of his brand: “the rebellious entrepreneur”); but at the same time he spends time and millions attacking real social problems (this is another part of his brand: “the committed leader”).
3. THE PERSONAL BRAND IS NOT A MASK OR PET
Personal branding is not a mask that we wear to sell . It does not depend and can never depend on the business you are in at the moment , as it will feel false. You don’t represent your business; rather … your businesses represent you; They must be an expansion of your personal mission and vision, and cannot be separated from your core, your soul, your passions, and your talents.
A corporate mascot is that and nothing else, and there are excellent ones, like Julio Regalado or Doctor Simi’s botargas.
You might think that Richard Branson will do “whatever it takes” to promote a brand, but he doesn’t: Branson does what Branson does, and nothing else. Being an adrenaline lover is not a designed product, it is reality. And reality is a phenomenal starting point for building great projects and projecting great ideas.
So when building your personal brand, do not try to copy others or do or look like things that seem “attractive” to you, like uploading photos exercising or climbing mountains if they are not really what you are. You are much more likely to find a niche and a market by projecting who you are in a creative and professional way … than by emulating (almost always with poor results) the influencer or “entrepreneur” in fashion.
4. THE PERSONAL BRAND IS NOT A HANDLING SYSTEM
Personal branding opens doors. Keeping them open… is something else. People who use their personal brand to sell – who, therefore, give a hoot – very soon find themselves without reputations, without clients and without friends.
The difference between communication and manipulation… is the relationship. People who have a true relationship – with their clients, their partners, their employees, their family – use their reputational capital to help and create wealth for everyone: they don’t use people, they help them. They don’t just sell, they invite. They not only inform, they inspire. They do not have mediocre short-term vision, but long-range transcendent vision.
That is why your personal brand must match your actual habits and values. You can’t pretend to be “healthy” and eat three boxes of chocolate behind the scenes. The deception will last a few days, but not too long. You cannot have a simple, sincere, humble or generous image if you are conceited, liar and selfish. Not only is it bad, but it shows. As Shakira would say … hips don’t lie.
Do you want to design a personal brand? Focus on real values and habits, those that move you, drive you, inspire you; and in your vision, in what you would like to leave in the world.
5. NOT A PICTURE DESIGN
As we have said, personal branding is not an aesthetic change; but the projection of a real value. It may be that you change company, business, line of business, city or hairstyle … but your personal brand never changes. Your personal brand remains.
It is precisely this concept of personal brand that you must embrace, and the one that will also keep you afloat in good times and bad; It will help you find unique business opportunities and will gradually make you a power player in your own niche. Your personal brand is the destination that you choose yourself.
There are two ways to destroy your personal brand. The first is to invent one that is not real: as you know, very soon the truth will shine. The second is to change personal brand, style and values to pursue immediate gains. It is true that we must be flexible and versatile in a changing world: but this does not mean that we stop being what we are. A flexible racket wins championships. A broken racket is thrown away.
6. CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN LESS THAN 140 CHARACTERS?
You can? If Richard Branson is a “ rebellious entrepreneur, risky businessman, family man, committed leader, adrenaline lover and nemesis of ties ”… what are you?
Write – you can do it right now – your own personal brand, just as if you were writing the vision or mission of a company. You can say: “Emilio is a visionary and generous construction entrepreneur.” You could also say: “Fernando is a loving father, a faithful husband and a great golfer…”.
Write five or six things that you are and that you like to be. Write them in such a way that they convey how you want to be perceived by your customers, by the ecosystem and by those who know you.
Do not write “Arturo is a director of this or that company”; instead he writes “Arturo is a creative and risky businessman, who likes soccer”. Remember: your businesses can change, but your brand does not change.
Do you already have your brand description, your 140 characters? Now yes, go to the hairdresser, buy your clothes, manage your nets, but do not let your words or your actions – in private and in public – ever say anything else. That’s called brand congruence and it’s the stepping stone that will take you to the next level. Personal branding is not (just) a sales tool. It is a lever that can move the world.