Our circumstances, events and experiences in our lives make us who we are. It is only after going through several such iterations that we can begin to define our own voice in the process of personal branding. A personal brand is carving a niche for yourself and creating an impression in the mind of others that promotes what you stand for and why. We all have to develop our own standard for excellence in defining our own personal brand. And to do so we have to identify and reflect on our own unique stories.
“Creating a narrative from the events of your life brings clarity. It helps you understand how you became you. But we don’t always realise that we’re the authors of our stories and can change the way we’re telling them. Your life isn’t just a list of events. You can edit, interpret and retell your story, even as you’re constrained by the facts.” The Power of Meaning, Emily Esfahani Smith
We all have stories. Stories that connect us and bring us together and make an impact. We can change the course of our own life if we choose to do so. We can create our own personal narrative. With our stories that we can weave, edit and change if we so desire.
Telling our own stories makes us vulnerable and more often than not, people are afraid to face their own stories, let alone bring them out in public.
Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change; vulnerability is also courage.
Researcher & story teller, Brene Brown.
By acknowledging and sharing our own stories we connect with others, we make positive impacts on the life of others and in the process we find our own sense of purpose. It is important for us to weave our personal narratives into our own personal brands so that we can engage effectively with others. Oprah Winfrey is a fantastic example of a very successful personal brand.
Pitching your Brand
While telling our stories is vital in the process of personal branding the question still remains — how do you create an impression or introduce yourself to a complete stranger? How do you tell others your story? Very often people forget to share the essence of their vision. Often in conferences, job interviews, social gatherings we talk about WHAT we do rather than WHY we do it. British-American author, motivational speaker and organisational consultant, Simon Sinek emphasied that an organisation can create their own value proportion and inspire others and differentiate themselves if they communicate the reason WHY they do what they do.
WHY is how you explain your purpose and the reason you exist and behave as you do.
While this is true for corporations it is also true for personal branding. And when you weave in your personal narrative into your introduction you infuse the WHY in your interaction with others.
This is the part of our anatomy that processes feelings such as trust and loyalty — as well as decision-making.
These feelings help people connect with each other. People are instantaneously attracted to a genuine vision and are more receptive to become part of that vision.
For example, a nutritionist may introduce himself or herself as “someone who works in XYZ hospital as a Clinical dietitian or clinical nutritionist providing medical nutrition therapy”. This self-introduction is the WHAT rather than the WHY. If we were to add the personal narrative of the dietician or nutritionist we make an instant human connection with that person. The introduction could very well go like:
I grew up with a number of allergies and medical conditions that made me overweight. I had diabetes and hypertension and I was borderline obese. A series of dietary and nutritional changes like choosing healthy snacks and making proper lifestyle changes along with exercise offered by my dietician saved my life. I became deeply fascinated with the science behind food choices and lifestyle adjustments. Hence I made the decision to become a clinical nutritionist so I could help others take control of their own lives. I now work at XYZ hospital and help patients discover good health.
This personal narrative or story conveys the WHY and purpose behind the personal brand and makes an instant human connection with others. People are attracted to such forms of personal branding and you instantly differentiate yourself from others.
Many times people don’t have the luxury of time to tell their stories however they still do need to make the human connection. In corporate scenarios Elevator Pitches are often used to make an impactful introduction in 30 seconds or less. In this format you have to make a lasting impression on someone. Usually that person is either a potential client, job interviewer, potential partner or a venture capitalist. In this format there are six essential steps to form an introduction in less than 30 seconds:
Who are you? Hello I am ….
Little background about yourself — where you are from where do you work
Explain or provide context — what does your work entail
Make the connection- what do you know about the person or their company
ASK or call to action — what do you want from that person
Close with the promise to reconnect — keep in touch to continue the conversation.
Delivering your Pitch
While it is very important to say what you want to say, it is equally important how you say it. Albert Mehrabian, a Professor of Psychology at UCLA has a ‘7–38–55 Rule of Personal Communication’, wherein he states that in communication, a speaker’s words are only a fraction of his efforts. 93% of the communication is non-verbal of which 55% is body language and 38% is the tone of voice. 7% accounts for verbal or the literal content of the communication. This goes to show that it is so important to focus on how we say what we say.
Maintaining a positive body language requires effort sometimes. Several life coaches and motivational speakers like Tony Robbins assume power poses to stimulate their testosterone levels and reduce their cortisol levels to induce positive hormonal and behavioural changes. For example Tony Robbins jumps on his trampoline for 2 minutes before he goes up on stage. That automatically brings up the positive hormones and makes him energised.
Did you know that blind people when they race and are nearing the finish line always raise their hand up? Most athletes do the same. How do the blind know to do that? They assume the power pose of pride and victory, an automatic human reaction when the testosterone level is high.
Personal branding is a lifelong process. Be genuine. Create a positive impact. Share your vision. Tell your stories. Weave, edit and retell your own stories. Focus on your WHY, focus on HOW you will say it and then focus on the WHAT in that order. “You are your best brand. Make it outstanding”