When you look at entrepreneurs like Sir Richard Branson and Dame Anita Roddick, you can’t help but admire how they’ve crafted their own personal brand. Branson’s personality is intrinsically linked to the Virgin Group while Roddick has stayed true to her core beliefs throughout her career as the founder of The Body Shop.
Consumers these days want to see and connect with the individual behind a brand so paying attention to how you’re coming across matters now more than ever. Nobody wants to feel like they’re dealing with a faceless organisation that’s not really listening. And it’s much easier to communicate a company’s core values when its identity is linked with the person who leads the business.
Social media is making it even easier for a company’s founder to showcase their personality and get close to their employees or customers. In many ways, Twitter is the new garden fence and I love using it to show people what matters to me and the other sides of my personality outside of my day job. It’s very important to be an authentic leader and social media’s a great tool to help you do that.
My personal brand has evolved over time as I’ve changed and my business has evolved. That being said, there are some key pillars – things that are at the heart of what I stand for – that I’ve tried to keep constant. Every year, I give myself an annual review: I set myself new personal objectives, review how important these are to me and decide what focus I want to have for the year ahead.
I’m equally mindful of my appearance and body language – first impressions count in this world. I’ve been guilty of trying to dress how I think others want me to look in the past but I’ve come to realise that what you wear is less important than the fact that you’re in an outfit that makes you feel happy and, most importantly, like yourself. I’m also conscious of my posture: slouching will never make you look like a successful, confident entrepreneur. Whenever you’re in a meeting, try to make a point of checking that you’re sitting up straight and leaning forward slightly. Relatively simple visual cues can show the other person that you’re interested.
As for projecting authority, some people have this false impression that a CEO or business heavyweight has to be loud, brash and aggressive to get people to listen but I don’t agree with that. I’m quite softly spoken but I don’t feel the need to be the loudest person in the room to command respect. If you’re true to yourself and have something to contribute, people will respect you.
That applies to all aspects of personal branding. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to emulate other people and of course to an extent you do have to adjust your behaviour to your environment. But to craft an authentic public identity that people can buy into, you can only be yourself.