The expert’s guide to personal branding

Joanne Mwangi is the CEO of Professional Marketing Services (PMS) Group Africa Ltd.
Joanne Mwangi, CEO of Professional Marketing Services (PMS) Group Africa Ltd.

Joanne Mwangi is the CEO of Professional Marketing Services (PMS) Group Africa Ltd. She is also one of the Lions in the business reality TV show, KCB Lions’ Den, which airs on Tuesdays on KTN.

The ‘Queen of the Pride’ spoke to Hustle and delved into a subject she’s passionate about: Personal branding.

What is personal branding?

A brand is a product, service or concept that has a distinctive feature compared to others. These are often deliberately amplified to stand out and remain consistently differentiated.  

Every individual is unique and is a brand in that respect. Defining a personal brand is an intentional representation of who you are and how you want people to perceive you.

This means making sure that the qualities you want people to associate your brand with are what you project at all times. Superlatively speaking, these could vary depending on how you choose to portray yourself.

At what point can personal branding be considered a success?

I don’t suppose there is a definitive answer to that question, but if you can tick off these aspects, then I believe you’re already there or are heading there:

1. Brand space – your brand has to stand out from its competition or define its own unassailable category.

2. Brand identity – your brand projects a personality in which people want to associate themselves with.

3. Brand behaviour – your brand needs to be flexible and easily adaptable to trends without losing its core.

How difficult is it to build a personal brand?

The beginning is always the hardest because you have to make a first and a lasting impression which your target audience can relate to you.

Once you give yourself an identity that people can associate with, then it becomes a matter of maintaining that identity since people are always forming different opinions of us through each interaction.

How has it evolved over time?

We are living in an age where personal brands are becoming bigger and more important than actual product brands since the target audience deeply focus on the person representing the brand and not the brand itself.

Kids, even those who haven’t gone to school yet, can easily link personal brands such as Michael Joseph to Safaricom – both are seen to share the attributes of innovation, success and service.

This shows just how important it is for one to build a personal brand that is authentic and simple as it then is sustainable.

Has technology helped evolve personal branding?

I state the obvious when I say that the Internet and the emergence of social media platforms has given people a voice and a chance to build their brands at an escalating pace. It just takes one video or post that catches a person’s eye before it goes viral.

If used wisely, it can be used to propel a personal brand to new heights. Each one of us now has a media house at our fingertips – it’s just a matter of knowing how best to use it.

Why is personal branding important?

As a personal brand, people are more likely to buy a product you endorse since they value credibility and trustworthiness of a person more.

It goes back to the good old referral method – when we are comfortable with your personal brand, we count you as a trusted friend.  

Entrepreneurs are particularly called to not just offer superior services to customers but also establish a relationship based on respect and trust as it is bound to guarantee long term success for both your personal brand and your business.

What pitfalls should one be concerned with?

Yes! With the Internet as the focal point for personal branding, it does not forget; the Internet can make or break a personal brand. A brand that has taken years to build can be destroyed at the click of a button.

One also has to acknowledge the fact that the economy and market changes with time. This leaves no room for complacency even if one feels like they’ve established a place in the market. Be flexible by adapting to changes while remaining relevant to your trade and essence.

How does one create a long lasting brand?

By coming up with a strategy that works for both your short term and long-term goals. Making it easier for people to find you, and being visible helps a brand remain relevant.

A good example is Donald Kipkorir who, as a well-known lawyer also keeps his audience anticipating more as he comments on a breadth of topics. Having unusual and sometimes controversial opinions and positioning keeps a brand exciting.

How does one maintain a personal brand?

Authenticity and simplicity are key aspects that should drive your personal brand forward. Authenticity makes your brand management effortless since you are not pretending to be something you are not. Simplicity means that we know you for specific specialisations.

Consistency is key when it comes to maintaining your relevance.  

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