Why entrepreneurs should focus on personal branding

The following article is based on an article by  SAURABH SINGLA published in Entrepreneur.com

For any venture, branding plays a key role in ensuring its long-term success since it gives people a reason to connect with their products or services.
However, there is a key element that many entrepreneurs miss in the process – personal branding, i.e., branding themselves.

While for some, it might seem to be a very narcissistic approach, the fact remains that your brand is an extension of who you are, and therefore even before you start branding your company, you need to brand yourself.

In fact, the reason it assumes even greater importance during the startup stage is that until your product or service is still at a concept stage, people will not only show interest in it based on your face value and the reputation you enjoy but also on your credibility.

That is the only basis for them to find a common connection with you. So if you’ve not worked on creating an identity for yourself in the ecosystem, chances are it’ll take longer for you to get things cracking.

Remember, the founder is the foremost ambassador of his/her venture and normally, the company branding is only an extension of their image. So it is natural that for a person who is known for their strong values and sense of integrity, the brand too will come to uphold the same values. So, whether it’s your customers or other stakeholders, how they perceive your company, product or service depends on how they perceive you.

Given how social media is now a common tool in everyone’s hands, it is natural that once you launch your product or service, people might share their opinion with others on online forums, and this can have a strong impact on your market.

The advantage you’ll have with personal branding is that you’ll be in a better position to influence others and tilt the game in your favour.

Talking of personal branding of entrepreneurs, probably one of the most clichéd but powerful examples is that of the late Steve Jobs -a visionary who dreamed of disrupting the technology world from his garage and did so with panache, elegance and simplicity that mirrored his own personality.

Not only did he disrupt the tech world but also the music industry, the animation industry and the mobile phone industry.
Always projecting himself as a cool, calm and strong individual, making sure he presented his new products and technologies himself through his iconic “Keynotes’.

Steve Jobs always spoke about “disrupting’ the tech world and seeing a “paradigm shift’ in the way people used and interacted with technology.
He made sure his words were published in the right places, his ads often included him in subtle ways, and his statements were bold and suggestive of his vision for Apple.

There’s a lot we can learn from him when it comes to personal branding – his ability to handle situations with grace, face his critics with suave and project a larger-than-life image of himself that he mirrored flawlessly in his company.

A lot has changed since the time of Steve Jobs, and today entrepreneurs have multiple channels of showcasing their own selves and projecting the vision for their startups. Social media is a very powerful and omnipresent tool when it comes to putting yourself across to the masses, potential users and potential investors.

Powerful videos, immersive content and informative blogs by entrepreneurs cement their personalities in the minds of readers and viewers and help establish their personal brands.

This in turn, helps open up more avenues for the startup and helps to get things rolling, be it hiring, getting traction or drawing the interest of investors.

Good PR about the entrepreneur also proves useful, especially when featured incredible online sites or offline business magazines that are read avidly. An impactful and compelling background story about the entrepreneur makes people connect deeper with the person. After all, only if they believe in you will they believe in your products or services.

Apart from using social media and the internet, an entrepreneur must also focus on offline and other sources of networking as a means of brand building. These may include entrepreneurship forums, networking events, investor meets and industry-related summits and conferences.

These events put a face to your personality and help secure your image and, therefore, the image of the company you represent. In essence, it helps people connect with you and, therefore, your brand, since for them, you are an extension of your brand; someone who truly represents what your company is all about.

An entrepreneur’s image and personal branding stand as a testament to their ability to execute their ideas and visions. Therefore, it is paramount to build, maintain and propagate your personal brand to ensure the credible success of your startup.