I’ll tell you why personal branding is important – it’s because I’m not doing a Serena and retiring just yet. On the other hand I’ve evolved quite a bit – from employee to entrepreneur to board director and of course wife, mother and pawrent. Along the way I’ve leveraged my core brand to continue to be relevant.
Many women are upset that Serena felt the need to “retire” from sports in order to focus on motherhood. My take is that the choice itself is a luxury and if you’ve achieved financial independence you should do whatever you want to do – without guilt. I wrote about this in “Why do people work” and clearly Serena is having trouble letting go of something she has worked at since she was a child – but you can’t win at competitive sports forever. Unlike say, marketing consulting, where even in his 80s Philip Kotler was able to constitute a new marketing award and continue on the speaking circuit.
You can’t be awesome at everything
I do believe that it is impossible to be perfect at more than one thing if success is based on time invested. If the more time you put in the better you are, then where is the time to perfect other things that also require as much time as possible? So my advice is to pick the time-stealer of your choice for the year and make peace with the fact that you won’t be acing other things, at least that year. You can, however, be good enough at many things.
Serena is a child of scarcity: this makes retiring hard
Serena is very much a child of scarcity – I wrote about that too! It’s really hard for us to move beyond that hard working ethic of our childhood and learn to just do nothing. A joke about Indian parenting is that when the kid comes home with 99% scores we ask “what happened to the 1%”. Possibly this produces winners, but then, like Serena, they are always concerned about the one that got away – like the Margaret Court record.
Serena’s farewell note appeared in Vogue with some arty shots of her in Balenciaga and assorted designer bling with her daughter. It has also talked about the success of her investment firm – Serena Ventures. So she’s doing a great job with image management and controlling the narrative. And that’s what I want to focus on today – your brand.
Why is personal branding important?
Most of us don’t consciously build our brands. It’s up to us to decide what are our publicly held values, skills and differentiators and then develop a narrative around it. “Bring your whole self to work” has opened up new avenues to express your personal brand – but use this new power wisely. When we create a brand map for an organization we realize that some aspects are positive for some stakeholders but not necessarily for others. For example, if you are a people-based company and you say you deliver amazing profits by keeping costs low, that will impress investors but not employees. Or if you say you deliver super duper profits because you charge a premium for your services, clients may not be super happy with this. Similarly think through how each aspect of your brand will resonate with different stakeholders before putting it out there. You may decide that the aspect is too important for you not to share despite a potentially negative reception, and that’s fine, as long as it is a conscious choice.
Brand blueprints are about just three questions – seemingly simple but hard to answer.
1. Who am I
2. Why buy me
3. Why not buy someone else
You can take inspiration from Bappi Lahiri, Rahul Dravid and Indira Gandhi. There’s some great content from Ira Pradhan and Sunder Madakshira on www.paulwriter.com – just search on “personal branding”. I’m working on my updated board resume and the struggle to articulate everything is real for me too!