What exactly is personal branding, you ask? Why is it relevant? Whether you’re contemplating doing the entrepreneurial things or you’re an employee, having a personal brand has become more important than ever.
According to the guys at CareerBuilder, your personal brand is a clear indication of the best you have to offer. Seventy percent of employers use social media to screen interviewees during the hiring process. Plus, job-seekers use it to check out their prospective employers. Think of it as your trademark. Your personal brand precedes you and has more far-reaching effects than you think…
Liezel van der Westhuizen has used it to go far beyond her field to create a persona that has staying power.
Liezel van der Westhuizen is a household name, having been on radio and TV for years. Liezel kicked off her public speaking and emcee career over a decade ago, and today continues to impress with her current task of presenting “Mornings with Liezel” on Kfm. Most recently, she’s been helping university students to understand what personal branding is. We got the opportunity to sit down with Liezel to chat about how personal branding helped her career – and how she’s using it as her current side hustle.
Build and grow using your authentic self
Liezel attributes her long-lasting success to the power of her own personal brand, and being a household name for so many years. “My father reminded me early in my media career: ‘Just because you’re on TV doesn’t make you better than anyone else’; while my mother advised me to be authentic, saying, ‘Just be true to yourself and be yourself’ and this is the advice I’ve followed throughout my career. To be authentic, real and honest,” she says.
“Each and every one of us has our own distinctive personal brand, which sets us apart from the rest. Your unique identity, coupled with the power of excellence, can create something truly extraordinary. The foundation of being extraordinary is built on being authentic and transparent. Don’t let fear dim your light. Being authentically you is at the heart of success,” says Liezel.
Make your negatives work for you
“I didn’t know the amazing gift that journalist Craig Jacobs was giving me when he referred to me and my sister, Monique, as ‘the giraffe sisters’ in the Sunday Times. Today, this nickname has grown into a lucrative cottage industry – the Giraffe Brand Academy – and I weave it into everything I do in the quest to show my clients how they can set about making their personal brands stand tall above others in the marketplace, in just the same way a giraffe (indlulamthi in Xhosa) towers above the other animals in the African savannah. Now I weave the nickname into everything. My fitness blog is called Giraffe In The City and my personal branding company is called The Giraffe Brand Academy.
“I started The Giraffe Brand Academy after a US business coach asked me to present a personal branding workshop to her clients after she’d heard my story – how I got the giraffe nickname and turned an insult around into a branding story. That’s how my business got started just under two years ago. Now I coach and train corporates, entrepreneurs and business owners on the importance of personal branding for themselves and their employees.”
“Through The Giraffe Brand Academy, I train and empower graduates, entrepreneurs and bosses on the importance of personal brands. I enjoy working with employers on the importance of their employees’ personal brands. Employers often miss out on the opportunities associated with the personal brands of their employees because they compare personal branding to company branding, but they are two different entities.”
The power of differentiation
As human beings, we’re all hardwired to pay more attention to “different”. “There is no one like you and that is your superpower.” And that’s why it’s important for you to have a strong personal brand. “It will differentiate you, make you stand tall from competitors and allow you to build trust with clients or future customers. Just like with product branding, the goal with personal branding is to differentiate yourself in the market so you can attain your objectives and position your brand in a different way to your competitors.”
“Personal branding is about being authentic and real. Many people waste their time trying to communicate messages of what they think their audience wants to see, rather than focusing on discovering their true value and purpose,” explains Liezel.
Use every experience to flourish
She’s currently mentoring students on their personal brands. “I’ve been involved with various roadshows around the country, working with students on their personal brands, and have recently accepted 20 students through The Mentorship Challenge on ETV. Many students and graduates believe they have to wait till they’ve gained work experience before working on their CVs or personal brands, but this is untrue. My advice: In your favour is a fresh slate in the marketplace. Even if you feel young and inexperienced, every part-time job, internship or travel experience has made you the awesome individual you are today. So, include these enriching experiences when drawing up your CV.”
Personal branding tips for standing tall above the crowd:
1/ It’s crucial to move away from your computer and attend live events to assist in building your network offline. Many people forget about this and rely only on networking online.
2/ Invest in a professional photo or headshot for your social media platforms. Remember, this is often going to be the first visual impression you’ll make with a prospective client, employee or employer – make it count.
3/ Update your social media profiles to align with your personal brand. Remember, your social media profiles are not all about your professional skills – they’re also about who you are outside of work, so be authentic and personal.