How to transform your reputation into a powerful personal brand


Remaining the best kept secret is a missed opportunity for everyone, especially the people you are here to serve.
Travis Scott surprises crew and customers at McDonald's for the launch of the Travis Scott Meal on September 08, 2020 in Downey, California. | Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for McDonald's
Travis Scott surprises crew and customers at McDonald’s for the launch of the Travis Scott Meal on September 08, 2020 in Downey, California. | Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for McDonald’s

Spend any time researching the topic of personal branding and you will inevitably come across someone saying, ‘we all have a personal brand whether we shape it or not.

I disagree entirely.

To suggest we have a personal brand without consciously shaping one would be like saying a busy street food vendor in Bangkok has a ‘brand’ just like McDonald’s. While both might have a reputation for serving a particular type of fast food, one clearly is a brand and the other is not.

The act of personal branding is intentional, and a clearly defined brand allows an individual or business to communicate their point of difference, values, and purpose clearly, harness the power of word of mouth and foster a loyal community and/or audience. When explaining where to find a McDonald’s, one only has to refer to the golden arches, whereas you might need to rely on other brands and landmarks to explain where to find the food vendor.

Many executives and entrepreneurs find themselves in a position where they are only remembered by the brands they work for and are associated with, rather than any form of personal brand and gravitas. They assume forging a reputation through consistent action and good work, for example serving great food, is enough, however, they end up leaving a lot open to interpretation.

For those who are thinking they would prefer to remain the best kept secret, beware the decision not to show up has its consequences. According to Sprout Social 70% of consumers, report feeling more connected when a brand’s CEO and leader is active on social. As for investor relations, 75% of investors now use social media to inform investment decisions. Let’s not forget the recruiters: research suggests 96% of recruitment teams use social media. Though social media is not the only effective way to shape and amplify your personal brand, in the digital era we live in, it is an essential place to start.

If you are ready to turn your reputation into a personal brand, consider taking these three steps:

1.Define your 4 P’s-

Promise: what do you stand for as an individual? What can people rely on you to deliver?

Packaging: what do your style, image and online profiles say about you?

Position: how do you want others to recognise and remember you? What words, phrases and ideas do you want your name to be synonymous with?

Promotion: who do you want to influence and how are you putting yourself out there?

2.Invest in getting your professional bio written

Invited to speak? The organisers will ask for a headshot and bio. Media want to interview you? The journalist will request a headshot and bio. An esteemed professor once said to me, “a bio is more important that a CV” and I tend to agree. This is the one document that is designed to powerfully communicate the story of who you are, what you stand for and why you do what you do. Ensuring this document is purposefully in place will put you one step ahead of the personal branding curve ball.

3.Ask for opportunities

Having worked in and around the media for close to two decades, I am aware of the common misconception of thinking opportunities will be offered to those only when they are good enough. The truth is powerful personal brands are forged off the back of individuals who are actively seeking opportunities to raise their profile. They don’t wait and those who do often find themselves waiting a very long time. Start by asking friends, colleagues, and peers for opportunities and introductions that will help you on your path of putting yourself out there. Never assume they will know you want help. For those who are reluctant to ask for favours, keep the Ben Franklin Effect in mind, which suggests asking for favours can lead a person to like us even more.

Visibility leads to possibility and clear communication is the backbone of ideas and brands that get talked about, recommended, and invested in. Rather than guess what others know about you take control. Though there might always be a part of you reserved only for the special few, remaining the best kept secret is a missed opportunity for everyone, especially the people you are here to serve.

Carlii Lyon is a personal branding coach and speaker.