Personal branding: Why PR must build up the Leader as much as the Brand

personal branding in PR

Teamwork Communications Group’s Nikky Gupta dissects the concept of personal branding and why PR professionals should look at it as part of brand building. Personal branding in PR is essential and how. 

When we think of Brand Apple, the thought doesn’t just conjure up images of the super iGadgets. It also immediately turns our mind to the image of Apple founder – the late Steve Jobs. Jobs’ image is so closely linked to brand Apple, that it is difficult to visualize the company without the founder even when he is no more. This is what Personal Branding is!

It helps create a persona of the leader that is as large as the brand. In turn, a leader with a strong personal brand adds significant value to an organization by lending a personal humane touch to its story. Increasingly, PR managers are realizing the importance of personal branding while building brand value for organizations. 

Personal Branding and its Importance

Branding is not a term restricted to organizations anymore. Today, anything or individual can become a brand when his/her story is woven with a powerful narrative and narrated through continuous impactful communication campaigns. Every move or choice the personality then makes – be it social initiatives, endorsements or secondary business initiatives – all are crafted to further the brand image.

Think of politics, you may think of Brand Modi whose personal branding campaign has been magnified by an inspiring narrative – the story of a boy who sold tea as a child and emerged self-made to become a leader. Brand Modi has in many ways overpowered Brand BJP.

Similarly, people who followed Indian cricket in the 1990s would attest to the fact that Brand Sachin Tendulkar had continued to dominate Brand India all along that decade. To cite another example, the personal brand image of Dr Devi Shetty is as powerful as that of his organization Narayan Health that is recognized globally for its pioneering role in making cardiac treatment affordable to millions of people.

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In an age where trust incorporate brands is fickle, personal branding becomes all the more important. It lends an added element of trustworthiness to the brand and allows people to relate themselves with its story. In a nutshell, a sustained PR campaign supported by the right inputs – an inspiring background story, a social consciousness-driven message and a long term macro vision – can transform a leader into a strong personal brand.

Important elements of Personal Branding

Having gauged the importance of personal branding, let us now try to understand how a personal brand is built and the major elements of this process. 

Inspirational & Relatable

By far, an inspirational story is the most significant element of a personal brand. The story of an entrepreneur, a CEO, a business leader who overcome extraordinary challenges, took an unconventional route to business success or was motivated to fill a glaring social gap through his/her enterprise makes for an inspiring personal brand.

Be it Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs or the homegrown Ritesh Agarwal of OYO Rooms, the most interesting common element in their stories is the fact they are all college dropouts who became billionaires. Such stories create a stir and jolt people’s conventional beliefs. This is why stories of women entrepreneurs also strike a chord because they are stories of people winning against an unequal social order. They help common people relate to the brand on a personal level.

Recognizing an inspirational story and turning it into a branding adjective is the role of crafty media managers and PR executives.

Strong Personal Views

Once the story is established, we also need to communicate a brand leader’s opinions, views and beliefs to the audience to establish her as an influential thought leader. In this, it is important to delineate and further the views of the leader on important policy matters, social as well as economic issues. PR managers have to work towards identifying all opportunities that give the leader a chance to further her views through comments on major policy decisions, interviews as well as appearances in events that resonate with the leader’s opinions and thoughts. Policy advocacy and social activism are other elements of this craft. If the leader feels strongly for a particular cause, she must be seen at the forefront o it, expressing he views and advocating policy changes.  

Trustworthiness of the Thought Leader is directly proportional to the Brand Image

While we propagate the views and opinions of a leader, it is equally important to establish how these personal values are reflected by her organization or company. So, for example, if a CEO feels strongly about gender diversity and inclusiveness, how far does her company walk the talk on this issue is important to be communicated. The trustworthiness of the thought leader is important and it has a larger bearing on the image of the Company Brand. 

This article has been authored by Nikky Gupta, Co-founder and Director, Teamwork Communications Group.

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