Personal branding: conceit or constructive?

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Christine Southern personal branding Marketing Accomplish

Do you shudder when you hear the words Personal Branding? I know I did.

Yes, I have a website About section and social media accounts and yes, my photo was several years out of date, but did that really matter?

It didn’t until I met Sadia and Ian Barlow at a networking event. This is where I started to find out more about personal branding photography. As a result, we’ve embarked on my personal branding journey.

And this is what I’ve learned so far.

What is Personal Branding?

Sadia explains on her personal branding photography website the Why? How? and What? Of Personal Branding.

“Having a creative, honest and compelling on-line visual presence enables your potential clients to know, like and trust you and helps to differentiate yourself from competitors.”

At the heart of this is authenticity. It’s not about shouting about how amazing you are to all and sundry. It’s about giving people a glimpse of the person you are.

In today’s world we are often regarded simply as a transaction to be completed. Or just the sum of our on-line clicks into an algorithm. So many of us are looking for a connection to the person behind the automation.

Where to start with Personal Branding?

I was fortunate enough to hook up with Personal Branding photographers Sadia and Ian. They guided me step-by-step through the process.

Before I even stared down a lens or struck a pose, they took me through a detailed exploration of what I wanted to achieve. They found out about my business, my personal style and my past-times.

This was essential as it clarified my personal branding goals, and the activities needed to achieve them. Sadia even developed a personal planning calendar to get me started.

Next step, we planned a series of photo shoots based around my personal branding goals, my business and my interests.

Overcoming discomfort and accepting camera intimacy

Reading, both novels and business books, is a significant interest of mine. So we started off at the Osterley Bookshop with kind permission of owner Pennie Smith. (The book shop is well worth a visit.)

This was my first taste, for a long time, of having a camera pointed solely at me for an extended period. It did make me feel uncomfortable at first. As a mature woman living in an image-obsessed society, candid photos can be quite challenging. People will get to see what I really look like, not the image of me I have in my head or the outdated LinkedIn photo.

The other factor I wasn’t prepared for was the feeling of intimacy a photo-shoot like this engenders. Luckily, I had Sadia behind the camera. She made me feel at ease. I felt I could trust Sadia to show me in the best possible way, while maintaining the essence of who I am – my authenticity.

A few of my favourite things

After the book shop we set off for London. Sadia embarked on a photo shoot of me by Tower Bridge, in Bermondsey, in front of the Shard… I could go on. These are some of my favourite places in London, something I have an emotional connection to, not just a pretty backdrop.  This allowed me to get to grips with the uncomfortable feeling of being the constant subject of a camera and relax into the shoot.

The next day we were joined by Ian for indoor office photos and headshots. I was now the focus of two photographers!  We also took more relaxed café shots and walking with friends along the river in Richmond (another of my favourite spots).

By the end of the two days I was at ease in front of the camera and was excited to see how the images would turn out.

The result and pitfalls to avoid

Sadia sent me the images taken over the two days of the photo shoot and I chose a selection of the ones I liked best. Fortunately I had already established my personal branding goals and activities, so in theory knew what I wanted to achieve and have now embarked on my personal branding journey.

Tip 1: Refer to your goals. Remember to check back to your goals to ensure what you are actually publishing is in line with what you are trying to accomplish. (Believe me its easy to get carried away!)

Tip 2: Don’t overdo it. Don’t try and do too much all at once. One of my clients commented that she almost missed an email from because she was so busy catching up with all my LinkedIn posts! Plus a friend of mine remarked on how much activity there was from me on social media. I took this as a friendly hint to reign it in.

Tip 3: Get over yourself. I initially felt awkward being the centre of a camera’s attention and was uncomfortable with the way I looked. I have now (well almost) embraced my image. Personal branding I’ve learned, isn’t about the way we look, its about who we are.

Conceit or constructive: what’s the verdict?

I’ve learned that if we use personal branding to shout about how wonderful we are, then it’s probably more like conceit.

However, if we use those images to help people to get to know us, connect with and help them, then its constructive.

I’ve only just started on the personal branding journey, so wish me luck!

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