By Az Chowdhury, Senior Partner
Building a great reputation rarely, if ever, happens entirely by chance. Leading figures across the worlds of politics, business and entertainment carefully craft their public personas – cultivating their following and burnishing their image.
The proliferation of mass media and the exponential growth of social and digital platforms and channels has made personal brand building easier than ever. Conversely, cutting through the cluttered chaos and noise of today’s media landscape has never been so complex.
Some of our private clients only contact us when they hit a crisis. By then we’re on the back foot, and in the realm of damage limitation. That’s OK, insofar as it goes. There are times when people are blindsided by incidents outside of their control – and we can certainly help reduce the impact that a crisis will have on your reputation. But it’s far better to proactively build your brand, so that you’re more ready to ride through a storm when it comes.
We use three interconnected strategies to help our private clients:
- Creating differentiation, by developing an authentic narrative and personal positioning
- Building awareness and shaping perception amongst specific audiences
- Aligning and managing objectives, strategies and tactics
Of course, there are some people who don’t wish to build their name and their fame. Anonymity is a legitimate goal. Indeed, we also work with those who want to stay out of the public eye. But for many, being known, recognised and respected by peers and other stakeholders can be a powerful thing – and a means to an end in their career or for their business.
So how is it done? Whilst every plan is tailored to the individual and his or her circumstances, there’s a logical and consistent process.
Firstly, we ask questions. We help establish with clarity why you want to be known, what you want to be known for, and who you want to be known by. This is the cornerstone of personal branding and reputation management.
Secondly, we will help you identify your voice. Authentic narratives emerge from what you’re driven by, where your convictions lie, and from the areas in which you have genuine expertise. Greater success flows from finding the nexus between your passions and your priorities. Your brand ought to be an extension and amplification of who you are.
In You Are The Message, Roger Ailes observed that there are four essentials that make an excellent communicator – being prepared, comfortable, committed and interesting – all flowing from the notion that communication ought to be authentic. Tellingly, he also wrote that “if you can add likeability to these four essentials, you will be a master communicator.” The most powerful personal narratives are rooted in truth.
We then identify who you need to reach. You don’t need to be known by everyone. The chances are there are a relatively small number of very influential people and organisations that need to know all about you, and hold your opinions and ideas in high esteem. Once these stakeholders are identified, we can establish touchpoints between you and them. Perhaps they read certain websites or blogs, pay heed to individual newspapers or magazines, consume particular broadcast media or attend specific conferences and events. Our twin goal is to establish where we can reach them, and what the emotional and rational triggers are to get you onto their radar and into their thinking.
Our clients often lead lives that straddle politics and business, with an international dimension. They are busy. So we help them to prioritise. Being disciplined about what you say ‘no’ to is essential – time is a precious resource. A significant component of strategy is deciding what not to do
How important is it to be on the speaking circuit? How vital is your social media presence? Which media should you engage with? What networking opportunities will expand your sphere of influence? What shape and role should CSR and charitable activity take? Posing these questions helps you arrive at structured answers and clear direction.
Our plans are highly practical. Our goal is that the right people should not only be aware of you, but that they also perceive you correctly. They should recognise you without being prompted, and have an accurate view of what you stand for and which lane you dominate. Success means that we hear our client’s key messages repeated by others, with your image becoming reality. Investing in your reputation will pay dividends and help insulate you when a crisis hits – because you’ll have established a reservoir of reputational capital.
Stories move people. They change the way we think and feel, and often what we do. But they don’t write themselves. Maybe ‘the art of perception’ is misnamed? There’s certainly a good dose of science in there, too.