Illustration: Ashley Siebels
There was a time when a company’s brand meant everything, and founders/employees were simply a byproduct of that brand. But with the explosion of social media over the past decade, real-time networking has brought personal brands to the forefront.
To achieve ultimate success, personal brand-building should be a daily exercise for not only founders and CEOs, but everyone else on the team. My experience in the NBA taught me the power of personal brand growth, and this carried over to my the company I founded.
Following are five tips to help build your personal brand. Make it a point to not only build your personal brand but to influence others within your business to build theirs.
Identify and highlight what makes you unique
All entrepreneurs have something that makes them truly unique, whether it’s a story of hardship in upbringing or the ability to remain positive in any situation. Think about what makes you unique, and identify the top factors. Highlight them every chance you get to make your personal brand stand out.
My time in the NBA has helped build my brand, though I don’t outright discuss teams and seasons. Rather, I compare the dedication it takes to make it in the NBA with the dedication needed for success in business. I actually think it takes more dedication to be successful in business than it does in the NBA.
Think of thought leaders like Tony Robbins in personal development and Jim Cramer in investing: Their personal brands are giant within their respective industries. Much of their success can be attributed to how well they educate others. Both have written books and educate through their social media presence, helping them build personal connections.
Educating others builds an emotional connection that helps strengthen your authority in your space, which naturally builds your brand. You don’t have to write a bestseller, either: Speaking at conferences and writing for third-party publications has worked well for me.
Model others with powerful personal brands
This will help you save time in your brand-building exercises. Find out what has worked for these influencers, and implement those strategies into your own process.
I’ve learned from giants like Richard Branson, who made one of the boldest moves in business by buying an airline under the Virgin brand, rooted in music. During this deal, there was much adversity, but Branson pushed forward and Virgin Atlantic became a huge success. Part of the success came from his ability to rally his employees through his energetic ways. At my company, I always try to keep the energy high to get my team rallying behind me. It creates enthusiasm and an anchored devotion to the brand.
Create your career narrative
Everyone likes a good story, so tell yours. Entrepreneurs across every industry have a story to tell, and the more personal, the more others will feel connected. Exploit your career’s narrative whenever possible, whether networking at a conference or on the “about” section of your business’s website.
I can attribute my personal story directly to my success. I grew up in Nigeria and worked hard in many different ways. I was abe to develop the skills needed for my future business endeavors and help others connect more closely to our brand.
Make the most of social media
Social media is the lifeline of any personal brand, so use it to your advantage. Connect with others on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and always strive to offer content that educates, adds value and entertains. Offer leadership tips and share unique stories from within your business. Inspirational quotes from other thought leaders work well in this scenario.
Remember to keep your social media presence clean as well. Social media is the ultimate extension of modern-day attitudes. Make sure yours is a positive one.
Personal brand-building doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years, but it’s well worth the efforts for you and your business. The more personal brand exposure you get, the more brand exposure your business will get.
Obinna Ekezie is the co-founder and CEO of Wakanow.com, the leading full-service, inbound and outbound online travel company in Africa.
This article first appeared on Business Collective. BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.