We are all icebergs: Reframing our understanding of personal branding

It seems to be the season of personal branding. In the last few weeks I have delivered eight different personal branding workshops to groups from four different organizations. These sessions have triggered interesting conversations and all got me thinking: as a coach, do I need to help clients reframe the way they think about ‘personal branding’?

One comment in particular struck a chord: I understand why personal branding is important, but it just feels so contrived.” When we talk about building your personal brand, we often talk about defining how you want to be viewed by the world, and what you need to do to make that happen. How should you dress? Which articles should you write or share? How should you adjust your body language in meetings or job interviews? The typical language around personal branding can make it sound as if you need to create and project a fake image – to figure out who you aspire to be, and to construct a brand to make that appear to be reality. But let me be clear: this is not how you build a successful personal brand. 

Embracing your authentic self

Successful brands, that have respect and longevity, stand up under scrutiny. They are more than just a superficial image – they run to the core of a company’s ethos, and are distilled throughout the way a company does business. Your personal brand is no different. It needs to withstand pressure and you need to feel comfortable maintaining it. It takes a huge amount of energy to fake something, and trust me, when you are under immense pressure, your real self will come to the surface anyway. You simply won’t have spare energy to spend on keeping up the façade. If your ‘real self’ is at odds with the personal brand you have built, it is a matter of when, not if, your credibility will be shattered.

Successful personal branding is not about contriving an inauthentic image. It’s about digging deep to understand your strengths, embracing your authentic self, and making smart decisions about how to bring those characteristics to the surface. It is, very simply, about putting your best foot forward.

We are all icebergs

The easiest way to approach building an authentic personal brand is to think of yourself as an iceberg. The people you interact with in the course of your professional life only see around 10% of your personality. Smart decisions about your personal brand will ensure that none of the things that make you employable, promotable, or an asset to your team are hidden in the 90% below the waterline.

So, how did I respond to my client as she struggled to balance personal branding with her wish to remain authentic? I reframed her understanding of personal branding as a concept. If you think about it, successful personal branding is the polar opposite of creating a fake image for yourself. It’s about working to ensure that there isn’t a mismatch between the image you’re putting out into the world and your authentic self.

Struggling to get to grips with your personal brand? I can help. Contact me to discuss how we can work together to put your best foot forward.

If you would like to read more about Personal Branding you can catch up on our next article here.