Get your personal brand on: learnings from latest Breakthrough Leaders sessions

Cultivating the right personal brand is critical to the success of any leader.

Last month, Global Women’s Breakthrough Leaders module was all about personal brand – media training, social media, storytelling, and much more.

We asked Sandy Burgham, director of leadership development for Global Women – and herself a brand leadership coach – for her take on personal brand and a little about the workshops.

Why is personal brand so important for the emerging leader?

Understanding and monitoring your personal brand is critical because each of us is projecting information about ourselves to the world often unwittingly. While some people consider the term “personal brand” as a little cheesy or consider the idea about being in-authentically constructed, I beg to differ. We live in the digital era where openness is a key theme. Because people will always be in judgement of you regardless, you don’t want YOU to get in the way of your message. It’s important to take care of how you present, what comes out your mouth, what you are known for, what you look like, where you turn up, who you are aligned to. This is all very important context for your leadership message.

What happens if you don’t cultivate a personal brand?

One of the first things we ask people on the programme is to Google themselves. If you can’t find yourself, that’s a problem because being a leader requires you to be visible. Alternatively, it can be horrifying what turns up when you Google yourself if you haven’t managed your personal brand. So many people say they want to keep a low profile, but strong personal brand can add to the organisation you represent. How is a low profile good for your organisation? We all do business with people – so sending messages about who you are and what you stand for can only work in your favour, provided you are clear on these things.

Building a presence online – what are the top platforms worth investing your precious time in New Zealand?

Business 101 is to have a strong LinkedIn profile. It’s the Facebook of the business world. Other platforms you use depends on what your brand is about and what suits. The most critical lesson in regards to this in the BTL programme is ensuring participants have familiarity and fluency on different platforms before they settle on their chosen ones.

What are some examples of New Zealand leaders doing social media well?

Victoria Crone, Global Women member and BTL alumni, is prolific on Twitter. It suits both her business, Xero, and her personal brand. Jenene Crossnan is another – she initially built Flossie using her personal brand on Facebook.

Many people don’t understand that social media is a media channel – it’s not just about projecting your brand, but also about receiving information, knowing what’s going on in your network, and what’s trending in the wider networks and media.

What are some common traps for new players re engaging with journalists/the media, and how can they improve on this?

Avoiding journalists. Not understanding that they are motivated by the news not about making you look stupid. Another trap is not being media trained. We have a strong component around this in the BTL workshops.

What are the inherent qualities of people who manage to shine positively in the media?

They treat media with respect. They are prepared, relaxed, and use integrity.

You had a session called ‘watch your language’ – what was this about?

I’ve been a social insights researcher in the past and I have lead large teams of women. I am also currently studying and in lectures I observe the way the male students speak compared to the female students. In other words, I have done a lot of listening to language people use.

Speech patterns that men use versus those that women use are different. Women have a tendency to say “I think I believe.” In other words, where business is objective they often use subjective turns of phrase. Women apologise a lot “sorry this, sorry that” and use “just” as a qualifier which is very dis-empowering. It is preferable for them to be mindful on their language so they communicate in a way that ensures people hear an objective point rather than a subjective opinion.

One of the features of the module was “how to get a photo taken”. What was this about?

In this midyear module we looked at how to get a decent photo taken of yourself – which is all about being camera-ready. Trust me, this wasn’t “Body Shots” – it was about how to be comfortable in front of a camera. If you want to increase your visibility again you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot by not looking your best. This is not about vanity, this is about representing yourself and your organisation the best you can.