VENTEUR spoke with Sukhi Jutla, an award-winning entrepreneur and author based in London, about personal branding. Jutla is the co-founder and chief operating officer of MarketOrders, an online platform for the gold and diamond jewelry industry. She has won numerous awards, including Asian Women of Achievement and Female Entrepreneur of The Year, and was named Top 100 European Digital Pioneer by The Financial Times and Google. Jutla holds board positions with the Mayor of London’s Digital Skills Partnership and the Department of International Trade in the UK. She is an Industry Associate at University College London Centre for Blockchain Technologies (UCL CBT).
What is a personal brand, and how does it evolve?
A personal brand is a way others perceive you. It's what you stand for and talk about. It's the messaging, values, and persona you convey to others offline and online. Others think of you when they hear your name or what they associate you with.
Your brand evolves with the person it represents and in the channels used. Whereas before, your brand was usually limited to your business card and the in-person networking events and conferences you attended, with the explosion of new digital technologies becoming more accessible to the masses, we have seen many people build their brands through online channels such as social media platforms. Email marketing, social media ads, influencer campaigns, and collaborations all feed into the personal brand you are creating.
Being an author, creating online content, or speaking on public stages is also becoming an increasing part of personal branding. This will continue to evolve as new digital technologies become available. For example, your avatar in the Metaverse will become a part of your brand!
Developing a Personal Brand
Why should someone consider developing a personal brand, and why do personal brands matter?
In today's digital world, you are already building a personal brand with every digital footprint you leave. In this sense, almost everyone by default today has a personal brand available for all to see, so it makes sense to take control of this brand and shape it in a way that is most authentic to you rather than letting the internet or algorithms shape it for you.
In today's increasingly digital-first world, you should expect people to search for you online. This is already happening with job interviews and college admissions. So, it's vital to ensure that you create and define your brand the way you want to be perceived.
This all depends on what you share and how you do it.
For example, perhaps you are a creative person wanting to work in the digital space. You can curate your brand by hosting a blog or podcast giving tips on creating the most effective digital campaigns using digital adverts.
Your brand can help you source the right opportunities for you, whether job opportunities, collaborations, partnerships with major brands, or key influencers in your field.
How can someone begin to develop a personal brand from the ground up, and what steps should be taken from the beginning?
Check Your Current Digital Footprint Online
Your brand online starts with what comes up when you google search yourself. Take a look at the images, web links, and videos that come up. Have you been tagged in a video that you would rather forget? Have you mistakenly been mentioned in an article you find embarrassing or is factually incorrect? Look at your digital footprint across all these search results and social media profiles. Perhaps there are some things you would prefer to keep private, in which case, change your settings on social sites accordingly.
Start Consciously Curating Your Brand
What would you like to be known for? When people think of you, what do they feel about you? Perhaps you are passionate about writing and want to teach others how to launch and market their books. Or maybe you are an amateur gardener who grows fruit and vegetables in tiny gardens or balconies.
Or perhaps your business helps small businesses to qualify sales leads through your software, and you want to use your brand to reach new customers.
Whatever it is, think of 2-3 specific topics that you are happy and qualified to discuss.
This is your brand, which is what you will be known for and what others will come to you for help, guidance, and education.
Think: How Will You Communicate Your Brand to Others?
Think about what is the best medium through which you should share your message. For example, if you enjoy reading and writing, you may want to consider writing a regular blog or launching a book. Or, if you prefer audio, how about launching a podcast? Maybe you are brilliant at creating engaging videos and are comfortable in front of a camera, so establishing a YouTube channel on your topics of interest may suit you best.
Be Clear and Consistent in Your Messaging
Do all your online channels share the same messaging about who you are and what you do? Perhaps you have created a logo and have specific brand colors you use as your brand palette. Are these being used consistently across all your online and offline channels? This helps to build trust and awareness of your brand and what it stands for. For example, you may easily spot a particular brand online by the music they use in their ads or their visuals on social media.
What role does passion play in one's brand, and how should it be used?
In today's world, personal branding has become more important when using social media platforms, both for influencers and for business owners using social platforms to sell their products and services. So, it's inevitable that the person at the center of the personal brand will bring their authentic voice and passion to the forefront. The more passion you have for your brand, the more likely you will be to produce high-value content that will engage your audience. A personal brand is predominantly about the person, so your audience will appreciate an authentic person who is genuinely passionate about the topics they discuss. To use your passion to fuel your brand, focus on issues that genuinely interest you. This will help you to stay motivated and interested in creating quality content.
How true to one's natural self does a personal brand need to be, and why?
You could effectively 'construct' any personal brand in today's world. But building a brand takes time, energy, and sustained effort, and you are most likely to succeed if you genuinely share content that interests you.
Play to your natural strengths. Many people have recently started becoming influencers in the blockchain and crypto space because these topics have become popular. But fads come and go, and even if you decide to jump onto this bandwagon, you may find that you lack the commitment and energy to produce engaging content on this topic because you are not engaged with it.
This can damage your brand as people won't see you as an authority or trusted figure on this topic. Being true to your brand is being true to your values. So, it's worth aligning with your strengths and using them as part of your brand. It's also a more sustainable way of building your brand.
How vital is marketability in one's brand, and why?
Not all personal brands have to be marketable. Some people want to share exciting information with like-minded people. Perhaps they want to learn how to grow organic vegetables in their backyard and want to build their brand in that area to connect with like-minded people.
However, the vast majority of people today do expect to use their brand as a way to market themselves to attract new opportunities. This could be a new job or a place at the university you want to go to. Or perhaps you are using your brand to connect with other businesses to work with them as paid influencers. In this case, it would be essential to make yourself as visible as possible and show how you can help businesses if they want to work with you.
Is it possible to create a personal brand that's too niche? If yes, why?
Your brand is a choice of how you want to come across to others, so it is possible to make it as niche as you wish. You could consciously choose only to share a specific part of your life or a particular value. For example, you could be a business owner and a working mom but only choose to share the business aspect of your life online and in your brand.
Perhaps you only want to be known for writing children's books in Hindi for those in the 3-5 age bracket, in which case you would curate and cultivate your brand to serve and attract that particular audience.
There is also increasing evidence to show that it can pay off to be 'too niche' as people would prefer to get advice from someone who is a specialist in that area.
Personal Brands for Entrepreneurs
How can entrepreneurs develop a meaningful personal brand while putting almost all their time and attention into their businesses?
In most cases, entrepreneurs' brands are closely entwined with their businesses. For example, think about Richard Branson, and Virgin will immediately come to mind. Or mention the company Apple and you will link it to its founder, the late Steve Jobs. So with this logic, you could argue that time spent building your brand is also time spent developing your business brand! Of course, if you choose not to associate yourself with your business because you want to keep the two separate, you can do this. In either case, we all have a personal brand, and as long as you keep it consistent with who you are and your values, you will develop a meaningful brand.
How can developing a strong personal brand help entrepreneurs succeed with their businesses?
Your brand can stand for who you are and what you value, so you can use your brand as a voice in a powerful way by showing how your business helps you to live your values. For example, perhaps you appreciate service, and your business helps to develop technology that saves lives. Or you value connection, and your business allows people to better connect with their loved ones via your online therapy courses. Your brand can act as the new business card, making it clear what you do and helping to bring more visibility to your business which could, in turn, drive more sales or bring about new growth opportunities. It helps your business become more visible.
Personal Branding Mistakes
What are three personal branding mistakes people generally make, and how can such mistakes be avoided?
1. Not Being Authentic to Who You Are
At the start of your journey, you may genuinely be trying to figure out what your brand will be and what you stand for, and this is expected as we evolve and discover who we are and what interests us. But actively pursuing and pushing a particular narrative that is not really who you are can trip you up and lose the trust of your audience. This happened to Kylie Jenner, a famous social media influencer with a well-known personal brand of beauty and luxury living. She was promoting her lipstick range and showing images of how they made her lips look fuller, which made her followers believe her product could do that for them. It was later revealed that Kylie had undergone some cosmetic procedures to achieve that particular look, which created a massive backlash from her community and in her admitting what she had done. As a result, she lost the trust of her audience as she had not been honest or authentic. Walk your talk!
2. Focusing Too Much on Yourself
To build your brand, you must demonstrate your credentials and why people should pay attention to what you say. But focusing too much on yourself without giving your audience quality content can damage your brand. Instead, try the 80/20 rule, where you spend 80% of your time and effort on creating content that inspires, motivates, or educates your audience; the remaining 20% can be about you.
3. Underestimating the Time It Takes To Build Your Brand
To be seen as the 'go-to' person in your niche, you have to be willing to put in the time to create consistent content over a long period. This could mean speaking at over 20 conferences before you get a paid speaking opportunity or writing two weekly blog posts for a year before you get your first coaching client. Building a personal brand is not something that is formed or completed at one time. It is a constantly evolving conversation between you and your audience, and it takes time to build trusted relationships. In an ever-increasingly noisy digital world, it becomes more important to keep showing up consistently to develop your brand awareness.
What are three common misconceptions about personal branding, and how can we set the record straight?
1. Building a Personal Brand Leads to Overnight Success
It's easy to see millions of social media influencers online claiming they make millions of dollars from their YouTube channels. This may be the case for many, but it can sometimes look like their success came overnight. This leads to more people creating their channels but failing to reach the same level of success. This is because, for those influencers who have achieved a certain level of success, you will note that they produce consistent and quality content over a long period. Most of them will have over 50+ videos and an engaged audience. They respond to comments and talk to their audience, which takes significant time and effort to attain. There is no such thing as overnight success-it looks that way!
2. Your Brand Is All About the Number of Followers You Have Online
It's not just about the number of followers you have; it also includes all the content you produce. This includes speaking presentations, podcast and TV interviews, written articles, books, and research papers you have contributed to. What matters most is how trusted your brand is and how engaged your audience is rather than the number of followers on your social media profiles.
3. A Personal Brand Is Only for Those Who Want To Be Famous on Social Media
As discussed above, everyone now has a personal brand, primarily created by the digital footprint you leave online. And for most people, their brands are being used to help them secure new job opportunities, business opportunities, and a way to create trusted online communities. Of course, not everyone wants to be a social media influencer or share their personal life in such a public way. At the same time, not all personal brands are created for fame or money. Others build their brands for job opportunities or to create networks of communities they want to be a part of.