File photo of a tourist resort in Koh Chang, Thailand

A brand is a business concept that enables people to distinguish a company, product or individual from others.

The beginnings of the concept of branding date from as far as 2000BC when farmers would brand their cattle to make them stand out from other livestock, and craftsmen would imprint symbols onto their goods to signify their origins and ownership. During the era of the slave trade, hot metallic symbols or ornamental patterns, were burned into the skin (usually the back, shoulder, abdomen, and even the face) of a living slave with the intention to scar the skin permanently.

While it served as a punishment in some cases, it also served a key purpose in clearly identifying which company the slave belonged to and in essence ascribing a sense of validation regarding the tough and rugged nature of these slaves.

While this may seem a grim introduction to the exciting subject of branding, it captures its critical relevance and how it has been applied to advance the purposes of a vast array of businesses, individuals, and their varied interests. Brands capture the spirit of what an entity or individual represents. Its effects can be enduring and can have near permanence on the overall outlook of a business or an individual.

This piece focuses on how individuals can build a personal brand for greater impact. A good brand expands the scope of your reach and adds to your worth as an individual. Your personal brand is what people perceive of you based on what they know about you.

While personal branding requires a deliberate, conscious, and intentional effort, you already have a personal brand whether or not you try to have one. So instead of leaving it to evolve as a consequence of happenstance, it would be beneficial to follow some key steps I shall outline below in building what could be a formidable and impactful personal brand.

First is to clarify what your values are. Your values are your sense of what is right or wrong. They are the things you consider most important and the principal elements of what guides and motivates your actions and decisions. Your values could include; honesty, humility, authenticity, grittiness, integrity, empathy or being personable. Your personal core values, whatever they are must be reified into a leaving breathing part of what should be your quintessence.

Identify your uniqueness and niche. Your uniqueness is your point of distinction from others. Niching is channelling your effort towards a clearly defined target audience based on the things you are particularly proficient at doing. While you may be endowed with several unique competencies as an individual, it is best to exert greater effort on the most preeminent abilities from all your inventory of skills. This invariably makes you stand out from the competition and helps you cut through the clutter of other professionals in your field of endeavour.

Communicate your brand. Your brand must be communicated in a concise and coherent manner to all your relevant audiences. Your personal brand is people’s perception of who you are based on what they know and for that reason, it is critically important to influence the flow of information regarding who you actually are. Your primary goal is to gain appropriate visibility and garner sufficient interest in who you are and what you do.

These may be accomplished through a website, a personal blog or a professional social media page. These platforms can be dedicated to putting forward your ideals, your causes, and professional or informed commentary on issues you are passionate about. Community service is another viable avenue of communicating your brand. Getting immersed in socially transformational causes generates impact and ultimately has a significant effect on people’s perception of who you are.

Be Consistent. A good brand is a function of time and consistency. Consistency is the repetitious presentation of a particular persona in a variety of contexts. How you engage personally must be in sync with how you actually want to be perceived. It is crucially important to be who you say you are. A lack of congruence between your verbalised expressions of who you are and the manifest representation of who you are typifies an individual that is not authentic and that effectively withers connectedness with your audience. Whatever your brand exudes should be an extension of who you are or claim to be.

Know your audience. Your audience is the people whose attention you are seeking. They are the recipients of what you exude as an individual and the ones most likely to seek you out. It is important not to be a huge let-down when these people actually meet you. Aesthetics or things that relate to how you appear can change, but putting on a façade of who you are or camouflaging for a particular objective only leads to transient outcomes.

Build a strong identity. Your identity is the way you define yourself. It encompasses your name(s) other than your official name, your values, your beliefs, and your personality traits. While the use of certain identities may appear innocuous and even entertaining, these may quite adversely affect how you are perceived by the larger population.

It is best to choose a name that exudes power, inspiration, strength and is not offensive or controversial. Musician Solomon Adu Antwi, better known as Yaa Pono, once lamented how his stage name made it difficult for mainstream media to accept and promote his works because of its sexual connotation.

Similarly, the use of comical email addresses like sexygorgormi@gmail.com or sexymama@gmail.com connotes a not-so-glamorous persona. Your identity also includes your physical presentation (e.g. make-up, how you dress, how you speak, your general sense of style etc.). While these are essential elements of personal brand building, it is also important not to make them appear as aesthetic embellishments of who you really are.

If you can apply these to the process of personal brand building your personal value would be significantly elevated and ultimately lead to greater and more fruitful personal and professional engagements.

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Muniru Husseini is a Marketing Strategist and lecturer at the University of Professional Studies, Accra.