As we celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s Month this March and ruminate on the 2021 theme #ChoosetoChallenge, we need to rediscovered a need to lend our voices to the subject of image building as it pertains to women. As more women shatter the proverbial glass ceilings and an African woman takes the reins at the World Trade Organisation, we must remind ourselves of some truths. Women are equal contributors to economic advancement is a long-concluded matter and not the subject of this discourse. “Accepting their roses”, to use the lingo of the millennials or better still, Personal branding is the issue under review.
For every article we read or presentation we hear on the matter, women continue to fall short of the weighty matters of personal brand/image, perception, remuneration, and recognition in spite of their track records. This is a common thread, from the seat of government and policy to corporate corridors to arts and entertainment.
In a 2018 article for the Harvard Business Review, titled “How Women Can Develop — and Promote — Their Personal Brand”, Dorie Clark sums up the problem “Gender norms presume that women should be agreeable and nurturing, and when they violate these norms through self-promotion and decisiveness, they’re often penalized for that behaviour in a way that men wouldn’t be”
Before we go too far, we should establish what personal branding is. According to Wikipedia, it is “the conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual by positioning them as an authority in their industry, elevating their credibility, and differentiating themselves from the competition, to ultimately advance their career, increase their circle of influence, and have a larger impact”
To add to this definition, personal branding is 3 things. First, it is an internal job, then, it’s an external job and finally, it’s a communal job. It’s internal because everything starts with, discovering who you are, the unique value you bring to the table. Every human is an embodiment of value. What’s your unique flavour? Secondly, personal branding is an external job, you cannot do all this amazing work and keep it to yourself. As aptly stated by the Katherine Newbury character in the movie “Late night” to her protegee, “if you want people to see you in a certain light, you have to make them”
Finally, it’s a communal job because you cannot go it alone. You need a community of associates, mentors, sponsors, cheerleaders to sell your image. Word of mouth marketing will take you to places. Those places are filled with people.
To bring it all together, here are instructive steps to building your personal brand as a woman.
Upgrade your thinking: Chances are, you are doing a great job. It’s time to see it, see the world as your oyster, and do more than burying yourself in the work. Experience has taught even me that that hardly works. The boundless opportunities that exist are beyond even your current role and everything rises and falls on your mindset. Do you even have a vision for your professional brand and career?
Be strategic: After opening up your mind, you need to get strategic about what you want to do and start planning. What are you bringing to the table? What are your specific goals? Do you need to join associations/communities? Which ones? Do you even have platforms to express your brilliant ideas? Are you leveraging social media? Are you going to hire a publicist? There’s so much to think about and plan for.
Embrace the art of self-promotion: The men do it easily because of centuries of mental and social conditioning that manhood is about achievement but it’s not the sole preserve of the male folk. Do not keep quiet, speak up in meetings, on social media, in communities. Own your wins!
Refuse to be held back by gender bias but leverage the strengths of femininity. Overcome the male vs female comparisons and just deliver on your work. Females have an advantage because it’s been proven they can multitask and they pay attention to detail, these are idiosyncrasies that will serve you well as you build a well-curated image for yourself.
Network, up, down sideways. Identify your various stakeholders, every brand has stakeholders, from direct bosses to senior management, to clients, to peers, to vendors/suppliers, professional bodies, the media, and so on. Don’t be left behind, stand and be counted.
I leave you with the words of management guru Tom Peters who declared in his 1997 article: “We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc: To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You”.
Ayodotun Akinfenwa is a Brand/Marketing Consultant with about 14 years of industry experience. Before starting Lifestyle Hues Brand Consulting in 2016, she built her career working on international brands. Today, she consults for companies and trains SME owners on the subjects of Marketing, Branding DIY Design and Content Creation. Her firm has trained over 10,000 indivduals and served over several businesses.
She holds a Masters Degree in Marketing. She is an Associate member of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, (APCON) and Women in Business, Management & Public Service (WIMBIZ), a Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK and is a Canva Certified Creative.
Email: [email protected]