Building a personal brand

Photo: Finansforbundet

I guess it is time for a more personal touch. Even though my primary driver for writing this blog is to gain a better understanding of various topics related to my everyday job as well as some out of pure curiousity. In my mind, if I am able to make enough sense of a topic to create an understandable text, I have gained a higher level of understanding than if I just were to read a book or an article. It is no secret that building a personal brand at the same time has been intentional and carefully planned. For those who wish to do the same, here is my advice.

Have a cause. Don’t crave the spotlight solely for the visibility, that just comes out as vanity. For me, I am passionate about how technology is changing the world around us have been convinced for years that the financial sector was ripe for change. However, that cause must be relevant to your background and position in order to be credible.

Find your format. For me, it was writing blog posts and editorials that set things in motion. Writing about subject matters I find relevant is something I find extremely valuable as a learning process. My guiding principle for writing is if I understand a topic well enough to be able to write something about it in my own words, I have gained a deeper level of understanding than just reading someone else’s words. As a byproduct, I have also been asked to speak at numerous seminars and conferences over the years, but this was never intentional.

Define your audience. I never set out to reach a wide audience. My blog was intended to be a source of information and inspiration for those who are interested in the same topic that keeps me up at night thinking about how this will affect the world. Having a niche audience has also given me the opportunity to extend my network to include subject matter experts on the topic that interest me all around the world. This has inspired me to constantly be at the forefront of the topics that are relevant.

Get published. Things really got set into motion when I had my first contribution to TechCrunch published five years ago. Since then I have become a regular contributor to several publications. I guess there’s no need to point out that this greatly increases visibility and builds credibility.

Be aware of your channels. As I previously mentioned, being asked to speak at various conferences came as a byproduct of my writing. From there on, it quickly escalated toward interviews in various newspapers, radio, and TV. Make sure you understand the media before diving head first into this field. Done right, the media can be your best friend when building a brand, but it is just as easy to misstep as these are channels beyond your control.

Prioritize. In order to have a good writing rhythm, I need to prioritize what is important. I often write on the plane, and sometimes the result is a staggering amount of typos (that I have to go back correct when I review my text later on). At the same time, I follow strict principles on always be sure I got my facts straight, and drawing conclusions based on insight, and not assumptions. Having clear principles of what matters sets the threshold for writing at just the right level to maintain quality at the correct places without overdoing everything.

Bring something new to the table. If a blog post seems like a reiteration on something somebody else has already written, it does not deserve to get published. E.g. I researched quantum computing for a while, with the intention of doing a blog post on the subject. Even though the research gave me great insight into the field, I never managed to add anything new to the topic, and thus I rejected my own writing.

Follow through. Brand building takes time and requires discipline. Define your rhythm, how often do you wish to publish and/or give a speech? Plan ahead and make sure you stick to your schedule. With a demanding job with more than 100 employees in my department and a family at home, time is a luxury. My family and my job always come first (in that order), therefore keeping up my personal brand comes in at third place, competing with going to the gym, skateboarding, playing guitar, video games, sleeping, and so forth. Prioritizing writing over other leisure activities is, therefore, crucial to keeping up.

Stay consistent to your core. Stay true to what you wish to be known for, while still having the ability to renew yourself. Once you have built a name for yourself, resist the urge to jump on every possibility that presents itself, and evaluates whether this contributes to the brand.

Stay visible, but know when to step aside from the spotlight. The short lesson here is, make sure you don’t get over-exposed. Make sure you are known for your achievements rather than being known for being known.

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