The X Factor – Personal Branding

LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and even SnapChat are social media giants being used by individuals to connect with others, network and create their own image, ultimately, develop their own brand. Going back to how I got familiar with Personal Branding, when I was working in a startup’s Public Relations department, it was up to to me how we got out there – what we said, how we said it and what the company image looked like.  This was my first dive into Corporate Branding.

Within a short period of time, it was quite evident that creating a brand out of a healthcare organization was going to be relatively tougher than it is with others since the making of a health related brand requires the utmost level of human trust. This comes from ticking a bunch of checkboxes one of which being personal connection with the customer.

Paarul Chand, Editor, PRmoment India mentions the emerging significance of Personal Branding, “Among communication consultants, I am seeing a rising trend of professionals maintaining their own brands online. No longer are they content to be just behind the scenes coordinators. I often find such platforms useful sources of information about the world of PR. In a world where emotional connect matters as much as the sales connect, it is inevitable that the personality of the person doing the selling will come into play.”

Do you have what it takes?

Saurabh Uboweja, Founder, CEO and Chief Brand Strategist, Brands of Desire recently launched a first-of-its-kind online learning platform called Branding Institute to educate entrepreneurs, leaders and managers who want to build dominant organizations using the power of branding. He said, “There are many areas where a person might excel but the struggle remains to take the call and choose one. This is because being a jack-of-all-trades is the biggest downside for someone building a personal brand. When a person does set his mind to develop his brand around a specific domain, it should be something that comes natural to him – there’s absolutely no beating around the bush.”

Why Personal Branding?

People trust brands because they are brands.

But foremost, people trust people.

According to a survey conducted by a New York City based social media agency called Brandfog, CEOs who are active on social media are perceived as better leaders who can build better connections which employees, customers and investors.

Personal branding is synonymous with reputation and that’s what makes it so powerful.

The idea is to customize the product or service according to the company brand.  Taking a brand like Facebook, where Sheryl Sandberg oversees human resources, public policy, and communications among other departments, her personal branding revolves around women empowerment – further making use of her position to raise the issue of equal pay at workplace. This is a clear case where personal branding can be seen influencing the existing face of company to a more gender-friendly brand.

Paarul further adds, “With the entry of the start-up culture in India has come the concept of personal branding that helps sell a product, a service, an organisation. It’s hard to separate the personalities of co-founders of organisations such as FlipKart, SnapDeal from the organisations themselves. Internationally, too, you can see this in the impact storied entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk have on their brands like Telsa. It’s not surprising then that this is percolating into the non-start up world as well.  When it goes well you have brands such as No Nasties (where the personal commitment of the founders towards helping cotton farmers is tied strongly with the brand’s value proposition), Ratan Tata (whose personal integrity has a strong impact on the trust with which Tata companies are perceived) and Raghuram Rajan (whose personal credibility lent so much to RBIs policies). When it goes wrong you have a Rahul Yadav (Housing.com), a Donald Trump (who is doing incalculable damage to the idea of American democracy).”

Personal branding is subtle yet the results are extraordinary.

A brand is created over timeThere’s a lot of ground work that goes on to bring the focus on the brand:

  • Developing and working around a real-time calendar on industry news and trends;
  • Creating content around researched keywords relevant to anything from personal experiences, country and global concerns;
  • Persistent efforts and long-term commitment to these tasks with the help of social media platforms increase readership among the target audience, which facilitates customer loyalty and indirectly impact company website SEO and ultimately revenue.

 

When compared to corporate branding, personal branding is rather unpredictable.

Does it matter how many times a founder publishes an article on LinkedIn in a week? The answer is no. Prior planning is not instrumental, in fact impromptu ideas are more than welcome. In conclusion, personal branding is unpredictable especially since it’s based on how a person interacts with another.

No medium is the right medium.

Some medium might work well for one, while another medium may work well for someone else. A brand that comes to mind – Shradha Sharma. After the launch of YourStory, she came out as the real storyteller. Through self-written articles she shares on LinkedIn, she is honest, inspiring and down-to-earth.  She is active on all social media giants, especially Twitter where she has over 52K loyal followers. She is the perfect example of how Personal Branding aids Company Branding. Not that YourStory needs it (116K followers) but the fact that the founder is so vocal and focused on what she aims to achieve with her company is what makes it so appealing.

More and more influencers from all over the globe are focusing on developing themselves as a brand. While corporate branding is indispensable, Personal Branding is key in helping a person stand out in a sea of people and emerge as an expert in his domain. But does the increasing importance of personal branding mean that one day it might overtake the significance of corporate branding? Only time will tell.

 

Originally posted on Inc42 media.

26 months of startups, hustling and coffee breaks

Rumor has it that the World Bank has now moved India to a new status – lower-middle income country. Having said that, the country’s GDP is at 7.6%, making us the fastest growing economy. Frankly speaking, looking at these two facts, I don’t know how to feel about our current situation. But what I do know is that in the two years I spent bumping into healthcare startups founders at events, meeting hospital management, and understanding real patient problems – the importance of digital healthcare is increasing – whether it be health-tech, home-care or wearables. Technology is making it possible for people to find smart solutions to their medical needs and better yet, stay healthy. Like the Director of Healthcare Vertical Strategy, Level 3 Communications, I agreethe healthcare industry needs startups, and startups need the healthcare industry’.

My startup story

In 2014 I joined a healthcare startup in its nascent stage. The company was only a few months old and we were just a handful at the time. Unlike me, this startup knew exactly what it aimed to achieve – which sounds quite idealistic but it was and it is the true need of the hour – quality and quantity in options available to patients that enable them to make informed healthcare decisions.

For those curious about working in a startup and what it feels like to be a part of this popular bubble – I got news for you. The long hours, deadlines and never-ending expectations from a startup employee are all true. We are, in fact, overworked, top management does keep a close check on our assignments, we are expected to be better at our job than we were yesterday.

Is this bad? It IS a lot to deal with but I personally believe it has given me as much as I have put in. Would an ordinary job give me the opportunity and freedom to explore what I could do for the company? I doubt it.

I reckon I was hired as a lead content developer because I had an up and running blog but more because I came across as someone with a can-do attitude in my job interview. After an email explaining how I’d like to change the company health blog, I joined the startup as someone who was responsible for the health content. In addition to the tasks given to me, I was always thinking “what more?”. I started following startup news simultaneously understanding the e-health scenario in the country. The more I read, the more I realized that healthcare was a tougher area to connect with the audience since it was only of interest to those in actual need of a medical treatment. Setting up a shopping platform and spending a bomb on marketing is far easier than to engage audiences in health trivia or what-to-ask-your-surgeon questions or even more difficult – introduce a super alien concept to India – Free Credible Help.

[Random event]

Stranger No. 657: “What does your company do?”

Me: “We give patients options to the best doctors and hospitals where they want. We help them with the entire hospitalization process, right from booking their appointment – getting them admitted – to post-rehab facilities”

Stranger No. 657: “Oh that’s great, and how much do you charge?”

Me: “There is no charge for the patients – this is a completely free service.”

Stranger No. 657: “…so how does a patient know your service is unbiased?”

Me: “We have all the top hospitals on our panel and while we provide options, they (patients) choose who they want to go to, where they want to go, when they want to go.”

I do not remember how many times I’ve had this conversation with people, whether the number was in triple digits or quadruple – I anticipated the same questions over and over again, I had all the answers ready to.

Not even 12 months into my job I was promoted because my boss and I agreed that I had taken more on my plate and the additional initiatives were highly encouraged. I was determined to introduce healthcare to India like never before. The focus was for people to find us approachable, interesting and quick to respond. And for all this, we had to have a strong digital presence. Along the way, we worked in collaboration with giants like LifeCell, Artemis Hospital, Max Hospital for both online and offline events. This was a way to attract more eyeballs to our brand and really just introduce our concept.

Working in a startup is similar to being pushed into the deep side of the pool when you don’t even know how to swim.

From having no experience in social media, content development or digital healthcare I found myself meeting investors, discussing healthcare with important people who were actually making a difference in the startup world and who have been leaders in healthcare for decades!

A great idea is nothing without a great mind bringing it to life.

I saw this happen in real life. I have met many people who have these world-changing ideas but the same people find it hard to turn their ‘great’ idea into a reality. The vision that my (now) ex boss has for our company is exemplary and I hesitantly confess I wasn’t sure if all his ideas were, in fact, do-able. But I was wrong. Perhaps that is the definition of a leader – he finds it in his people a way to achieve the unattainable. Just a few days ago, we touched 1 lakh satisfied patients. One of my most memorable moments was being a part of his success at the Entrepreneur® 2015 event where he received the award for ‘Entrepreneur of the Year in Service Business – Healthcare’.

During my last month at the company, I was working with my team to introduce Gurgaon to emergency ambulance services through a click-of-a-button on our app. I am proud to say that this was all over the news a couple of weeks ago.

How my Ladakh trip turned out to be similar to working in a startup

In an Economic Times article I read, a study revealed the recent stagnancy in growth and the undeniably increasing pressure in the Indian startup industry. This further confirmed the same pressure I felt early on this year but it was far from the reason why I decided to move on from the startup world. I was ready for my next adventure and after working in the startup industry for 26 months, I took a 12-day trip to Ladakh to let go of everything and ‘explore’ my options – something one of the headhunters thought was ‘too brave of me to do’. Here’s what I found similar with the two:

  1. Company matters – heaps

The journey is long and despite the fascinating scenic beauty at every turn, in the long run you realize that your company matters the most. After all, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey and company makes a huge part of it. People who are adjusting, open to new experiences and people make for easy companions. These are the people you grow close and the same friendships can last a lifetime.

  1. Compared to the nauseating endless deadlines and deliverables in a startup, the altitude sickness is terribly real

    ladakh trip

  2. Like every startup blueprint, your journey needs to be well-planned

The trip feel more like an adventure than a vacation, it’s this exact nature that makes it comparable to startups. From minute travel details to daily itinerary, the journey is measured throughout.

A trip to Ladakh or working in a startup are both situations outside your comfort zone. You know what else lies beyond your comfort – following your intuition and learning far more than you ever could in a safe area.

Would love to hear about your experiences working in a startup in the comment section below.

11 nights in Ladakh: Places to visit

What’s the magic word? Julley! Ladakhis say ‘Julley’ to express ‘Hello’, ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Thank you’ and it’s that one word that helps create a bond between two strangers in this mysterious land. A paradise on earth for mountain lovers, Ladakh is located at the crossroads of many civilizations mainly inhabited by Indo-aryans and Tibetans. Due to its fragile location in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian military has a prominent presence and maintains a symbiotic relationship with the locals.

Ladakh is surrounded by the majestic snow-capped Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges amidst several sightings of melting glacier water flowing into streams and beautiful monasteries.

  • Hotel Dragon

Pangong Tso

Super windy, Pangong Tso is a beautiful lake, only a part of which is situated in Ladakh. The lake is at a height of 14,270 ft and is 134 km long, 60% of which extends to China. Enroute to Pangong, we crossed Chang la, a high mountain Pass situated at 17,590 feet. People crossing this area are expected to experience shortness of breathe and are therefore advised to take diamox before the onset of their journey to Ladakh. Thankfully, a small army unit located here readily helps passersby by checking their vitals.

  • pangong lake
    Enroute Pangong Lake, just the most beautiful view of wild horses in the valley.

Finally, we reached Pangong Tso after 6 hours of tough terrain, low oxygen levels leading to two stops at army camps and constant headache. Was it worth it? I’ve always believed we’re on the planet to appreciate nature. And to be in the presence of the majestic mountains around Pangong Tso was only possible after nature tested our bodies and patience.

Tso Moriri

This was one of the most memorable road trips in Ladakh. A truly amazing, picturesque view after view, mountain after mountain. Landscapes change with every turn, we were able to see Ladakhi wildlife. The list included Kiang (Tibetan wild ass), Marmot (large squirrels), Yaks, herds of sheep and even wild fox. Don’t forget to take a ton of sunscreen for Tso Moriri is at a height of 14,836 feet.

  • Tso Moriri
    The most picturesque view enroute Tso Moriri aka Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve

Khardung La Pass, Nubra Valley, Siachin Glacier

To reach Nubra Valley, travelers have to cross Khardung la pass which is at a height of 17,582 feet. Similar health problems to that felt in Chang la pass can be seen in travelers here. Like the rest of Ladakhi area, Nubra is known as a high altitude cold desert.

  • khardungla
    Khardungla Top!

I was fortunate enough to see the Siachin Base Camp. This is the second largest glacier and is manned by the Indian Army. Infamous for its territorial dispute, Pakistan has previously tried to take advantage of the ambiguity. Through operation Meghdoot, the Indian army took charge of the key bases around this area in 1984. This move has been the most courageous act by the Indian army in the highest battlefield of the world.

Have a look at a few snippets of my trip.

Side note: On 20th May, we headed to Nubra Valley, Ladakh, one of the stops on our trip. In Hunder, we witnessed the double humped camels being abused by their “caretakers”. This was done by: Using the camels to make money from tourists. Camels were controlled through ropes piercing their nose. These ropes were tugged on… Read more, view the video of the camels, and PLEASE sign the petition. These animals DO NOT have a voice, please give 2 minutes of your time to bring this inhumane treatment of these camels to light.

Hey hashtag, may the force be with you

There has been a lot of buzz earlier this year about how Twitter is probably going to die soon. Several things about Twitter make us almost want to believe that the time has come for this social media giant, but has it really?

At The White House Correspondents’ Dinner just a couple of days ago, US President Obama mentioned Kendall Jenner, the Kardashian sister with over 17 million Twitter followers, admitting “I’m not sure what she does but I’m told my Twitter mentions are about to go through the roof.” When the most powerful man on the planet cares about his Twitter status, it’s reason enough to think twice before shunning your own Twitter presence.

Twitter isn’t just a battleground for political parties and public figures, people like me, or millennials, mostly start using Twitter to keep a track on what their favourite brand, celebrity or influencer are saying – all in real-time.

Initially, I personally treated Twitter as a public diary of sorts, where I shared all articles (even videos) I read up on-line. This way my followers could see what I was interested in and have the option of initiating a conversation with me too. Over the years, I’ve realized that Twitter can be your morning newspaper, your copy of Cosmopolitan and so much more beyond that.

What does Twitter have that others don’t?

Apart from real-time updates, Twitter is more about organic reach than any of the social media giants out there (thanks for the next-to-zero-organic-impressions, Facebook). It is also one of the few platforms that gives the audience direct access to decision-makers and even intrude conversations taking place between strangers.

In fact, people can utilize this platform to connect with people who have similar interests and goals. For instance, early April I participated in a #PRGuru Twitter chat on gender balance in Public Relations. This was a great opportunity to engage with people in the industry I look up to and better yet, share my views with them – directly. Connecting with role models and people who are making a name for themselves in the same industry as yours, gives you the chance to network and make new links – quicker and smoother than ever before.

This brings me to the main question of this article – Are brands wasting their time on Twitter advertisements or is it worth it?

On Twitter, brands have the chance to:

  1. Create a one-on-one connection with the customer
  2. Understand the audience demographics and online personality
  3. Build a long-term relationship with its audience by welcoming feedback at any given point of time, personalized customer-care services, engagement through media campaigns and interest generation via social media contests, new product launches and more

Is trending everything?

Every brand, big or small, wants to be seen. One approach is to trend on Twitter. But how useful is a trending hashtag? There are several digital marketing companies that generate engagement through conversation between a group of people or ‘influencers’ on Twitter. They use the required hashtag in their tweets to increase hashtag visibility.

No doubt, there are some ridiculous hashtags out there. In fact, I encourage you to share some of the most absurd ones you’ve come across in the comment section below for entertainment purposes, of course. Having said that, trending does serve a purpose, if done right. There have been several noteworthy viral hashtags like Housing.com’s #LookUp campaign, Prime Minister Modi’s #SelfieWithDaughter campaign, and the much-celebrated #ShareTheLoad campaign by Ariel – which was even shared on her social media by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg.

While trending might be the big prize in the end, it is important for brands to focus on the quality of content which prove to be the essence of media campaigns. As a brand, be sure to understand the audience contributing in creating your trending hashtag and the nature of the trending conversation.

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Image courtesy – Pexels