When you strike out and do things differently, break the mould or ‘go it alone’, creating a strong personal brand is often something that happens by default. It is certainly something I never set out to intentionally do, but since venturing out as a freelance legal marketing consultant, I want to ensure people know who I am and what I stand for. It is perhaps due to my ‘vocal’ nature on social media I was asked to host a networking circle on the subject on ‘Your personal brand as a leader of disruption’ for She Breaks The Law’s launch event last week.
If you are not yet familiar with She Breaks The Law, this is a fantastic new network for women leaders who are challenging the norm in the world of law. From female founders to those working in disruptive start-ups, general counsel and leaders of innovation in traditional law firms, the theme is a common one – these women are leading change in the way that legal services are delivered. It was a privilege to facilitate two networking circles with some incredible women who are driving positive change in the legal industry. Here are some key themes and take-aways from those sessions.
What’s it all about?
Firstly, what does ‘having a strong personal brand’ mean? It can mean different things to different people. Your personal brand is personal to you, but it is important to control your own narrative and we have the platforms to be able to do this. So whether you choose to reveal more of the professional you or take to channels to share many aspects of your life and passions, at the end of the day it is that positive, powerful idea that someone has of you when your name is mentioned. It is being clear about your values, your abilities and your actions and what you bring to the table.
The undeniable power of social media
Central to all discussions, naturally, was social media and the role it plays in creating a strong personal brand. I am huge champion for social media and could tell you any number of success stories for businesses, myself and others who have used platforms successfully. But the number of channels and pressure to ‘be present” can be overwhelming. How do you find time to dedicate to social media when you have a day job to do? We discussed not feeling the pressure to be always present and just emit noise, but to focus on sharing content and thought that is authentic, which you are truly passionate about. Not only will this lead to better engagement with your target audience, but it becomes more meaningful for you and will make the whole process more enjoyable. Feeling like you want to share rather than have to share. Whilst social media is not for everyone, the consensus was that it is a quick and powerful route to ensuring your personal brand is out there with the right people.
Putting yourself out there
We talked about ‘taking the leap” and being brave. That when you first launch yourself into the world of social media and writing and sharing content / thought, it takes confidence, but once you have crossed that barrier it becomes easier. As does dealing with challenge. As leaders of disruption, we must be prepared for the fact that there may be disagreement in what we are saying – how do you align that when often we often seek affirmation and praise? Again, it comes back to authenticity. Dealing with challenge is easier when you truly, passionately believe the thought you are commenting on and sharing.
Authenticity and consistency
Authenticity was a key theme across all discussions: understanding why you do what you do and what makes you you, understanding what you care about. It was so eloquently put by one of the circle, that this work needs to come from inside first: we need to be driven by our values and this is what leads to authenticity and consistency in how we promote ourselves. Ask yourself why you do what you do and what makes you you.
Finding the right balance
Something that came up several times was this balance of professional versus personal. How much of “yourself” do you share? We explored the fact that we operate in an industry where people buy people, and having that human aspect to your personal brand is key in making connections that lead to productive business relationships. It is often aspects of your personality and non-professional interests and passions which will lead to connections and meaningful relationships, so there is definite benefit to being multi-faceted. But at the end of the day, personal branding is guess what – personal! We are all going to do it differently. And the beauty of it is that as individuals, we should all be doing it differently. So there are no hard and fast rules.
Reaping the rewards of a strong personal brand
What benefits had people seen from having a strong personal brand? Why do we, as leaders of disruption need to have one? People in the circle discussed a range of benefits. Having a strong presence undoubtedly leads to more profile opportunities which can ultimately lead to career opportunities and ensures you are top of mind. It reinforces your credibility. It gives your strong platform to win hearts and mind when you are striking out in the brave world of legal innovation. For me, working as a freelancer can be isolating, but having a personal brand on Twitter has helped me connect with my ‘tribe’ of likeminded people, who I learn so much from about things that really interest me and who also ensure I get my fill of banter (you know who you are.) As a leader of disruption, it is so important hook into those people who “get” you, can support you and make your journey less lonely.
Driving positive change on all levels
Having a strong personal brand ensures you have credibility, support and a platform to drive positive change, not only in legal, but around other issues that impact on our industry and the world. And whilst we did not get time to discuss this in the networking circles, it is a point I would like to end on. Because having a voice, being seen as any kind of authority in an industry, having a following who engage with you, this is a privileged platform to drive and campaign for change on all levels on issues that affect the world in general.
It’s hard to encapsulate all we covered in two networking circles on this expansive topic which continues to evolve. Coming soon and based on these networking circles: a practical guide on how to approach your personal brand. Watch this space.
She Breaks The Law launched in March 2019 and already has a global membership of 870 and plans for regional chapters across the world, which highlights the need for a space where women in innovation in the legal industry can meet, connect, share stories and provide support. If you would like to join She Breaks The Law and join future events, please join the LinkedIn page on https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8732283/
Helen Burness is a legal marketing consultant with sweet spot for businesses / people in legal looking to do things differently. If you would like to discuss support for you or your business with marketing and business development, drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.