Prabir Jha: Strong personal brands don’t really need a résumé
Personal branding has been a much used strategy among entrepreneurs and independent professionals, but it is now a must for all. Strong individual brand recall, says Prabir Jha, president and global chief people officer of drug maker Cipla Inc., “does not really depend on your corporate affiliation. It stands tall irrespective of the employer brand”.
Jha should know. He is one of the most recognized and followed chief human resource officers (CHROs) globally. A regular among the most highly viewed professionals in India on LinkedIn, with almost half a million followers, Jha has over three decades of people management experience across industries, including stints with Reliance Industries Ltd, Tata Motors Ltd and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd.
In a phone interview, Jha deconstructs personal branding and shares tips and techniques on building and marketing one’s personal brand effectively. Edited excerpts:
What is personal branding, and what is it not?
Personal branding is not self-proclamation of what one believes is one’s worth. It is an external assessment of one’s worth, reputation and standing.
There are so many people doing similar jobs, how do you stand out and become shelf-worthy beyond your limited workplace? In essence, personal branding clearly communicates the unique promise of value through our personal attributes, skills and reputation to the target audience.
Why does one need a strong personal branding strategy?
In a hyper-competitive talent market, much like products and services, the consumers have a choice. And no one has the time to do thorough due diligence before they decide. Like any other consumer, the talent consumer also typically looks at the “branded” talent as its shortlist. Moreover, for this brand, the consumer is willing to pay a premium. To get a fair recall and a ticket to play, personal brands become very important for career success.
How can one create, build and market their personal brand?
To begin with, one must build a strong record of sustained impact and performance. It is easy to do well once or with one firm, one manager, or one set of stakeholders. However, it is difficult to excel every time, everywhere and with various stakeholder groups. With this fundamental premise in place, one must work at a personal leadership reputation. How is one perceived by various stakeholder groups? Not everyone makes the cut here. But inter-personal and social/emotional skills, charisma, humility, people-connect are very useful in building a strong personal brand. Equally, it helps if you are seen as a thought leader. Articles in reputed journals, lecture circuits and, increasingly, a strong social media reputation help reinforce a strong brand reputation.
What sort of opportunities and challenges does a digital, hyper-connected and changing world of work throw up for personal branding?
It is a double-edged sword. It has democratized personal branding opportunities. One can reach a huge target catchment across the world at the click of a button. The interconnected networks can multiply the visibility and influence of one’s brand.
On the other hand, it also makes a brand open and vulnerable to public scrutiny. Small slips can get magnified in a moment. Not every action or view of yours will get everyone’s endorsement. Dealing with trolls can be emotionally draining. And like any other brand, it runs the risk of getting stale unless consciously attended to. This takes effort and time, creativity and commitment. Not everyone is able to play this well.
Is your personal brand your only job title? What role does it play in career advancement?
While some senior executive roles can help amplify the personal brand, some strong personal brands are not the ones who have a big job title. It is about creating your recall, building your influence with what you do for who you do. With social media, just about anyone can hope to create a strong, purposeful and differentiated brand recall.
A strong personal brand, however, does help the cause of careers. I have tweeted about this recently. Reputation today precedes a résumé. Strong personal brands do not really need a résumé. Their individual brand recall does not really depend on their current corporate affiliation. It stands tall irrespective of the brand of their employer. Talent too wants to work with strong personal brands. Increasingly, more than the corporation, the individual brand of the manager has become a choice factor for talent. Hence, corporations find it a smarter option to have strong personal brands on their team to accelerate their talent infusion needs.
How does one know that their personal brand is getting dusty and that it needs rework?
It is really tough to build a strong personal brand and even tougher to hold on to one! Sometimes, brands get stale. Sometimes, they lose their contextual relevance. Sometimes, competitor brands offer a nuanced attraction. Being clued into the quantity and quality of followers is a good metric. Do people still reach out as much for advice as before? Are you still as sought after for sharing thought leadership views? Do you deep down feel that you are losing context and connect?
These are all early warning signals. This is the moment to start reflecting on how one would need to reposition oneself on the appropriate shelves. Or, undertake an altogether new brand exercise, very different from what it was thus far. It could be in another field or area of interest. One could also look at refining the feeder lines to your existing brand so that it draws in newer interest from existing or newer catchments. The game is about imagination, reimagination and a lot of honest effort, both substantive and perceptual.