“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.” These are the words of branding guru Tom Peters – and this was also the main message of a talk on personal branding and leadership geared towards Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s top academic achievers.
The 65 student attendees from all seven faculties of the university – all of whom are recipients of NMMU‘s prestigious Vice Chancellor’s Scholarships – learned how branding oneself links to employability or, more specifically, attracting the employer one wants.
“Personal brands allow individuals to differentiate themselves – we’re all brands,” said keynote speaker Andrew Mackenzie, creative director at strategic brand agency Boomtown. “Your brand results from a set of associations in people’s minds, based on the content that comes across that relates to you. If you’re not branding yourself, others are doing it for you.”
Mackenzie said our personal brands included three key aspects: our identity, which is who we are, where we come from and what drives us; our personality, which is how we behave, how we dress and the attitudes we keep; and our experience. “Think about the types of professional relationships you want, what you want to be known for, and what your personal goals are. A lived personal brand conveys unique value and differentiates you from the crowd.”
He encouraged students to define their audience and then broadcast their brand accordingly – literally get their names out there – through websites, blogs, forums, traditional media and social media like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram and YouTube.
“Start generating content to get people interested.
“Make yourself findable. Connect all your social media, e.g. Twitter to Facebook to Instagram, cultivate relationships, donate your expertise to a cause, develop a visible platform and start or join conversations.”
He also warned the students that whatever they placed on social media could potentially be the catalyst for brand erosion. “Be very careful what you plant there – avoid things that are controversial. Remember that you don’t own social media, your audience does – anyone can comment – so be very careful about how you communicate.”
“The talk was thought-provoking and very creative,” said fourth-year BPsych student Rachael Williams.
Fourth-year BCom (Rat) student Kirsty Fouche said high academic achievers like the VC scholars tended to forget that they needed to “build themselves as well”. “You have to be out there meeting people … Especially in a small place like Port Elizabeth, it’s important to have a good reputation and a positive brand.”
VCS Leadership Development Programme coordinator Elize Naude started the programme three years ago for VC Scholars in the School of Accounting and it has since been extended to include all faculties. She said she was thrilled at the high level of student interest. “The leadership and mentoring programme focuses not only on developing academic ability, but also professional protocol. That students enjoy and appreciate this is evident from the high turnout at this off-campus event. We are preparing them – in the spirit of NMMU – ‘for work and for life’.”
Author: Nicky Willemse
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