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Personal Branding

The need for a courageous conversation

The great British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote the following in 1916 during the First world War: “To all who are capable of new impressions and fresh thought, some modification of former beliefs and hopes has been brought by the war. What the modification has been has depended, in each case, upon character and circumstance; but in one form or another it has been almost universal.” I think that we can apply Russell’s words to the current situation as well. The Covid-19 pandemic is causing massive havoc and devastation. Millions of people across the globe are being pushed back into extreme poverty and hardship. No-one will be left completely untouched by the pandemic. It is in times of great upheaval and uncertainty that we are forced to reassess, on a fundamental level, who we are and where we are going with our lives.

One thing that cannot be taken away from us is our freedom to choose how we react to any situation. We can choose to act as victims and become paralysed and passive and fall deeper into the prevalent blaming culture. But we can also choose to react and take responsibility for our lives. How we respond will always and at the deepest level be driven by how we see ourselves. As Russell so eloquently points out to us; this is where character comes into play. How we react to circumstances in life is no accident. We react true to the character we have created. True to the picture or brand we hold ourselves to be. We can choose to let this happen at a subconscious level or we can take the responsibility to become actively aware of the picture that guides our behaviour. It is only when we become aware of this self-concept that drives our behaviour that we can change it.

A good starting point for this process of re-aligning our actions with who we really are, is to describe who we want to be. To have a courageous conversation with ourselves. To become aware of how others experience us. To decide how we want to leave others feeling after they have engaged with us, after they have experienced our brands. There is not a lot that one individual can do to change the current chaotic and absurd situation we find ourselves in today. But we can take a hundred percent control of the world inside of ourselves. To do this, we first need to become aware of what we are thinking and the impact of our thoughts on us.

Now is the opportune time to envisage who we want to be after the storm has settled, and to align our behaviour with the aspirational self-concept. Or in modern everyday language; to become aware of our Personal Brand and to live up to the promise associated with the brand. Our future success or failure on a personal and professional level is connected to this at a fundamental level.

A discussion on this topic was held as a virtual meeting on 27 August 2020. The following points summarise the outcome of the exchange between participants:

  • The questions “who I want to be?” and “what I am?” define a personal brand
  • Consider carefully whether a personal brand ever meant something for you 
  • Drivers of credibility are identified as: trust, authenticity, transparency, affirmation, listening, and responsiveness 
  • The brand-view-reality gap needs to be addressed 
  • The gap is between who you are and how people see you.
  •  Business is about trust, and trust flows from a noble personal brand
  • The person you are today should be the person you are tomorrow
  • Two preceding components to a personal brand need to be considered: your own life philosophy relating to your value system and your subconscious image, that is what you broadcast and how it is accepted
  • Your external physical image portrays your personal brand
  • It has become critical to have a social media brand (your electronic brand), but it may portray a false you
  • Branding is a continuous process, whilst a trademark is a static and finished condition 
  • There should always be growth of a personal brand 
  • The brand describes the integrity of the product, you are a product in society 
  • You must be true to your essence of existence 
  • Be careful of systems, like educational systems, that often force people to conformity 
  • Align who you are with what you do, then you are on the right way 
  • Branding is often not personal, but could be group branding 
  • Project who you want to be, not what the group expects of you
  • Promises do not count but what you are and what you do 
  • Beware of false images – the Photoshop principle 
  • It may be interesting to consider how an artificial intelligence engine judge a brand of a person 
  • Beware of superficial packaging of what is inside you, this may be misleading people 
  • Wisdom sees through camouflage 
  • Beware, a personal brand may hurt you more than build you
  • To be popular is not always sustainable
  • What sustains a brand is to be true to yourself, happy inside, and being seen for what you are 
  • Personal branding means internal reflection and having constant discussions with yourself 
  • Personal branding is often a lonely path – it requires spiritual freedom and maturity 
  • Personal branding is about what is deeply embedded, it reminds of the chorus from Peter Sarstedt’s song “Where do you go to my lovely?”

Jaco Boëttger is a Change Management, Leadership and Organisational Development consultant, with 3 decades of experience. He has worked with organisations  in over 26 countries. His  main focus is on helping organizations manage change, optimise the opportunities it presents, and make it work for them. Author of “Breakfast with Leonard”, a book on making Africa a winning continent, and also co-authored “Visual Knowledge Management”, a book on change and inspirational leadership. A more recent book “The Messenger” is a work on Liberation Management and Future Fitness.”

Mobile +27 82 651 9349 | email: | Web: | LinkedIn: Jaco Boëttger

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