What does it take to differentiate yourself? How can you draw on your strengths and help others in their quest for success? I had the opportunity to chat with Tinu Cherian Abraham, a social media champion and global PR & communications professional who has been featured in a 40 under 40 listing of PR leaders. With a huge following on Twitter, he has also made a mark for himself through his opinions on a wide range of topics from social issues to politics. I spoke to him on his views on personal branding. Read on.
- What according to you is personal branding?
Personal Branding is the way to differentiate yourself from the rest. I believe it is how people perceive you in a crowd. You need to play to your strengths. To me, building my personal brand wasn’t a conscious effort initially. At the end of the day, you need to provide value to people.
2. When was the realization that you are a personal brand?
Realization dawned on me towards late 2009 that people do see me differently as an influencer. They slowly started warming to my views more publicly. People treated me differently and valued my strengths. I was active on Twitter, and I was one of the early adopters of the medium and the Internet in the first place. I had a point of view on everything under the Sun and slowly people began to listen.
3. What does one do to go about building a personal brand?
It came as a natural process. I was experimenting on a few areas, on the online medium. I wasn’t a natural public speaker and therefore the online world worked well for me. The Internet was my strength and I had created my own website in the late 90s. Twitter changed the game for me and made my presence much larger since it played to my strengths. I had a point of view on most topics, especially politics and current affairs. You need to discover your strengths and continue sharpening it. For example, I noticed some Twitter celebrities using humor online. I tried my hand at it and failed. Realized that humor must come naturally and not everyone can pull it off. If you try faking what you’re not, your brand will eventually fall apart, and reputation will take a hit.
4. What are the attributes of a personal brand?
The key aspect is to be unique and have a point of view. When people reach out to you, help them the best possibly way you can. When people seek you for your expertise or knowledge, be kind and spend your time helping them. Be resourceful. Play to your strengths and build an identity. Personal branding isn’t a short-term goal. You need to stay for the long haul.
5. How did you know it was working?
In my case, there were instances of trial and error to understand my own strengths and weakness. I mentioned the episode of attempting humor, which didn’t work for me. Once you have a strong point of view, people follow you. I have many politicians, journalists, celebrities and various influencers also following me which is probably an indication of my personal brand progressing.
6. Based on your observations and learning who according to you is a personal brand?
I find politicians like Shashi Tharoor and our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi as huge personal brands in their own rights.
7. What characteristics do you admire about them?
I admire their leadership qualities and oratory skills. In the case of Shashi Tharoor, his grasp of the language and vocabulary is excellent. While with PM Modi, he is an excellent orator and able to influence his audience.
8. What steps did you take to build your brand?
My personal brand was built both online and offline. Online came first and then the influence was felt and built offline. Once there was momentum online, people began to reach out. I make it a point to meet the people in person, whom I know online as well.
9. What challenges did you face while building a personal brand?
With growing popularity, you end up making not just friends and admirers but also enemies or displeased people. There will be lots of critics, but you need to realize that you can’t please everyone. If you have a unique style, it may not go well with all people. There are those are making constructive criticism and those who are more virulent. It is best to listen to everyone but ignore those comments and suggestions that aren’t helpful.
10. What did you lose in the process of building a personal brand?
There are downsides to building a personal brand. You need to stay grounded or the situation can turn bad. Be kind, be yourself and be the same as before. If you think you are a celebrity, that’s when you will fall. Continue doing what you do best.
11. How do you keep yourself ground?
Don’t go by praises around. Built a personal brand based on uniqueness and genuineness. Don’t pretend to be someone else. Be nice and don’t let your personal brand go to your head.
12. How can someone starting from scratch build a personal brand? What is the first step he or she must take?
Identity yourself and know what your strengths and weaknesses are. For example, I know I am not a natural public speaker but can do a lot more online. Something that worked for one person will not work for all. Be authentic. Invest time since every brand is built over time.
13. If you had the opportunity to change something about the way you built your personal brand, what would that be?
I would have loved to have been a public speaker and should have sharpened my skills aggressively in that domain. It always helps to be a good speaker, while building a personal brand.
14. What is your recipe for personal branding success?
Be authentic – it can take you further. Sometimes you don’t know what you are, and that discovery is important.
15. Who according to you are personal brands whom others can follow and learn from?
I would think of Kiruba Shankar, one of the earliest bloggers and Ramesh Srivats, very humorous in his engagement and quite successful.
16. Any advice for the millennials and the next Gen?
Personal brands are not created overnight. It requires a lot of sacrifices. It takes a lot to pursue building your brand while you also have your commitments in your family and professional work.
Liked this interview? Please do share your feedback and comments and send it to others who can benefit.
Here are some Personal Branding resources that I curated for the benefit of everyone:
- Take a FREE assessment on personal branding.
- Refer to the 3C model on Personal Branding
- Sign up for a 60-minute personalized chat on personal branding
- Personal branding for corporate communicators
Missed the earlier interview? Read the interview with Muqbil Ahmar and share your thoughts.