Dr. Amit Nagpal is the one of the pioneers of blogging in the country. As the President @Bloggers Alliance, a keynote speaker, storyteller and author of Amazon bestseller he hasreceived Dr S Radhakrishnan Memorial National Media Network Award 2017 for contributions to online media and was the ASMA Blogger of the year award in 2017. He currently serves as the President @Bloggers Alliance and has partnered with NASSCOM.
“Personal Branding is a process of communicating your unique strengths, and how you add value to another people’s life. In the process, you identify your brand positioning and how do you want to be seen. You identify your brand values, a unique way in which you see your customers, and then you consistently communicate your message to your audience. That consistency builds your brand for those you know that particular brand position”, says Dr. Amit.
- What according to you is personal branding?
I have been in the domain of personal branding and storytelling. For almost 10 years now. In fact, I was an unconscious storyteller in childhood, and I became a conscious storyteller in my adulthood. So, I was always a storyteller and, you know, of course branding and storytelling go together in the best way to build brands, so that your stories. Personal Branding is a process of communicating your unique strengths, and how you add value to another people’s life. In the process, you identify your brand positioning and how do you want to be seen. You identify your brand values, a unique way in which you see your customers, and then you consistently communicate your message to your audience. That consistency builds your brand for those you know that particular brand position.
2. Do you consider yourself a personal brand? How do you know it?
The day your parents give you a name you have a personal brand. The question is – what you must do to develop a strong personal brand. that now that is the question. When coach my clients on personal branding sometimes I joke, you know, before the work starts flowing in, you will start getting a lot of inquiries from NGOs who would you like to donate. Because when you start appearing successful, you will attract the attention of nonprofits and you know they want you to donate and help them. And then, of course, the work would flow in – which is a very important part of knowing you are building a personal brand. Sharing anecdotes talks about the success stories. So even supposing you are a coach and you have got your first coaching client. You can share certain stories about that experience and create that trust in your audience.
3. What does one do to go about building a personal brand?
I would say the first step, is to identify your brand positioning you want to be known as a coach or a trainer or a business development professional. So, once you identify your positioning. Then, the next step is to create content in the format of videos, presentations, If you are a cartoonist, maybe in the form of cartoons and logos or microblogs The kind of platform suitable for you will again depend upon your profession. For example, if you are an interior designer, or an architect, then Pinterest is a very powerful platform for you to show your skills.
4. What are the attributes of a personal brand? And what do people associate your brand with?
The most important keyword which people would associate with me is: storyteller. That’s the primary key word. The secondary keywords are inspirational storytelling, digital storytelling, brand storytelling, the storytelling through anecdotes and human storytelling through blogs. Primarily people identify as a storyteller.
5. Based on your observations and learning who according to you is a personal brand? What characteristics do you admire about them?
I would say, many amongst us have developed strong personal brands. In fact, I have compiled 33 such stories in my recent book – Heroes Amongst Us. So I thought I would share some of my favorites from that book. One of them is Harjeet Khanduja – Vice President HR of Reliance Jio. What I particularly admire about him is he writes short five six liner stories on LinkedIn. These posts get 1500 – 2000 likes. He shared very powerful messages in a succinct manner. Secondly, I personally also like that he has mastery of storytelling. We relate to a story when we see ourselves in it. He can get people to relate easily. Even when the story is about someone else or in some other form.
6. What steps did you take to build your brand? How do you know it is working?
Some of the important milestones in my career (and I say that I in personal branding for nearly 10 years) was completing my MBA in 1995, in marketing. It was the beginning of my journey because I started, you know, studying marketing as a subject and personal branding is actually about self-marketing. After that I worked for a couple of years in the corporate world. It teaches you a lot of lessons in terms of efficiency and effectiveness and leading people and so on, which are important for your brand. Then I started teaching and training beginning in 2003. I started teaching at Pondicherry University and then with ICFAI for a few years. A very important milestone was when our team developed digital marketing content for an MBA Institute. It was building digital marketing content and completing my PhD on television news audiences that was fulfilling. I had realized that television channels were using social media and digital tools and my PhD was on digital media. When I finished my PhD I started creating this content on digital marketing for an MBA Institute. I dug deeper into digital marketing, what are the tools and approaches to using it. In 2010 I opened by account on Twitter. I started my blogging and content creation on Facebook. I started an email series and a series on the joys of teaching. There was my combination of my experiences as a teacher, which I was sharing with my friends on email, or that I had started in 2009. When I started off, I already had 40 to 50 stories ready for my blog and. No wonder I was listed among the best blogs in the world in six months of it getting listed. Then, of course, the next step was I started working as a personal branding coach. I realized that storytelling is the most powerful way of building brands. The American way of building personal brand doesn’t work in India because, self-promotion doesn’t come easily for Indians. We are also not an individualistic society like in the West. We have communities and cultures. That is a second aspect so that you know we must talk about what we are contributing to the society as part of our personal branding. in India, we don’t mean what we say and we don’t say what we mean – since we are contextual culture. And if I go to somebody’s house and if the person says – would you like to have a cup of tea? I would say no – please don’t trouble yourself and then he says – I am also feeling like having a cup and then I say okay we’ll do that. So that this is in Indian culture so that would be another kind of straightforwardness which is not appreciated enough. So, you know, that’s like inspirational storytelling I realized solves all these challenges. You create a win-win situation as a storyteller, for yourself and for the audience where your audience get something interesting to read. Watch your branding activity in the process. Inspirational storytelling is the most powerful personal branding tool in it.
7. What challenges did you face while building a personal brand? What techniques did you use?
Some of the major challenges started early in my life. The first challenge was when I went to school, I realized I had high myopia – which they call medically as congenital high myopia. So, because of that when I was in school and have games I needed to sit out. At the age of five. Now the challenge because of those spectacles I was almost boycotted from outdoor sports, at least from competitions. Nobody wanted me in the team! That was an obstacle which I ended up converting into an opportunity because I started reading more books to develop better knowledge. I became an academic topper in school as well in extra-curricular activities like debates, etc. The second challenge was when I started out as a personal branding professional in 2011. Those were very tough times. In the first year I remember, nobody was ready to take my free coaching, because no one understood personal branding. It is a common practice that, maybe in the first year of practice you would give a lot of free coaching so that you would find your own style. Then you take whatever learning to get better. So that was a big challenge. And then, after two years then I started realizing that despite me trying hard I wasn’t successful because I was trying to implement the American approach to personal branding from Americans and it doesn’t work in our context.
8. What did you gain in the process? What did you lose?
Some of the gains during this journey has been the opportunity to build a stronger brand. The stronger your networking, the better it gets. Today I have 15,000 followers on Twitter. I have been active in logging in LinkedIn for so many years. So, if I send a message to a center head of a certain university that I would like to meet you. I get an appointment quickly. So that credibility has been established. And I can meet very senior people very easily, so that is the advantage. A lot of times in fact I’ve written a couple of anecdotes and sometimes people meet me due to that connection. There was one incident when I was a little surprised as to why this person was getting so friendly. I was meeting him for the first time and then he said that “I have read so many of your stories that you may not be familiar with me, but I know you”. It’s interesting when people start connecting with you because of your studies. I can say I have gained a lot of connections, relationships and professional credibility.
9. How can someone starting from scratch build a personal brand? What is the first step he or she must take?
Do trial and error in the beginning. The best place to do this on Facebook. I tried it with close friends and family – can make a fool of yourself if you can trust close people. I come up a new idea, a new story and am excited to share and go and post on Facebook. I make a 2nd and 3rd edit and this is something which is worth sharing beyond Facebook as a platform, then it goes on Linkedin.
10, If you had the opportunity to change something about the way you built your personal brand, what would that be?
Reminds me of something interesting. When u evolve and grow as a person, you also feel differently about your own past. The joint blogging with American friends was an interesting episode. Facebook has a habit of showing you memories from the past and when I reflect on the content I wrote then; I think I was an idiot.
11. What is your recipe for personal branding success?
Your story is your brand
12. With COVID19 and other crises what steps can personal brands take?
At this stage you would have noticed a lot of best universities are offering free courses. There are people who offer services and 100% of the proceeds go to the Prime Minister’s Care Fund. So, you know, whatever you are doing at this point of time, depending upon your, choices or depending upon your financial comfort level it is good to offer a certain percentage of whatever you earn. It is enough to donate to do good and contribute to the society, especially at this point of time. In fact, Bloggers Alliance decided to hire, and we got 10 interns, this year. And these interns are from premier Institutes. And some of these internships were finalized only a week back because a lot of internships were cancelled by large organizations. I had taught these students about personal branding and of course as a teacher you have a soft corner for the students. Alliance has a tie up with NASSCOM Community. These interns write on finance or HR or Tech and other emerging areas. We guide, promote and help them – through networking and social media. In fact, five students have already started their internship with me and another five would be joining shortly.
13. What’s your advice for youngsters (Gen Z and others) who want to consider their personal brands?
The young generation has one strength and one weakness. The strength is, they would be more of digital natives and I would be more of a digital immigrant. So they are more comfortable with the medium. Sometimes it happens in my classes that a student knows Instagram better than me. Another student knows Pinterest better than me and a third student all, maybe, Facebook better than me because they have focused only on one platform. Now, what I do is I involve these students in co-learning in the class. This expertise and comfort levels with digital is the strength of this generation. The weakness is, that there is a certain wisdom which comes with age and maturity. They need to control their enthusiasm and they have to look towards the older people to learn. I always tell my students when you are angry, depressed, frustrated etc do not sit on social media. The leading cyber law lawyer of India has written in one article that Indians have a habit of vomiting on social. We are sharing too much of personal frustrations. I will share one interesting incident with you as I was going for a morning walk. There was a lady and her daughter, and I overheard their conversation. The mother was holding the daughter and asking ‘why did you write on Facebook of you feeling lonely?’ And I think this is the problem of this generation. I don’t know and I not sure why. Probably because the parents are partying or we are busy with smartphones or you know whatever the reason is. There is an increased sense of loneliness within the family.
Liked this interview? Please do share your feedback and comments.
Keen to get ahead with your personal brand? Here are some resources:
- 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 episodes? Read the interviews with Muqbil Ahmar, Tinu Cherian Abraham, Joseph Fernandez, Christina Daniels,Karthik Srinivasan,Gautam Ghosh, Alexander Michael Gittens, Mubeen Azeez, Itzik Amiel, Mangal D Karnad, Abhijit Bhaduri, Sandeep K Krishnan PhD, Scott Shirai, Sunil Robert, Latha Vijaybaskar PhD and Abha Maryada Banerjee online and share your thoughts.