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Stand out like you mean it

Dubbed a ‘brand psychologist’, Mary van de Wiel talks about having the courage and the willingness to stand out.

Q. What does personal brand mean to you?

We’re all experiencing a huge paradigm shift right now in the way we do business. In such an oversaturated marketplace, your personal brand is really about communicating that you are who you say you are. It’s about demonstrating the kind of value you bring to the table through emotional messaging.

Take graduates, for example. They can’t expect to land a job any more, just like that. Instead, they’re required to bring more value to the table and demonstrate their potential.

What’s more, so much of our lives are lived online and offline, so the matter of trust becomes critical.

It’s more important than ever to create an energy around your brand where you’re seen to be trustworthy, a high potential thinker and can bring a different perspective to the business table. Don’t ever be afraid of your own ideas, just let them flow in a constructive way.

Q. How can people start on a personal branding path?

It comes down to mindset. In this over-competitive marketplace, what is going to differentiate you from the person next to you? Once you understand who you are, what you stand for and why it matters, your personal brand starts to develop and others will notice the difference, for sure.

I remember at a conference recently I asked the audience how many personal brands were sitting in the room. I saw only 20 out of 500 hands go up.

They obviously didn’t recognise that they had influence, visibility and an identity – and that’s their personal brand. All it needs is to stand out and shine.

You can be seen to have big ideas and care about what’s going on in the workplace without trying to be arrogant or manipulative. Don’t cringe when you have an idea and pull back – stand out instead. Use simple language and talk firmly and openly.

Q. Do you think HR capability has changed at the same rate as communication and branding?

Absolutely. People everywhere want to be more connected. Why else are there one billion people on Facebook? It’s all about the human desire to be connected.

If you understand this desire for connection, then you understand why employees are looking to have these connections and how to make it easier for them.

What can possibly be more about human potential than the HR space? To me, HR represents the heartbeat of an organisation because it’s where you can make a significant difference in people’s lives.

Self worth is critical in leadership, clearly! If people have an inner sense of worth, they reflect a quiet confidence.

Wanting to make a difference also comes down to the willingness to be transparent and vulnerable. Vulnerability is about being human, and it can be the biggest source of strength and power.

My definition of branding? It’s a feeling others have about you – what you do, why it matters and, of course, why anyone should give a damn. Branding is one of the most challenging things for some people to do.

I hope HR practitioners see that branding as an exhilarating process and an exciting prospect.

Mary van de Wiel will be speaking at the 2014 AHRI National Convention & Exhibition. Her presentation, ‘Five Clues – The Art of Transformation: From Personal Brand to Leadership Brand’, is on 21 August 2014. Registrations close 7 August 2014.

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