PR professional, brand thyself!

It's always been a bit of an irony that Indian PR professionals who help brand the corporate world have only just recently started thinking about their own personal brands. To understand branding at various levels of your career, PRmoment India spoke to industry professionals for their views, here are their top tips.

Aniisu K Verghese, senior corporate and employee communications leader and author says, " Personal branding is the art of differentiating yourself while making people around you successful in what they do. It is not about self-promotion."

Aniisu admires UK's Dr Kevin Ruck or his consistent deep expertise on employee voice

Says Aniisu, "I recommend a three-pronged approach – which I call the '3C Model to Personal Branding: Clarity, Commitment and Consistency' with a view to build expertise, add value and reinvent yourself. The connecting thread is communication, that helps share progress as one builds their personal brand."

Aniisu says its most important to be consistent, " To build an authentic personal brand, you need to align what you say with what you do. Any mismatch will lead to erosion of credibility."

Just started your PR career?

"At the entry level, it’ll be about highlighting one’s capabilities, of the skill set one brings to the table – to tell the ecosystem around them – “this is what I can do for you – use me effectively!” " says journalist turned entrepreneur and communications consultant, George Koshy.  

George also says to avoid, "Listening to instructions, landing-up with a cute puppy face at every beck and call of our seniors."

Don't fake it till you make it, says Sushmita

Sushmita Bandopadhyaycommunications leader, BD India, has simple but powerful advice, "Identify your 'True North' and be known for it. Own it, define it and sustain it.

Middle Management branding

This is when things become interesting. What you do here can define your role at the top.

George says at the middle level, "Personal branding helps set oneself apart from peers. This is the moment in a person’s career when you need to highlight successes and use something I’ve coined over years as a ‘pedestal approach’ to dealing with everyday life. Think of placing your work station (an open one at that) at the centre of the office and overlooking your boss’ cabin as well as at the centre of the entire office. This is a bold step – everyone would know the time you step into the office, the time you leave work and how you spend your time working."

For Smita Malve, senior account manager, Media Mantra it is also important to', "Share what you have learned and earned, especially with younger colleagues."

Vinod Harikumar, vice president, Claruz Digital, has an effective etiquette technique to establish his brand, "I try to respond to every message or query that comes my way. I believe that nobody is that 'busy'. It is all about prioritization."
Avoid bad mouthing, advises Urmimala

Urmimala Dutta, senior manager corporate communications, Tata Motors, says, "The industry is getting increasingly competitive and aggressive each day. Even a hint of weakness is quickly identified and used against you. The key is to be alert, sound confident and be constantly visible. The initial months are the most critical because that's when you make your mark. Need to take up challenging projects and showcase your work latitudinally and longitudinally. Also bringing in innovation makes people take notice."

Malvika Mudgal, manager, corporate communications, Eli Lilly, feels, "The rule of thumb is– align your persona with a platform that complements you. video savvy? YouTube; picture savvy? Instagram/ Snapchat; short form content – Twitter; long-form content and opinions – LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs."

Its Network, network and network!

Separate personal opinions from the company you work with


Malvika also shared her offline branding tips, even though she says its tougher than online branding, but ultimately more critical and credible, " It takes time and efforts to develop this kind of visibility both with internal and external stakeholders – and eventually these people become messengers of your branding through positive word-of-mouth. Internal stakeholders for me are brand teams, sales teams, business units, function groups and company leadership. This branding is driven purely by delivering on one parameter – what value to I bring to the table for each stakeholder?"

Anup Sharma, senior director, PRCAI, agrees with the importance of offline branding, saying, "I have used platforms beyond just the PR Industry to showcase my work working in the area of multiple stakeholders engagement. I have also always believed in face to face meetings hence I attend and curate various events which gives me a chance to not only share my work but also learn from other experts."

Pranshu Sikka -CEO and founder at The Pivotals also recommends a similar strategy, saying, "Don’t hide behind your screen; go out and network. Keep your business card handy, and go out there. Attend conferences, events or meet with people from your industry. Face-to-face communication will pack a bigger punch for your personal brand than just a tweet."

Senior Leadership branding tips

For Ena Chakravorty, head- PR & corporate communications, at Laxmikumaran & Sridharan, the trick is to, " Be visible: A lot of time we feel that they are known well enough amongst their peers. They forget that their target audience might be wider than they expect. Hence, it is important to be constantly visible in wider groups."

Neha Jain - VP & head, communications and marketing, RBS India says, "At a senior level, it is important to be positioned as a professional who is constantly in tune with the CXO and organisation's vision and goals, and delivers outcomes to add value to those goals. This will ensure all organisational decision making will have you as a key influencer, as you will eventually, come to be recognised as the driver of some of those goals."

Moushumi Dutt, senior corporate communication professional, who has recently moved to being an independent consultant has clear cut tips. She suggests, " Avoid playing into hierarchies and keep in mind that the next brood of leaders will emerge from the middle to senior level folks, this is what made my transition from an in- house communications leader to an independent consultant extremely seamless and completely collaborative."

Moushumi adds, "If you believe or do not believe into something that is being said or done, speak up, but be firm and polite. A lot of what you say and how is what makes your personal brand."

Richard Branson's personal brand takes over his company brand and is reflective of him

Ruchika Mehta (left), corporate director – communications and PR, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels Limited, is a person who is well respected by both her PR colleagues and journalists. Her mantra for personal branding is to, "Always be available to mentor and provide counsel to young PR practitioners."

Things you shouldn't do in personal branding

Sushmita says this is one time when you should not try to fake it till you make it advising, "Don’t fake it if you don’t have it."

Moushumi warns, "Be careful that while in the pursuit of building one's personal brand, your narrative doesn't come across as "I am the diva and I know it all and this is what I did, and what a great PR professional I am."

Kulpreet Vesuna, founder and MD, Impact PR, agrees that" Too much about ‘Me’ is a big mistake. Others whom you promote, make you big and an exaggerated sense of self-importance only makes your critic happy."

And above all, as Shravani Dang, independent company director and personal branding expert suggest, "Be patient and consistent."

Copy worthy PR icons 

Shreya Banda, independent PR consultant says she " Likes Vivek Suchanti from Concept, there are a very few flamboyant men in the PR industry and even if there are any only a few can carry their flamboyance well, Vivek is certainly one of them. I also think Sheran Mehra who heads Corporate Communication at DBS does a great job at personal branding. I still remember during one of our meetings she mentioned that she had to make a powerpoint presentation about herself - the title first slide blew my mind (SHE-RAN, Sheran is a marathoner)."

Anup names two people as professional with a great personal brand in PR. He says, "Dilip Cherian has created his own brand as that of an "Image Guru and policy expert" and he lives up to it through his columns on bureaucracy (Dilli Ka Babu)  and with his unconventional corporate dressing in a crisp Kurta Pyjama. Godrej's Sujit Patil's energy and cooperation is seen at all Industry platforms where he not only acts as the 'unofficial' industry spokesperson but also encourages the younger fraternity by sharing PR case- studies besides collaborating and supporting all PR events."

Outside the world of PR, Vinod admires Manu Kumar Jain, the managing director of Xiaomi India. Vinod says, "He is utilizing all the platforms that he is on, to tell his story about Xiaomi. Manu (I don't even mind calling him Manu, because I feel like I know him personally!) knows his audience and talks in a language that serves the purpose. If you really look at it; he is even going to a level of branding, where every photo of him that you find out there has his signature smile and no other expressions!

Malvika says she admires, "Prashant Kishor because his personal branding is driven by people around him. Thought leaders, political Pundits, industry experts, marketers, media – all want to talk about his strategies. This is perhaps the best confluence of offline and online branding."

Malvika adds, "Closer home, I also admire Nitin Mantri, CEO Avian Media, for the work he does at personal branding and also adding credibility to the public relations and public affairs industry as a whole."

Smita says, "One name which immediately strikes my mind is Amith Prabhu, "Amith is one of the key people who contributed a lot for helping the Indian PR industry gets its due recognition."

    If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our weekly event and subscriber alerts.