Entrepreneurs' Blog

21 Jun, 2011

10 Ways to build a Powerful and Real Personal Narrative

Posted by: Bev James In: Branding|Business Mentoring|Business Tips|Marketing|Mentor Articles|Mentoring|Millionaire Mentors|Personal Branding|Tips For Success

10 Ways to build a Powerful and Real Personal Narrative by Simon Middleton

You can’t have not heard of the term ‘personal branding’ yet I feel there is a stereotype about it that requires adjusting: many people are going down the wrong road with it and a superficial road at that.

I feel many people would actually benefit from seeing personal brand not as a superficial set of techniques for ‘presenting yourself’ to the world, but as something more profound, which has the potential to help people to reinvent themselves. And for many people who feel stuck or trapped or whose ambitions seem to be impossible to achieve, reinvention is precisely what’s required. What we call our brand is really the collection of perceptions that others have about us.

But it’s not just about what other people think: it’s what you understand about yourself that counts more profoundly, because that governs how you behave, the actions you take, and the reputation that you ultimately create. It’s your life and reputation to manage: and using personal brand in the deepest sense can enable you to do that effectively.

I suggest you consider your personal brand strategy with the same thoroughness that successful companies like Apple, Virgin and others do for their brands. You are a brand too and even if your preference would be not to think of yourself in this way, the reality is that what you do and who you are creates perceptions and feelings in the minds and hearts of others, just like what happens with brands. And your customers are not limited to the people who buy your products or services. Your ‘brand’ customers include your staff, your business associates, your suppliers: everyone with whom you have relationships. So your personal brand really matters.

Take time to look at what you want your purpose to be, whether as an established business owner or newbie start up. From a solid purpose you can then build strategy and a powerful personal narrative. In short, the only way to build a powerful personal brand, one that will actually make a difference to your life, is to do it profoundly and deeply, to actually ‘reinvent’ yourself – authentically to be YOU.

I’ve done this for myself many times. I am a qualified teacher and a registered nurse. I’ve been an advertising agency copywriter and creative director and board director of two successful agencies. I am a serial author and the front man of the roots-country band ‘The Proposition’ and I am founder of a specialist music retailer business ‘Left Hand Bear’ which serves left-handed musicians all over the world.

And that list doesn’t even include the ‘day job’: which is running my brand consultancy ‘Brand Strategy Guru’ and speaking about branding at conferences in many countries.

All of these activities are possible because I have learnt to reinvent myself and I have now done it many times. But the real trick has been to make those reinventions work together, and to weave a personal brand story which, though it has many different strands, all makes some kind of psychological sense. My brand story has remained authentic even though it has continually developed.

Many people get trapped by fear and feel unable to change: and thus never achieve their dreams. The dreams stay in their heads, unfulfilled, until they wither away. It happens to too many people, but it needn’t, and one great way to avoid that trap is to look at yourself as a brand.


1. Your personal brand isn’t about your qualifications or even how smart you are: it’s about making yourself of distinctive recognisable value, no matter how modest your role. Even if you have the lowliest job, if you do it with an absolute commitment to excellence then you will get noticed.

2. The greatest skill of all in a modern business or organisation is to be able to solve problems and to create more effective strategies. So instead of trying on the one hand just to ‘fit in’ or on the other hand to be ‘innovative’ for its own sake, strive instead actually to solve real problems. And remember that doesn’t mean having to be cleverer than others: sometimes it just means applying a little more attentiveness.

3. The second greatest skill is to be able to communicate your ideas with regard for others’ understanding and position. Nobody likes a show off or stubbornness, least of all managers in organisations. So be clear and make your case with conviction, but never be arrogant or uncompromising.

4. In a small business, or in a team within a big organisation, your personal ‘brand’ is best expressed through a compelling narrative about how and what you contribute. It’s no good claiming to be valuable. That’s like a comedian claiming to be funny. You have to ‘be’ valuable.

5. Along the way, and especially when your contribution is being noticed, you will find others who try to stop you, trip you up, or trap you. Pay no heed to those, other than to be aware of them. Engaging in inter-staff warfare can only damage your personal brand and will never enhance your career.

6. Great brands are founded on authenticity, not on lies. Never, ever, invent a better back story for yourself. You will, ultimately, be found out. Instead tell your real story: but tell it better by engaging emotions and imagination.

7. Don’t go for promotion just because you think you should. Don’t follow the career path as though it was pre-determined. It isn’t. Think about your career strategy. What do you really, truly want to be doing in two or five years time? If a promotion helps take you there that’s great. But if it doesn’t, consider other approaches. A different company? Working for yourself?

8. Learn to balance hope and fear. Anything worth doing (new job, big presentation etc) will induce fear and anxiety. But you need to step around that fear or your personal ‘brand’ will never progress. But don’t fall into the X-Factor trap of assuming that you will succeed just because you want something badly enough. Never try to wing it! Prepare, prepare, prepare.

9. If you hate your job but there appears no prospect of changing it in the near future, don’t despair. Change your attitude to it instead: treat everything you do as ‘training’ for what comes next.

10. If you’ve made an error of judgement, or any other kind of mistake, do not try to hide it. Own up to it and take the flak. Learn something from it, explain what you have learned, show why having been through the experience you are now more valuable than ever, and be the guy who made the famous recovery!

Simon Middleton is an EBA Millionaire Mentor.

His new book, Brand New You, Hay House, releases in  May 2012. Simon’s evening masterclass Reinventing A Brand New You is in central London on Wednesday October 26th. For further information visit www.simonmiddleton.com

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  • Morgan Grage: I like this post, enjoyed this one regards for putting up. "No man is wise enough by himself." by Titus Maccius Plautus.
  • Derek: Brilliant article Bev, thanks for sharing. coincidentally the kilimamjaro example used is on my 2014 to do list! Ps thanks for the tips you gave me
  • jackson: thanks for your great article about developing your business idea to great business Jackson mutebi

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