Should you build a personal brand? How do you go about defining it and where do you start? On this episode, Maha tells you the lowdown on personal branding, defining a brand message and some tips on getting started & some key advice you haven’t heard before.

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CHIRAG: ​Hey everyone, it’s Chirag and welcome to episode 2 of Savvy Talk with Maha Abouelenein, a weekly podcast about communication strategies focused on the Middle East. And on today's episode we're talking with Maha about personal branding. So for starters, what defines a personal brand.

MAHA: ​A lot of people talk about like I'm a personal brand or I should be a personal brand and I always thought when people had their own personal brands it was like self promotion and it was very egotistical driven. Right? But now I have a very different point of view about personal branding. And if you have a website or you have a instagram account or a facebook account, you're actually a personal brand whether you like it or not. So everything you post talks about who you are, it says who you are. Do you post about cooking, your kids, your family. So people are online and their stuff is online so they need to think twice about it, how they are a personal brand and I kind of want to give some tips on how to manage this and grow it and actually some people can make a lot of money from it.

CHIRAG: ​Yeah, Was there something specific that change your mind about that?

MAHA: ​I took a course, I took an online course because I'm a lifelong learner! [laughs]

MAHA:​ So think about yourself as a personal brand. What do you stand for? What are your brand values? What does your brand project to the outside world and how are you managing your brand and most importantly, how are you protecting it? So these are some important questions to ask and you should care about as your personal brand. It's really not about self promotion. I always thought personal branding was a very pushy thing. It was like sort of arrogant and putting yourself out there saying, ‘hey, look at me, I know stuff!’ as a very self serving thing. Um, but the more I really thought about personal branding and the rise of digital identities and the Internet, it's actually really too dangerous Chirag, to ignore.

CHIRAG: ​Yeah. Because I think also, I mean, we live in that age now, right? Everything's connected. Everybody's posting tons of stuff online. It's time we actually took a step back and thought about what we are putting out there.

MAHA: ​Yeah, we are smarter than that. And we should care. So personal branding is about leadership. Personal branding is about reputation management and I do communications for a living, it's my livelihood and I really want to kind of inspire people to be better at communications and tell their own stories. And I think personal branding is really integral to that and it's important for reputation management, but it's also important for how to communicate better online, at work, and in your personal relationships.

CHIRAG: ​So Maha, what are your tips to getting started with personal branding?

MAHA: ​So, the first thing is like why a personal brand? I think first of all, you have expertise to share with the world. So think about it. You work hard to get an education, to get meaningful experiences under your belt, to create networks and invest in learning. So you’ve spent a lot of valuable time getting really good at what you do. So why not share that knowledge with others? There are people out there who can really benefit from what you. So I think that people need to think about because everyone has something to offer.

CHIRAG: ​Do feel like sometimes though that people — because I've heard this objection sometimes — where people were like, ‘Oh, I'm one of the many people that are doing something in a certain content space. How do I find a little unique voice for myself? How something that's a bit different compared to the others?’

MAHA: ​Well, people are going to google you so they're gonna want to figure out like who you are. They always say, now before you get hired for a job, they look you up. If you're going to date someone, they look you up. So you have to worry about what does your personal brand look like online and what would they find and there's so many ideas on how you can manage your reputation online. I can't tell you countless people have called me saying, ‘oh, there's this really terrible video about me on the Internet. Can you help me take it down?’ No. The answer is no. You can't take anything off the Internet, so be really careful about what you put on there.

CHIRAG: ​Alright, what's the next thing?

MAHA:​ The next thing is that your brand goes beyond your digital currency. This isn't about being a social media star and having lots of followers. This is about your reputation and owning your expertise. Protecting your name and reputation is really valuable and it's priceless. So one of the things I advise people is go register your name on every platform, whether you use it or not. So get the Facebook, the Youtube, get the, get the Linkedin, get every single platform that exists and own your name so that no one can take your name for you even if you don't know anything for it. So I went and bought and I bought everything. So I own my name and I own my assets. That's a digital currency that you own that you should make sure that it's in your name.

CHIRAG: ​Plus, I mean, you know, down the road when you decide to launch yourself into a different platform. You’re already ready.

MAHA: ​Yeah. The other thing is, and I walk clients through this exercise a lot, the personal branding one because it also gives you a chance to learn a little bit more about yourself. So like what do you stand for? What are you interested in? You know, a lot of people have personal instagram accounts like me, but then I also have business ones. I might have, I mean, and not a lot of people know this. I have a poetry instagram account that no one knows it's me. So like I like to have my interests and other personas and that's part of my personal brand and I really encourage everyone to do that because it's a really creative outlet that can help them connect with people that like the same thing. So let's say you love books. Oh my gosh, there are so many great book societies and clubs and reading and I learned so much from connecting with other communities. Personal branding allows you to do that.

MAHA:​ The other thing about personal branding, it'll bring you new opportunities. So when you're better at articulating what you love to do, you'll begin to engage on a whole new level. Consider a personal brand if you want to create new opportunities for yourself—side hustle or passion—just like what I talked about, finding that community that you really want to engage with and figuring out how you're going to be part of that community as well.

MAHA: ​So getting started is the fun part. How personal should your brand be and what lies between personal and professional? How do you organize your social media accounts? How many platforms should you be on? Should you share the same content across platforms and how often should you post? So take a look at your name. So I'll be honest with you. When I started on twitter like in 2008 or something, my handle is @mahgaber because I was like, I don't really want people to know who I am. What if I tweet something that's stupid? What if like I don't want to be seen? I just want to look around and see other people's tweets and now I have like 12, I don't know, 13,000 followers. So now I have a big audience now and so people really need to just google my name, they'll find it. But like think about the handles, like TheHotelBoss, ThePointsGuy, ThePRGuru, whatever the name would be, think about what your handle should be and what your brand should be that represents who you are and something that you want to keep.

MAHA: ​Secondly, kind of identifying your brand values and your persona. I don't know if you've ever done this exercise, Chirag, have you ever written a personal brand mission?

CHIRAG: ​Not a brand mission, no. But yeah, I think this was a year and a half ago or something like that where I actually sat down and was like, okay, I need to figure out what it is that I want to communicate before I start communicating.

MAHA: ​Yeah. So having like a personal mission statement and I can obviously work with a lot of people that help define theirs. But like, a brand mission is critical to keeping you true to what you really want to achieve and for clarity and for your purposes. So like my personal mission is to help people communicate better. Like I went through this personal branding exercise to articulate—these are my values, these are my mission statements. Like I know what I'd like to do. The other step in thinking about your personal brand, which I think is great for a new year and great for thinking about the year ahead is having a personal board of directors. So pick two or three people that you can have hold you accountable to reaching your goals. People that will keep you honest. So like my sister is on my personal board of directors because she'll tell me like it is and she'll slap me around if I need it, but she'll also want me to be successful so she'll think about what's in my best interest and say, you know, this is really good.

MAHA: ​So I have a mentor that I used to work with many years ago who's also on my personal board of directors. One of the things that you should do with your board or directors is meet with them regularly so every quarter you should get together with them and have lunch, have a call, talk to them about some of the things you're working on. It could be personal, it could be professional, but have your quarterly check ins with your personal board of directors to see how you're doing. The other thing I'd like to do with the personal board of directors if you set one up is you know how the annual meeting, you write an annual report, so write an annual letter at the end of the year or the beginning of the year saying these are my missions, these are my objectives for the year. Hold yourself accountable. Like I'm going to have to put a report together for my personal board of directors on how I did against my personal goals.

CHIRAG: ​That's super interesting actually. Yeah, that's a good ... it's a good way to keep yourself in check.

MAHA: ​And even like they could help you solve problems. Like if you just need to have a sounding board. Can you introduce me to someone or I need help with something. I mean having a network and relationships. A lot of people are afraid to ask for help and I know I was one of those people, but I think it's really important just to ask what's the worst thing they can say?

CHIRAG: ​They’ll just avoid you or they’ll say no.

MAHA:​ And then you just move on and ask somebody else.

MAHA: ​Doing a digital audit. So go through, make sure you're clean. Look at your bio. What does your bio say? What does your profile picture say? What does your cover photo say? Do you have all your information filled out? If you're looking for a job on Linkedin, is all your file, you know, complete. If you are just wanting to be an influencer and talk about a topic that you're passionate about on Youtube or on Twitter or on Instagram, is your information filled out? Do you have a url where people can contact you? Do you have an email address for people can reach out to you? Do yourself good and do this checklist—we’ll post it in the episode notes—where people can get a list of things that they can do to make sure that their personal brand is as strong as it should be.

MAHA: ​And then last but not least on the personal brand, start creating. So start creating content that you're passionate about in any format you want. And don't overthink it. Try to just put it out there. Start telling your stories the way that you feel comfortable. I learned about this 80-20 percent, the 80-20 rule for content is that 80 percent of your content should benefit the followers and 20 percent should be about information you want them to have. Like, oh, I'm speaking at this upcoming event, or I had this article come out, but 80 percent of your content should be about stuff they care about. Not self promotion, not yourself, not how cool you were, not who you met, not your pictures with selfies with celebrities. Like really give your audience something to come back to. And when you have a personal brand that has good content, you know it's the old adage of ‘content is king’, will fall through even in your personal brand.


CHIRAG: ​So that's all we have for you this week. Thanks for tuning in. And if you liked this episode, do leave us a review and tell your friends, it really helps us out. You can subscribe to the show in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, streaming apps like Spotify, Deezer and Anghami. And on Alexa. For more information, you can check out See you next week!

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