If you don’t have large advertising budgets, then be a person with strong networks and influence

Personal branding is critical to our networking success and impact. It also helps our organizations grow, strengthen their credibility and it is key to more successful fundraising. Still, it is a novel concept for many leaders who often wonder where to start. Therefore, this topic was the focus of our interview with our trainer Peter Šebo, a founder and the face of one of the most successful marketing agencies in the region, who will share his expertise with participants of the NGO Leadership Workshop.

In this interview, you will learn:

what personal branding is and why it is crucial for any leader,

why it is good to tie leaders’ personal stories with their projects and organizations,

how can leaders’ personal branding help advance the missions of their organizations.

Archive: Peter Šebo

With the power of social networks, media and podcasts, the concept of personal branding is becoming more and more relevant. However, the idea of it remains unknown to most people. What exactly is it?

Your professional personal brand is the image of how people perceive you. It is a combination of the impression people get about you from the information available online, your reputation the fellow experts or colleagues have about you, and how the media portrays you. It is about communicating your personal story, your expertise, your personal and professional connection to a certain topic or a company.

Especially today, when things, both good and bad, remain forever on the internet, personal branding is crucial for emerging leaders. You can either let it develop on its own, beyond your control, or you can design it in a more strategic way, to depict you as the person you need to be to advance your mission or mission of your organization.

Could you provide us with some good practice examples?

A typical example was Steve Jobs‘ personal branding linked to Apple. Actually, the whole brand and communication of the company were built on his personal brand.

Everyone knew that Jobs was arrogant and an absolutely fanatical perfectionist. He was known for not launching a product just because there was one pixel askew. Thus, this personal approach, which everybody knew about as he would boast about it or his co-workers would complain about it, was actually communicating that Apple produces the highest quality products. That the company will not release a product that would not be perfectly tested and absolutely flawless for its users.

At the NGO Leadership Workshop, I will present some more examples of those who have achieved their goals thanks to their personal branding. We will talk about their strategies and lessons learnt which we can use.

However, there are many well-known companies that did not need such a strong face of the founder to succeed. Does it work without the personal brand, too?

Yes, definitely. For example, Procter and Gamble is one of such companies. However, we need to take into account at what stage of its development the company is and how it wants to be perceived. Nowadays, if you want to sell products that are more expensive than the products of your competition, customers need to know your story and the story of the brand. They need to know what they are paying for.

If you have a start-up or a non-profit organization, you need to realize that while your brand only appeared on the market yesterday, you yourself were born 20-40 years ago and, naturally, you have some social ties, networks and contacts. That’s why it is much easier to start communicating a message along the lines “I, Peter Šebo, whom you know and trust, have come up with this and that”, instead of “look, there is a new brand you have never heard of, but please, go ahead and believe it is good”.

Thus, personal branding in the beginning provides a kind of shortcut to gaining the initial trust of your audience, donors or customers.

Why will this topic appear at the NGO Leadership Workshop?

Besides the business sector, I have worked in the field of non-profits for over 10 years. Usually, there is very little if any funding for anything. Everything has to be done for no costs but excellently.

Nowadays, as a director of a marketing agency, I often encounter that non-profit organizations underestimate themselves and their communication because of low budgets or staff capacities. I keep telling them that they must realize that everyone, large international corporations as well as small civic initiatives, fight for the attention of the same audience. And unfortunately, this does not come any easier for non-profits, even though they strive for beautiful and important goals. They have to compete against ads of large companies with large budgets which communicate through the same channels. That is why I always tell non-profits they cannot make any excuses. They cannot be satisfied with second-class communication, advertising or marketing.

If a wide range of people follow the activities of the NGO leader, s/he becomes a source of certain types of information for them, whether it is for example about human rights, international development, innovation, etc. In this way, the leaders give initiatives a face and credibility. The added value and story of the person is key in this communication. 

How can this communication be beneficial for the organization?

The personal brand of the NGO leader or other persons in the organization can significantly help the marketing of the organization. It helps strengthen its credibility, its reputation as an expert organization in a certain field. This then makes it easier to access resources, achieve higher social impact or get important information.

If people believe that the NGO leader is an expert in a given issue, it will be easier for him or her to communicate the goals of their organization. They do not need to be walking billboards of their organizations. They need to be walking billboards of the issue that the organization addresses.

At the end of the day, it is the leader who meets with strategic partners and decision-makers. Then, a strong personal brand, which reflects leaders’ experience, personal story, integrity and references, can add value and benefit the organization to a great extent.

I understand the benefits now. So if I am a project or NGO leader and so far I have not been very active on social media, where do I start?

First of all, you need to find a topic that is relevant to you as well as to your project or the  organization. The communication should be unified and clear, which means, for example, that if your organization focuses on rescuing elephants, you should not be constantly posting pictures of acrobatic flying. This will not help build neither your brand, nor your organization’s. 

You can start talking about the topic by blogging, posting on social media, you can have a Youtube channel, and speak on the selected issues on a regular basis. It can be done in 1000 different ways. You can also speak about these issues on podcasts, in media interviews and so on.

If you want to build your brand more professionally and strategically and cannot afford a PR agency, I strongly recommend applying for the NGO Leadership Workshop. We will talk about how to set up your strategies, how to choose the right tools, the right target groups and the right topics. My workshops will be very practical. Leaders will learn concrete steps on how to set up the right strategies of building their personal brands, but also how to look back, self-assess and readjust. The participants will learn how to position themselves as authorities in their fields and how to differentiate from the competition.

If the participants do not have large advertising budgets for their organizations, they should be leaders with strong networks and influence on which they can rely when advancing the goals of their organizations.

Find out how to create your personal branding strategy by applying for our NGO Leadership Workshop!

Author: Simona Lučkaničová