Five insightful ways to build your personal brand

By Tony Waller, corporate partner and head of technology at Olswang

1) Embrace social media

Lawyers and other professionals worry about Twitter and social media. There is reluctance, particularly at senior level, to engage with it – a concern it might somehow all go wrong and you’ll be held to account for what you say.

But for me Twitter is crucial for building my personal brand. Of course you can’t say any old thing and you must be confident you can back up your comments – but provided you’re honest and thoughtful, Twitter is an invaluable tool for engaging with others and helping them to understand you.

Twitter also helps you fully understand and put yourself at the heart of a particular industry sector. For example, I’m fascinated by the Internet of Things right now – it’s a captivating technological shift and, for me professionally, an opportunity. I’ve started talking about that on Twitter and meeting people via Twitter who I otherwise would not have met.

To use Twitter to successfully build your personal brand, you can’t just use it passively like a news service. You’ve got to put your own view out there. And you’ve got to be conscious of your Twitter persona. I’ve found it powerful to stick to one topic – in my case, #UKTech. That’s far more effective than a scattergun approach.

I recently went to an event and was introduced to a third party by someone I had met on Twitter. Without prompting, that person introduced me as: “Tony from Olswang, who understands more about UK tech than anyone I know.”

2) Offer help

Offering help is an incredibly effective way to build your personal brand. I’m a firm believer that the more you help, the more credit you will build-up and the more likely it is you will benefit.

Everyone wants help and you can offer it in many different ways. I love to be part of an ecosystem, helping to oil the wheels that drive others’ transactions and revenues. It pays dividends to come up with new ideas to help your contacts and make useful introductions that will allow them to progress. Making someone else look good is the best way to make you look good.

Think strategically about which markets you want to reach and assist people within those markets. For example, being a tech lawyer, Cambridge as a region is interesting to me. So I became a Legal Champion for a network called Cambridge Wireless, investing my time to speak about and help with legal issues that are addressed by its special interest groups.

3) Network… but listen

No-one can effectively network from behind their desk, so I get out of the office an awful lot. My primary goal, however is not to tell others about myself – that’s not a good way to build your own personal brand. The best way to do that is to listen carefully to what other people want to tell you about themselves.

I network to find out about other people and what they need. They might not need me but you can be damn sure that when they do reveal what they need, I’ll be thinking about how I can provide it.

Networking is a undoubtedly a skill and some are naturally more able than others but the good news is that you everyone can learn to be better at it, it just takes practice. Sticking to some simple tricks of the trade when networking will give you a great head-start. For example, where possible always stay in the centre of the room, rather than moving to the side. There’s a natural tendency to hide next to the drinks. Don’t do that because you will struggle to hear what is being said and you have automatically cut off your access to half of the room (there’s no-one behind you!). Having the ability to turn 360 degrees to get involved in any conversation is invaluable.

4) Prepare

Nobody walks into a room and becomes a super-successful networker without doing some prep. Take 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or even an hour to sit down and think about what you’re going to say if someone asks you what you do. Think about who’s going to be there and what they’re going to be interested in.

Make sure your message is relevant to your audience: focus on how can you make the conversation work for you.

One of the keys to successful networking is being honest about what you do and don’t know. Overselling yourself in an area you don’t know enough about undoes you instantly. Technology fascinates me but it is a vast subject and I don’t pretend to have a PhD in any particular topic. I am a lawyer after all! I focus on those areas where I have in-depth knowledge and credibility, where I am confident in my subject. Outside of that, I find curiosity about a subject and keeping an open mind can take you a long way to building a good relationship.

5) Keep your ultimate goal in mind

Building your personal brand is important – and the four things above will help – but it’s even more important to remember that your end goal is to build a relationship based on trust with a client. What people value most when they hire a great lawyer or a great accountant is a relationship – they want trust. And beyond that, they want to know that the person they’re dealing with understands them and their needs.

You can follow Tony on Twitter here: @anthonyewaller


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