Divya Gokulnath, the co-founder and director of edtech firm Byju's, has a curated online presence. Her LinkedIn content is smartly packaged to talk about education, women's empowerment, and the future of learning. She leverages her online presence to become a voice in the online learning space by posting about real-life stories, meeting world leaders (such as Union Minister Smriti Irani), and discussing the need for more women in the education industry. On an average, her posts receive over 5,000 likes and 200+ comments.
Similarly, Anupam Mittal, founder of People Group (Shaadi.com), describes himself as a Tech/Brand/D2C founder & Investor on LinkedIn. His personality is witty and filled with radical candor. As a Shark Tank judge, Mittal talks about the startup ecosystem at large, entrepreneurship, and often gives career advice with a touch of candid humor, setting him apart from his contemporaries. While his LinkedIn persona is more evolved, on Twitter, Mittal shares his thoughts in brief one-liners. Typically, his engagement on LinkedIn is over 1500 likes and 100+ comments.
Probably, this could be dubbed as a "Shark Tank" effect where personal branding is taking centre stage for founders. New age company leaders are building their personal brands online to shape perception, become relatable, and drive impact for their businesses, all through carefully strategizing and curating their social media timelines. Other notable figures who are at it include startup founders Vineeta Singh (Sugar Cosmetics CEO), Kunal Shah (CRED founder), Ghazal Alagh (Mamaearth co-founder), among many others.
Digital agencies are increasingly finding value in creating personal brands for startup founders and corporate leaders. This could mean handling the content that goes on their social media profiles, thought leadership opportunities to even humanising their brand to better connect with digital natives. It could also include online reputation management, new-age media campaigns, crisis management, alongside social media and business communications.
To tap this upcoming opportunity, digital and integrated marketing agencies are gearing up to launch new verticals to cater to the burgeoning demand of personal brands of leaders.
New launches, vision
Influencer marketing and talent management agency IPLIX recently announced the launch of a personal branding wing called Crest. The biggest motivation for the firm to launch Crest is to bridge the gap of communication and personalisation between the founder and their brands with their communities and target audiences.
Jag Chima, co-founder, IPLIX Media says that the goal at each step is to build a personalised communication strategy and network for leaders that can benefit them and their brands.
“For instance, while onboarding a new founder, we deep dive into their story, understanding their and their brand’s positioning in the market and media, identifying the target audience, etc. This helps us curate personalised vision boards and communication strategies,” he adds.
Recognising the growing demand for personal branding services, especially on social media, Grapes, an integrated marketing agency, has recently set up a new ‘Leadership Profile Building’ vertical. The agency says it works with some of the top business leaders on their roster and amplifies their digital footprint with quality content.
Shradha Agarwal, co-founder and chief executive officer, Grapes notes that contrary to what the name suggests, personal branding nowadays is less about the individual’s personal impact, more about establishing a brand extension through its leadership.
“An organisation’s founders and top leadership team are its face and have considerable impact on the brand’s image among the consumers. Moreover, in today’s startup and Shark Tank culture, the association is stronger than ever. So, brands are making sure to leverage it by strengthening the personal branding efforts of their individuals,” she says.
Do’s and Don'ts of personal branding
IPLIX Media’s Chima believes that agencies should ensure that they are maintaining a distinction for the founders and keeping their persona intact. There has to be authentic storytelling and breaking down their business and technical expertise into more understandable content formats and simpler language that appeal to a mass to create an organic community.
“In the process of building a personal brand, we do not want them to simply become a content creator. Making sure we’re only tapping onto the relevant opportunities and not jumping on every trend,” he notes.
White Rivers Media, which also manages the personal brands of top CXOs, does a thorough process of onboarding leaders. The idea is to first understand who the client is as a person and portray their real persona with thorough research.
“Once the persona is built, you must choose the perfect platform to create a better brand space. We cannot fake it; it has to be real,” says Shrenik Gandhi, co-founder and CEO, White Rivers Media.
According to him, someone trying to build a brand cannot speak about another category repeatedly.
“We have to figure out industry-specific trends. A person cannot and should not be projected as an expert in everything. There must be identified niches and multiple niches to be worked on,” he adds.
Benefit to agencies
Handling personal brands of top CXOs brings multiple benefits to agencies. Apart from business it gives them the opportunity to build personal equations with top leaders and create more opportunities.
With Crest, IPLIX Media aims to build communities for the founders and leaders. There will be two aspects to community building. First, building a community for the leaders with their audience. Second, an exclusive community of leaders, founders and VCs that people at Crest can tap into, network and learn from at different stages of their entrepreneurial journey.
“We will kickstart this by curating closed-door events for leaders at Crest,” says Chima.
White Rivers Media’s Gandhi says although personal branding accounts don’t bring big numbers to the agency as an individual may not shell as much as a company might and may not need resources as much as the company would.
“..but the impact is very high. We get a table with renowned CXOs, which we wouldn't generally get if we were doing a regular marketing campaign. So, that is the best advantage which acts as a catalyst to get other marketing initiatives going,” he concludes.