If a strong personal brand is invaluable in forging a successful career, then being socially responsible is an action that more and more ambitious professionals are taking to get noticed while making a difference.
They are taking their cue from celebrities who have known the power of stepping up and giving back for years. Think of Angelia Jolie, who has moved from actress and gossip column fodder to a respected figure on the global stage as a UN envoy. Or, closer to home, Stephen Fry, who is not only an actor and author, but a respected figurehead of non-profits such as Terrence Higgins Trust and Mind, which describes Fry as embodying “credibility, trustworthiness and authority.”
Far from being merely a strategic career move, social responsibility is a win-win situation for all. You not only increase your visibility, but your credibility. Suddenly it’s not all about you, but you are still showing people what you can do, and perhaps showcasing skills in roles that they may not be aware of. The charity or cause obviously benefits and, at the end of day, on a personal level this type of work brings great satisfaction.
As a psychologist and personal branding consultant, it is something that I often explore with clients as part of core branding work, which involves identifying and expressing their passion, purpose, vision and values. For example, one client with a passion for leadership and mentoring felt particularly connected to causes related to poverty and youth. She aligned her brand with these causes by working with her company to create a fundraising initiative for mentoring underprivileged youth interested in business. As health and fitness were also a strong part of her personal brand, she also participated in the London Marathon by running for ActionAid, which raised money to fight poverty.
Here are a few tips for strengthening your personal brand by working with a cause:
- Decide what time and resources you realistically have to give. Don’t commit to running a marathon if you know you simply haven’t got the time to train for it. Remember that this is about showing off the best of your personal brand.
- Think about causes or charities that strike a nerve with you for personal or professional reasons. What are you most passionate about?
- Consider whether you want to offer your help and professional skills as an extension of what you do at work (offering to help with marketing if you are in marketing already, for instance), or would prefer to do something different.
- Connect with people whenever you can. You share a passion or an interest with these people so there is already something ready-made for you to talk about. Nurture these connections, as you never know where they might lead.
- Don’t be afraid to tell people what you are doing. You don’t have to brag about it but part of charity work is spreading the word and getting others to come on board. Share your involvement over social media (e.g., tweet about events or initiatives, post pictures from fund-raisers) so that others start to associate you with your cause.
Hopefully this sparks a few ideas to help you tap into your passions and strengthen the socially responsible side of your brand in 2015!