Building a Personal Brand: Unleashing the Power of Authenticity, Aunia kahn, CEO, Rise Visible
Aunia Kahn, CEO, Rise Visible
Firstly, many people fear the words 'personal brand' as it means going public with your thoughts. I want to know if you have always found it easy to 'put yourself out there'?
When it came to my livelihood, at one point, I did find it hard to put myself out there as a female entrepreneur in a male-dominated field. When starting in this field over 25 years ago, things were a lot different for women. Furthermore, the other layer of transparency in my personal brand was that I was also disabled and I felt keeping that private made my ability to financially support myself easier. Vulnerability in business has to be strategic as well as well thought out. Making a decision to go public about being disabled was a huge risk and choice that did not come easy.
When it comes to building an authentic personal brand, what advice would you give professionals starting out?
Building an authentic personal brand is about being true to who you are and what you are wanting the world to see. Vulnerability, transparency and authenticity have to be what is in the best interest of yourself and your brand. In regards to connecting to your audience, clients or partners - not putting on a facade is what really creates long-term partnerships and business relationships. Being yourself with all your truth, flaws and realness is one of the best ways to make solid business connections.
Do you think personal branding and reputation go hand in hand, and what can people do to maintain a positive reputation while brand-building?
Personal brand and reputation are similar but different, however, they do inform one another. If your reputation is terrible, in essence it will affect your personal brand.
On the contrary, if your personal brand is not strong, it can affect your reputation. Making sure to take care of both of those parts of your business is crucial.
Can you share a success story of how you or someone you follow used their personal brand to build business or career?
Truly anyone willing to be authentic in this challenging world is a success story. I think it is good to look at success not always as thriving businesses, fancy cars or monetary gains - but also just getting up daily and being authentic in your dealings. Even if you are struggling or barely making it, getting up daily and just showing up for yourself is a huge success.
Which platforms do you find most effective for establishing thought leadership and growing professional presence?
The single most important platform to build your personal brand is your website. If you do not have a website, people will not take you seriously. A Linkedin or Facebook alone does not emulate the feelings of a business that is serious. So start with a quality website first. We always suggest working with an expert to build the best website possible for improved ROI, SEO and other important professional factors. However, if you can’t afford to work with a website designer or developer - you can at least build a simple one on Squarespace for the time being. Having a website is imperative to be taken seriously as a brand.
How do you ensure your personal brand stays true to who you are and your evolving goals?
The way that I stay true to my personal brand is just being unapologetically myself. As a person that finds transparency and directness easy - it is not hard for me to just be me. Although at times, I do know doing so is risky, but I do it anyway. I would rather just be real and be judged, rather than being judged for pretending to be something that I am not. At times, I do find it challenging to be that honest and vulnerable due to fear, but I do it anyway.
What are some practical strategies or tactics professionals can use to expand their network and build meaningful connections?
Some of the best strategies for expanding networks and connections is to go local. I get asked often by clients about how to make connections, market themselves and get new clients and I encourage them to network locally. It can be joining your local Chamber of Commerce or other networking groups but being around people and making connections is important. I also tell clients that when going in, to not focus on a “me” attitude or be focused on looking at getting your needs met, but more about making simple authentic connections. If you always have an agenda, it comes off selfish. Find ways to also give back to the community. The more we give, the more we get out of life. Just remember to not overgive to depletion and remember there is always a balance.
Along your personal branding journey, have you encountered any common obstacles that readers of this interview should be aware of?
I think the most common obstacle would be deciding whether or not to come out publicly about being disabled. Once I decided to come forward and have an open dialogue about my disabilities as a business owner, I started a small organization for other disabled business owners and I learned a valuable lesson. No one wanted to join. I found that my fears were of course shared by others, but so much so that they did not want to be open due to fear or prejudice, loss of income and other very important reasons. In this, I really felt touched about how much people hide themselves in fear. Truth be told, it is okay to not want to be open about any part of your life as a business owner. Your personal life is your business and should be respected. However, it was really eye opening and this is why I speak out - because right now I have the energy and power to do so. When I can’t, I will lean on others to be that voice.
Imagine you have a time machine that can transport you to the future. What impact do you envision your personal brand having on the world?
I hope my brand can empower human beings to be themselves. That they can accept every part of themselves and with each flaw or challenge, find value, strength and uniqueness. My brand helps create visibility for business owners, but I also want it to create visibility for the largest minority group in the world - those with disabilities.
Close your eyes and imagine you're a bestselling author. What captivating book would you write to share your personal brand journey and insights?
At this time I have 3 books in the works and I am still working on titles. It is my hope that they will be quality enough to publish in the future. I will keep you posted.