Today we have the huge pleasure of having personal branding expert Eugene Seah with us! Eugene Seah is one of Asia’s most authentic and inspiring coaches. In this interview, he gives us tips on how to be authentic and genuine in your personal branding journey. Enjoy the interview!
Pictures courtesy of Eugene. Monochrome photographs taken by Alex Koh.
WW: Hello Eugene! Can you tell us more about yourself and what you are doing?
Engene: I like to think of myself as a dream chaser and dream maker. My passion is to help others achieve their dreams and fulfil their destiny.
More specifically, I specialise in personal branding, leadership and legacy planning for my training and coaching.
WW: What is personal branding to you?
Eugene: Personal branding is essentially a long-lasting positive reputation, achieved through several core elements.
WW: Your 3″S” framework is brilliant and so easy to remember! Can you tell us more about it?
Eugene: Thanks Wanwei, there are 3 core elements that boost our personal brand. Coincidentally all 3 elements start with the letter S.
This is by far the MOST important part of personal brand. When we call someone a man or woman of substance, we usually mean that they have impeccable character and unshakable values. Some may also refer to their outstanding skills and deep knowledge of their field.
Whatever strength you have, are you among the top in your industry? The best chef? Best architect? Best trainer? If not, then what can you do to continue honing your skills?
This is not as important as substance, but when done well, it can help us to be differentiated in a crowded market.
This is akin to the design of a car or bag. A stylish car or bag fetch a much higher price than a mediocre or poorly-designed one. I would like to emphasise that I’m not referring to our looks per se.
Drawing Steve Jobs as an example, he is not particularly good looking in his older years, and always wears his boring black turtle neck and blue jeans. Yet you cannot deny that he has “style” – as defined by the way he speaks and carries himself.
How do you want others to describe you? Humorous? Authentic? Approachable? Inspiring? Then let that be your style.
This is the weakest element in most Asian personal brands.
Culturally, we hesitate to share too openly about our vulnerabilities and struggles. And this choice will impede our brand value. Looking at a lot of top personal brands from the West, they all share openly their struggles and how they overcame.
Some examples include Orprah, JK Rowling, Warren Buffett, Richard Branson, Michael Jordan. Humans are emotional creatures, and in order to connect emotionally with our stakeholders (most likely human), we will need to share our personal stories of hardship and triumph.
You can find out more about the 3S on www.eugeneseah.com
WW: You once said that the “core” of personal branding is trust. Can you elaborate on why this is so?
Eugene: Strip away all the S’s of brand, and you get to the core.
– TRUST. Do you trust the brand when it says it will do something for you? Do you trust in a person’s character and competencies? If he has a good character but incompetent in his field, his brand will be affected – you will not engage him, or you might pay him less. If he has strong competencies but lacking integrity, his brand will definitely be destroyed.
Recent examples include Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and some religious leaders. Some political leaders lack character AND competencies, so it is totally senseless to say they have a strong personal brand.
Don’t mistake fame and infamy with a strong brand.
– Authenticity is definitely linked to trust. How can one assure that people view them as “authentic”? For sometimes, even with the best intentions, communication may go awry!
Authenticity is similar to sugar and salt. The ratio is important for the taste of the food to be perfect. Put too little and the food tastes bland. Put too much and it becomes inedible or unhealthy. Asians generally don’t share too much, so it will be a good discipline to stretch ourselves a bit by sharing more.
For example, I’ve been sharing about my retrenchment and struggles on Facebook and in my videos. However, there are many many aspects I have not yet shared, as I don’t think the audience is ready. If I share too much, it becomes a drag on the emotions instead of being uplifting and inspirational.
Also, generally we prefer people who are interested in us, compared to people who are merely interesting. Bearing this in mind, we shouldn’t go on and on about our sob stories, and instead we should listen actively and ask the right questions, and be genuinely concerned about others.
When the time is appropriate, we share a bit of our authentic stories so that our audience knows that we have been through what they have been through, and thus they start to trust us more.
WW: What are the 3 tips you would give to young people who think that they do not have “substance” due to a young age? Would you still advise them to do personal branding?
Eugene: There are 3 key components of Substance, namely Attitude, Skills and Knowledge. Among these 3, it is likely that young people have less knowledge than their older counterparts.
However, the young people can also make the effort to read more books, or practise their skills, or at the very least adopt a positive attitude (which is not affected by age).
Young people definitely need personal branding, and can compensate their relative lack of knowledge with a great attitude and better skills. If they read voraciously, their knowledge can also far supercede someone else who’s older.
Aside from actual substance, young people can also employ strategies to improve others’ PERCEPTION of their substance.
This can be done by being interviewed on blogs (eg THIS!), authoring a book, appearing on a radio show, giving out a professionally designed namecards.
WW: What is the one thing about personal branding you wish more people can know?
Eugene: ALL of us already have a personal brand whether you want it or not. Mention your name, and others are likely to trust you more or trust you less, depending on your reputation and track record.
Since you already have a brand, then why allow others to control it? Why not take over the control panel? Why not consciously employ strategies to protect and grow your brand?
The one thing I wish more people can know is that we should pro-actively manage our personal brand, instead of leaving it to others.
WW: On a parting note, do you have anything else to add?
Eugene: Ultimately, our personal brand should emanate from within and be consistent with who we are on the inside.
For people who are naturally rotten and nasty, no amount of styling and story-crafting can help you, unless you first decide to change inside out.
P/S. Eugene Seah is also the author of the upcoming book “Superbrand Me – Personal Branding Strategies to Succeed in Business”. To get your free copy, please email him at email@example.com 🙂