Before the interweb took over the print media, I grew up reading the tech. columns written by Yashwant Kanetkar, Dr. Nitin Paranjpe, Dr. Vijay Mukhi in Express Computer. In the mid 90s, I found the articles written by Atul Chitnis and Kishore Bhargava in PCQuest pretty interesting.
And, of course I have my own contemporaries and ex-colleagues like Vinod Kumar M, Harish Ranganathan, Raj Chaudhuri, Sanjay Vyas and Daniel Ingitaraj who mesmerize the audiences and walk away with best session ratings in any tech. conference.
So, what is common across Yashwant Kanetkar, Atul Chitnis, Jeff Prosise, Scott Guthrie, Don Box, Mark Russinovich and others in my list?
Apart from being authors, consultants and subject matter experts, all of them have a very strong personal brand that they have created over a period of time. All of them are also evangelists for the technology or the platform that they strongly believed in.
Not convinced? Watch Scott Guthrie’s keynote from Mix; catch Atul Chitnis in action during one of the FOSS.in events; Watch the video of Steve Jobs launching iPad or attend Don Box’s session on Distributed Computing. You will tend to agree with me.
So, what has personal branding got to do with evangelism? Remember that evangelism is all about influencing the decision makers. Influence comes with authority and confidence. Personal branding is an essential tool for reaching out to the world and positioning yourself as an expert in your subject.
There is a misconception that personal branding is all about ‘I-me-myself’ and shamelessly pushing the agenda. The truth is that personal branding is all about helping others and empowering them with the right information. In his book named Me 2.0, Dan Schawbel articulates this point very well. Personal branding is all about helping others to make them successful and not just promoting yourself!
If you carefully observe what is common across the personalities that I mentioned, you would notice certain attributes among them. Let’s discuss what those qualities are.
Top 5 attributes of successful personal brands
1) Creating a Niche – People with strong personal brands always associate themselves with a unique niche. You think of ASP.NET when you hear the name Scott Guthrie. Atul Chitnis is synonymous with the FOSS movement in India. Mark Russinovich is immediately identified with the Windows Internals. For most of the computer science students in India, it is Yashwant Kanetkar who created the ‘C’ programming language. It is essential that evangelists align themselves with a technology niche that will be strongly associated with them. In the longer term, this will help them gain the authority and establish their credibility in the community.
2) Being Passionate – Evangelists with successful personal brands always demonstrate passion for the product and the cause that they strongly believe in. Steve Jobs is extremely passionate when he launches a new product from Apple. Though it is tempting, they don’t attack the competition directly. Successful brands and evangelists know the art of being subtle in dealing with the competition.
3) Being Connected – It is extremely important to be connected with the audience. This could be through offline one-to-many presentations or online channels like blogs, podcasts and social networks. Scott Guthrie has 19K followers on Twitter and his blog enjoys a great subscription. Staying in touch with the community is the key thing to sustain the brand.
4) Being Consistent – It is important to be consistent in positioning and messaging your personal brand. Your blog, your tweets and updates should be speaking the same language. Evangelists should not switch their messaging often. If you are a web evangelist, be consistent in your messaging around web related technologies. If your blog has posts covering inconsistent content that doesn’t align with your niche, your brand value gets diluted. Each and every brand element of yours makes a statement and it is your responsibility to make them consistent.
5) Being Accessible – I once mailed Scott Guthrie requesting for a sample source code that he mentioned on his blog. I got an instant response. Mark Russinovich is equally accessible and responsive. Most of the individuals with a strong personal brand presence are surprisingly more accessible than we think. Successful evangelists with personal brands don’t let the branding come in their way in being accessible to their customers and audience.
So, evangelists and aspiring evangelists – start taking your personal brand seriously! It will not only add value your employer and the product, but will also give a big boost to your career!