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Guest Column: The importance of your personal currency: Ameer Ismail, GolinOpinion & dCell

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Guest Column: The importance of your personal currency: Ameer Ismail, GolinOpinion & dCell

It is extremely important in the corporate world today to curate your image and build your personal currency. What was unimportant years ago, is essential today. For example, a social media profile which was not even in the consideration set a couple of decades ago is an imperative today!

Planning for this is important, as it applies to every level from entry level to the C Suite, especially for managers who have ambitions to move up the corporate ladder. Curating your image is an exercise that takes consistent effort but bears tremendous results over time. Just like with any brand, building your personal currency too takes careful planning and strategizing. One sees examples of successful individuals who have used this concept exceptionally well everywhere – however, to create and use your personal currency, the only ground rule is that it must be interesting and focused. At GolinOpinion, there is a bespoke suite of services called Speak Up, designed to give a framework to this ask. Teams work with clients to clearly develop an integrated plan that balances executive’s self and brand identity.

Here are five steps that are useful pointers for building your personal currency:


a.      Like any product, building a brand is about identifying that one USP that sets you apart from your competitors. The first step towards curating your personal image is identifying the skills and capabilities that are unique to you. Devdutt Pattanaik’s understanding of Hindu mythology and its application to corporate life is a skill unique to him.

b.      The differentiating factor between building a brand for a product and one for an individual is the aspect of beliefs and values. What you stand for and believe in makes you human, let that build your personal currency. Wipro Chairman Azim Premji is the first name that comes to mind when you think of philanthropy and is always seen speaking towards its awareness. His philanthropic work especially in the field of education is well known and its impact has already left an indelible mark on society. 

c.       Along with recognizing your strengths, an equally significant part of introspection is identifying your vulnerabilities. It’s better to maintain a dignified silence on a topic you don’t know much about than to speak from inexperience and have your words misinterpreted.


a.      Stand out from the crowd but ensure it’s something that adds credit to your image. It could be your unique voice of reason, a signature style or recognizable standard that you build on and come to be identified with. Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs, differentiated herself from the usual reputation of bureaucracy by standing out for getting things done.


a.      Social media today gives people an insight into who you are. Whether it’s a new acquaintance, client, colleague, boss or even a prospective employer, the first place you look up the person is on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Social media platforms are the easiest and quickest way to set the stage for building your personal brand. One person who has built his persona rather well is the Mahindra Group managing director, Anand Mahindra. Not only is he super stylish but he also has more twitterfollowers than some of the biggest Bollywood stars.

b.      Remember that social media is a double-edged sword. Nothing is off the record and it won’t take more than a few seconds for a lurker to screenshot and make copies of a wrongly-worded tweet. From Chetan Bhagat to Donald Trump, there are enough examples of individuals that make for favourite bait of internet trolls.

c.       Build a website, maintain a blog or contribute to columns for opportunities to showcase your knowledge. Lap up opportunities to speak at events and seminars and soon you will be the go-to person for comments in your field of expertise.

d.      What you wear is an extension of who you are. You may not have given your wardrobe much thought beyond deciding between stripes and checks but being mindful of grooming, dressing and how you look is an essential aspect of shaping your personal brand. If this weren’t true, Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit and Steve Jobs’ turtlenecks wouldn’t be such a hot topic of discussion. Even if you’re not ready to make a style statement like these personalities, it helps to pay attention to details. Make sure the shoulders of your jacket aren’t slouching and the hemline of your pant ends at the right level.

e.      The words and language you use reflects the state of your mind, so make sure they’re well-chosen and articulated. If you want to be taken seriously, refrain from RT-ing a joke that you wouldn’t share in the conference room. When you’re speaking at a seminar, spend enough time beforehand to etch out the points you wish to make. Speaking clearly will not only create maximum value for your listeners but also portray the place of expertise and knowledge you come from.


a.      While remaining true to your own identity, study the positioning of your organisation to be in line with it. How liberal you can be will differ if you represent a government organisation with a strict code of conduct as opposed to a youth brand that defines fun.

b.      Your position and level of responsibility in the organisation should dictate the tone and flavour of your personal currency. A careless remark carries heavier consequences when made by the CEO than a mid-level executive. If you’re a young professional but give opinions about things you have no experience with, your tactic will soon backfire and make you appear cocky instead of smart.


Stay up to date with the latest topics of discussion and keep up with the modified way of doing things. If you’re going to talk about standing in line to pay the electricity bill in an age of cashless online transactions, you’re soon going to be branded a fossil and lose your audience.

(The author is Executive Director, Golinopinion & dCell)


Tags GolinOpinion C Suite Speak Up Ameer Ismail

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