Companies have brands. Products have brands. Over the past few years, the concept of ‘personal branding’ has gained momentum. It has become something of a buzzword for modern professionals.But for whatever reason, many aren’t comfortable with developing their personal brand, and may find it ‘salesy’ or even disingenuous.
Personal branding isn’t as intense as it sounds. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, describes a personal brand as ‘how people describe you when you are not in the room.’ It is important if you wish to manage and develop your career and reputation, influence people you don’t naturally come into contact with, and discover new and interesting career opportunities.
Developing your personal brand is the proactive way of managing your career and reputation at work, while also helping you to stand out in the field and attract attention. A strong personal brand will increase your ability to get the right jobs, promotions and opportunities. You will be authentic, establish yourself as an authority and attract opportunities through transparency and expertise.
A unique promise of value
The writer and personal branding expert, William Arruda, describes a personal brand as a ‘unique promise of value’. The uniqueness of your personal brand is important. It separates you from your peers and makes clear who your key stakeholders are.
Your personal brand is a promise that you commit to delivering in everything you do. You need to be yourself, and no one else. Copying others is easy, but staying true to yourself, your values and your unique personality will lead to greater success.
“Don’t try to be unique. Just be you-nique”
Building a brand adds value to the people you work with. The best way to become successful is to help others, so think about what would be helpful to your key stakeholders. You can do this by answering questions, sharing insights and by promoting valuable resources.
Defining your personal brand is about defining the promise you make to others about what it is like to work with you, and the value they can take from that.
What does a strong personal brand need?
A strong personal brand satisfies 3 criteria:
People with strong personal brands are clear about who they are and who they are not. They understand their unique promise of value, and this sets them apart from their competitors. It distinguishes them and allows them to attract and build loyalty among the groups of people who can help them achieve their goals.
Richard Branson, for example, is clear about being a risk taker and is anything but a typical CEO in a suit. He is a daredevil who was dressed in a wedding gown when he launched Virgin Bridal, and not dressed in anything at all when he launched his book, Virginity. Among his first risky ventures was signing the Sex Pistols to his record label when no other label considered them. Since then, he has taken on both British Airways with Virgin Airlines, and Coca-Cola – perhaps the strongest brand in the world, with Virgin Cola. Even beyond the professional arena, Branson is a bold risk-taker, in such pursuits as circumnavigating the globe in a hot air balloon.
You should know what it means when you say you will do something or become involved in something. This is something you should always be clear about, and it shouldn’t change with each project or day of the week.
Madonna is an excellent example of brand consistency–she is the chameleon brand of entertainment, and reinvents herself with every CD she produces. This may seem inconsistent, but in fact, Madonna changes with incredible fluidity. She didn’t change her first five CDs, keeping the next two the same, but she changed consistently, and started a trend each time. We can be sure that her new CDs will be unlike any before. Madonna has her audience on the edge of their seats, wondering what to expect. This ability to change separates her from other entertainers and strengthens her brand.
Continuity in your personal brand means you’re always there ready to fulfil your promise.
With her weekly television show, book club, magazine and many appearances in the media, Oprah Winfrey is a constant household name and is an incredibly strong brand–she is the human brand of show business. She cares for people and is willing to share herself to help others advance. This clarity about what makes her unique is consistent throughout her endeavours and is constantly visible to her target audience through her many ways of interacting with the public.
Defining your personal brand
Here are three steps to help you define your personal brand:
Step 1 – Define what you stand for
What do you want your name to be associated with–intelligence, motivation, honesty, style, humour or expertise in a particular field? Consider your strengths, passions and what makes you different. The first step to building a personal brand is deciding exactly how you wish to be perceived by those that matter.
Look at the characteristics and strengths you’ve built in your career, and the things that people say you are best at. Identify your specialities, what you do, what people want you to do for them, and what your ideal job title is.
Values are the things that you believe to be important in the way you live and work. They are at the core of who you are as a person and they determine your priorities.
Passions are the ways we enjoy spending your time and are generally different to values, though the two may overlap. In building your personal brand, you must first identify your passions, the things you love to do, and the attributes and qualities that show this. A passion for technology and process design may be expressed in an ability to design ways to automate standard work tasks. Consider the work activities and projects you enjoy the most and the value you bring to them. Think about your unique traits and the words that people use to describe you.
Step 2 – Craft your personal brand statement
Think about how you can package yourself and your history into a handful of lines: what is your unique promise of value and who is it for? A personal brand statement can consist of the target audience, the value you offer and what makes you different to others. For example:
“I run a professional training and coaching company. I specialise in unlocking the leadership potential in ambitious individuals and companies.”
It could alternatively be stated as:
“I believe organisations can’t develop leaders. They can only help them develop themselves in a way that will support the organisation. So, learning through experience, coaching, mentoring and career conversations should be an integral part of any development strategy.”
Step 3 – Be yourself
Find your own style. Don’t follow the crowd. Use your style and uniqueness to attract the opportunities that you desire.
Your personal brand shouldn’t be fun or exciting by design—it should be real. You should present it in a friendly and approachable way, but you should never deviate from being authentic. Your personal brand is the most important thing you own. If you are not comfortable with it, you will not have the sincerity that is a key factor in every relationship, both personal and professional.
The best way to develop a strong reputation is by defining your personal brand. This will help you look at success through the eyes of your stakeholders. It helps you decide what promise you want to make to others about your working relationship, so you can shape how you behave to meet that promise.
If you would like help with clarifying your personal brand as you manage your career in your organisation, check out the Leadership Coaching we offer. We’ll help you step up and stand out in your organisation.
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