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A brand, regardless of whether it’s personal, for a company or particular product is, at its most basic level, what people think, feel and say about something when they hear it or see it.
Now this could be good thing think Princess Kate, Princess Mary, Mark Zuckerburg for example, but for some like Todd Carney or Lance Armstrong it’s not so good.
While these people would, of course, had some help in establishing their brands, they would have had one to start with because a personal brand is synonymous with who you are and what you offer. Is it how you differentiate yourself from others, the impression that you make and the reputation that you build. It is also a reflection of the people you associate with, the school you attend, the place that you work.
You can see from the latter examples how quickly people will distance themselves from negative brands for fear of damage to their brand just purely by association.
Social media has created this world, a world where people are on display in everything that they do, so you need to consider your brand as being holistic covering both your personal and professional life. You may act a little differently at work, than you do at the pub on a Friday night and that’s ok, but unfortunately for some, the brand they portray at the pub or online (Todd Carney again), may not be the brand they want to portray at all, and it’s really hard, particularly in today’s world of social media to change that perception once it’s out there .
I’m assuming because you’re reading this, that you have an interest in your personal brand. This could be simply because you want to know more about it, what it is, what it does or it could be because you want to change jobs, get a promotion, to increase your influence and become a thought leader. Regardless of your motivation, a personal brand is one of the key components for developing a successful career.
So I wanted to start with the basics first, the elements of a brand.
Many people think a brand is just a logo, and while that it is correct, a brand is also much more.
For those who have studied marketing at any point you would be familiar with Philip Kotler, the author of numerous marketing textbooks, well he defines a brand to be a:
A combination of these
All intended to identify something. Now that something could be a company, a product or for the purpose of this post, a person (you).
So if you now think of a brand as being an identifier. Something that would identify you, and differentiate you from everyone else, I’m guessing not many would now think of a logo because not many of us would have a logo that represents us.
I’m hoping that you would start to think of who you are and what you do, and the value you bring. And if you do that’s great because that’s what you need to do, you need to start thinking of yourself as a brand. You need to start thinking about the value that you bring that someone else can’t, what do you do and how you do it, what is unique about you, what do you want to be known for?
People with strong brands are clear about who they are and what they want so let’s move onto how you can uncover your personal brand.
We start with a little bit of self-reflection and self-awareness to do this and if anyone is interested Price Waterhouse Coopers have on their website, a great personal brand workbook that is easy to follow it is targeted to uni graduates but the fundamentals are the same.
Essentially you will need to start with a personal SWOT analysis.
Now complete this yourself first.
What you do think your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are? Don’t forget to include an online audit as you go. Review your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Yammer, Tinder, SnapChat all of your online accounts see what you’re posting what have been your strongest posts, did you write a blog that gained good traction, is there something you wish you could remove, where are the opportunities online, and what are the threats? Even try Googling your name and see what that returns.
It’s really important, to be honest, no one else is going to see this, so don’t be afraid to admit things you may not normally, put it all down!
Strengths and Weaknesses are internal
Opportunities and Threats are external
Once you have completed this yourself, it’s time to get feedback from your network. Start with your manager or subordinates – you might already do this as part of your performance management at work, or your 360-degree reviews.
Also, ask colleagues, family, friends, stakeholders. Get them to tell you honestly what they think about you, your strengths and weaknesses are and get them to tell you how they would describe you to someone else. Then ask yourself, does this picture fit the picture you have of yourself?
The aim here is to build a solid brand foundation by aligning your identity that’s how you would like to be perceived/how you perceive yourself, with your image, that’s how you are perceived by those around you.
If they are the same, or very close, then that’s great you have strong self-awareness and clear strengths to leverage and you are ready to move onto the next step. If not, then there is some work to be done to align them, particularly if the feedback you received from your network was a surprise (good or bad). But there is a whole other session in that.
For those who are ready, we move now to developing your Brand Pyramid.
A brand pyramid is a way of visually demonstrating your brand attributes and will help you set clear goals and actions.
And it starts with:
Image – what is your style? How would you describe your appearance?
Strengths – You have a list of strengths from your SWOT, include them here, they, with your image, are the foundation of your brand.
Behaviour – what is your personality? If you want to delve further into this, DISC, Myers-Briggs have free online profiles that can help you. If you’re even more interested you can pay for full profiles to be developed for you that are really quite insightful and can help you uncover things about yourself, you may not have realised.
Reputation – from your SWOT what are you known for?
Beliefs – what drives you? What motivates you?
Values – Drive the choices you make and your behaviour. They can be hard to define, and people often fall into the trap of listing general values like trust, honesty, but that PWC booklet I mentioned earlier gives a great way to really find out what your core values are is says, “think about some of the most memorable conflicts you’ve had in your life. Examine them closely for the essence of what really bugged you. What crossed the line? What value did that violate? Chances are, if you remember the conflict, it’s because it touched on one of your key values”.
You may be wondering why this is important, but I can tell you the more you know about yourself, the better decisions you will make for you and your family.
And finally your brand essence.
Your brand essence captures the key elements of your brand. It is a combination of your purpose, your promise, and your attributes, summed up in a few words.
Take everything you have captured and determine what is at the core of your brand, this will be your essence. What sentence or combination of words bests describes you and what you are about?
Once you have decided, remember it because it becomes the key message of your elevator script – what you say when you first meet someone and they ask you about yourself and what you do. It’s also what you would like other people to say when asked about you.
And once you have done that, you will have yourself a solid brand framework you can start looking at ways to market and promote yourself.
First, you will need to:
Set clear goals: Your purpose and promise can help here. As can the opportunities you identified as part of your SWOT. Using the SMART analogy like any marketing plan set yourself, clear, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely goals. For example, I want to become a manager by next year. Start to map out where you want to be.
Define your target audience. Who do you want to work/volunteer for? Which organisations do you want to become a member of? What social circles do you want to want to be a part of?
Research: Research opportunities and requirements for becoming an employee/member/associate of your target audience. Identify the places you found this information and note them down for your marketing plan. Note down keywords they use so that you can start to talk/write in their language.
Identify points of difference. Using the work you have done to build your brand highlight the distinctive qualities you have that sets you apart from your competition and that benefit your target audience.
Mitigate your weaknesses and threats: Take a look at the weaknesses and threats you identified through your SWOT. How can you mitigate these? Put together some points on how you will address each of these. For example, you may not be great at interviews, so you might decide to get some interview coaching.
Start promoting: The easiest place for personal promotion is definitely online. The key is to connect with people in your industry and share timely, relevant content to your network that they will find valuable.
LinkedIn is a great place to start for a professional profile. If you haven’t already got a LinkedIn profile, now’s the time. LinkedIn provides regular slides on how to create the perfect profile based on the way people use the site and feedback from members. Jump online and give it a shot. If you do already have a LinkedIn account, it is still worthwhile checking out LinkedIn’s tips, to make sure you’re staying up to date and getting noticed.
Your other online profiles are good places, to share content too, just make sure you are being purposeful about what you share, post, tweet because every post contributes to your brand. A platform does not warrant a message, let the message determine the platform.
Other opportunities for promotion include attending alumni events, securing speaking opportunities at industry/networking events (like today). Engaging in meaningful online conversations that encourage your network to promote you.
Uncovering your personal brand not only helps you to unlock your true potential it also helps you to be more strategic in your life and career decisions.
It challenges how you see yourself, and how you see others and working through it, really makes you stop and think about what is important to you.
It’s funny how in today’s connected world, we can actually become disconnected from our real selves.
To wrap up, I want to leave you with this quote.
“He who knows others is clever, but he who knows himself is enlightened” – Lao-tzu
I got it from Forbes and it resonated with me because I am in the business of knowing “others” profiling audiences for clients, understanding their motivators and triggers, and coming up with ways to engage them.
But sometimes it’s nice to sit back and reflect because the key to unlocking your personal brand is all about examining and being true to yourself.
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