Personal branding

This article is all about your personal brand. Don’t think of yourself as an employee of the company you work for; imagine you are the CEO of yourself! Read on to understand why a personal brand is a good thing to have and how to establish yours.

Definition of branding

The Oxford dictionary defines branding as “A particular identity or image regarded as an asset.”

For individuals, another way of looking at it is: “What people say about you when you are not in the room”. This quote has been attributed to several people, so I’m not sure where it originates from, but for me it’s a good way of thinking about your brand and what you want people to say about you – what words they would use to describe you.

Why you need a personal brand

Companies invest a significant amount of time and money in creating their brand. Customers associate themselves with the brand and buy the product because of the image it portrays.

A watch can be a status symbol. A car can be a reliable, family model that is cheap to maintain, or a convertible sports car. Both vehicles get you from A to B but they convey different things. Think of the Nike ‘swoosh’ and ‘Just Do It’ slogan. As soon as you see either one, you know which company it represents and what values they stand for.

The same applies to you as an individual.

Having a personal brand is important because it will help you:

  • Assert influence
  • Gain recognition
  • Receive projects and assignments that are interesting and stretching for you
  • Develop your career

This links to my articles on How to manage your career and Comparing career management for women and men.

8 steps to creating your personal brand

1. Start with the end in mind
Define where you want to go, and set your timeline, which may be one, three or five years, or any other time period.

2. List your top five values
Your values are an integral part of your brand – looking at the definition above, they can be considered your identity. They are the core of who you are and what you stand for. They drive your behaviour and decision-making throughout life. Your values won’t change much over the course of your lifetime, but may evolve as a a result of major life changes such as getting married, having children, or losing a loved one.

If you would like help to sift through and define your top five values, please email me for a simple exercise you can do.

3. Define your USP (unique selling point)
What do you offer that’s different? What makes you stand out? What is the benefit and value of this?

Company brands are not just affected by their own performance, but by the relative performance of their competitors. Take BlackBerry for example; their brand was affected not just by their own mistakes (including not transitioning from being seen as a company for business to a business for consumers) but by the success of Apple and Samsung. This applies to you too – what do your colleagues offer, and how can you create more value or offer an edge that is unique (or complementary, so as a team you are seen as valuable)?

4. Prepare your ‘elevator speech’
Imagine you are trapped in a lift (elevator) with the individual who can most influence your career. You have up to 60 seconds to convince them who you are and why you add value.

Remember to be succinct (obviously!) and make your description stand out. Focus on the work you do rather than who you are (e.g. describe your work rather than say “I am an Accountant/Lawyer/IT Director, etc.). If you know a little about the person you are talking to, you’ll be able to tailor it to what they are interested in, to encourage them to ask you more.

5. Conduct a gap analysis
Compare where you are today with where you want to go and then step back to analyse the gaps – what you need to develop.

You could draw a force field diagram, with your goal written in a column down the centre of the page, a bullet point list of all the drivers towards it on the left (what you already have), and all the resistance against it detailed on the right (your gaps). This tool is usually used in organisational change but it will work just as well with your personal change.

6.  Create your action plan
Turn your insights and decisions into an action plan showing what you are going to do and when. Consider all the people you need to help you. Add measures of success so you know when you have achieved your goal.

7. ‘Sell’ your results
As Tom Peters would say: “What can you brag about?” There is no point in achieving in a vacuum. You have to market your successes – this is often a topic brought to me by my coaching clients, and in particular how to do this: i) authentically; ii) so it lands well with different cultures.

Some ways to do this could include 1-1 discussions; offering to present at meetings (e.g. successes and learnings of an achievement); talking at conferences and then writing about it to distribute internally; blogs; publications. What have I missed?

Top tip
Numbers are more convincing than words, so quote the percentage improvement you delivered, the amount of dollars you saved, or the reduction in complaints you achieved.

8.  Evaluate and adjust
Take stock frequently and adjust where you want to go and your action plan to get there. When you do this will depend on your timeline, but once a quarter is probably reasonable.

I have designed and delivered a programme to work through these eight steps that can be run virtually via webinar or face to face for both groups and individuals. Please let me know if you’d like to find out more.

Other aspects of personal branding

Brands take a long time to build and very little time to destroy. For example, you may remember the Toyota vehicle recalls of 2009/2010.  Another car company, Hyundai, overstated the gas mileage for many of its cars, that caused customers to lose trust in their integrity and management efficiency.

To sustain your own brand, here are some of the other things you need to pay attention to:

You are the visual representation of your brand – from top to bottom – so make sure you are well groomed.

The way you are perceived is affected by the clothing, style, cut, fit, and colours you wear. You could use a personal shopper or Colour Me Beautiful consultant to advise you on which outfits are most advantageous for your individual shape and size. It’s worth doing, because your brand is supported as much by what you look like as it is by what you say and do.

I ‘had my colours done’ about 10 years ago. It really helped me. For example, I learned that black drains me and red is one of my best colours. I now only buy colours and styles that suit me – I still rely on it today.

Body language
How you carry yourself – walking, sitting, eye contact – are all things that people notice. It demonstrates to them how confident you are in yourself and how trustworthy you are. For more on this, see my article on Using body language to create rapport.

You need to act in accordance with your brand, so your words and deeds are congruent.

Whatever your personal brand, there are some things you should always do:

  • Be reliable
  • Always deliver on your promises
  • Have integrity
  • Deliver your best, whether to an audience of one or 1,000

Your LinkedIn profile is another place where your personal brand is represented, so  write it carefully and keep it up to date.

Raise your profile internally and externally
Raising your profile externally automatically raises it internally.

  • Offer to speak at industry or professional events, join a panel discussion at a conference, or lecture at a local college or university
  • Go networking
  • Get a mentor and a sponsor (this links to my articles about How to manage your career and Comparing career management for women and men)
  • Publish your work
  • Aim for press coverage of events where you’ve spoken or results you achieved

And finally, a super-confident personal brand 🙂

Next month, how to motivate employees in today’s more complex world.

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