In today’s world of overwhelming social media tools and applications, it’s difficult to overstate the importance of having a strong, positive, well-defined Personal Brand. Unfortunately, in over 20 years of providing consulting services, it’s been my experience that the topic of personal branding is frequently misunderstood or flat out ignored. In this article, I seek to explain the Personal Brand value proposition, as well as address some of the related misconceptions.
The importance of a strong personal brand
Let’s look at a real-world style example.
Meet Marty. He’s just finished his most successful year as an account manager, exceeding every performance goal, including his revenue targets. But, as I sit in a conference room amongst my management peers recommending Marty as a candidate for promotion, I’m surprised to be the only one in favor of this recommendation. I ask why the others around the table don’t support him, and the consensus of my peers suggests “I don’t know Marty – he’s been in this organization for two years now and I’ve never heard him speak or received any communication from him.”
At a high level, this story perfectly illustrates the peril of not having an established and marketed Personal Brand. Many assume that their accomplishments and job-performance speak for themselves. However, while there is some truth in this sentiment, it fails to capture the bigger picture and reality of the importance of personal branding. Establishing a Personal Brand isn’t extremely difficult, but it does take a focused effort and doesn’t usually just happen on its own.
Consider my experience the other day as I went grocery shopping. One item on my list was ketchup. When buying ketchup, I have always been partial to the traditional Heinz brand. This day, I found the shelf space was dominated by this brand in all its different varieties. However, due to the impact inflation has had on grocery prices, I found myself looking at some of the other options available to me. There were at least three brands of ketchup I had never noticed or tried before, and their price was slightly below my traditional Heinz choice.
I spent a moment considering these alternatives, especially because of the lower price. Ultimately, however, I opted for the brand I knew and was familiar with. Sure, Walden Farms ketchup was less expensive, but I just didn’t feel comfortable purchasing a product with a brand I didn’t know. Perhaps if I had previously seen a commercial about Walden Farms ketchup, or perhaps if I’d had an opportunity to try Walden Farms ketchup beforehand, I would have purchased it.
How your personal brand impacts your career
And professionals may experience similar circumstances frequently in their career. The decisions surrounding hiring, promotion, bonus, merit increases, project assignment, management opportunity, and a long list of other important career milestones are almost always influenced by the decision maker’s perception of the person under consideration. All too often, as the story above illustrates, the absence of a brand is enough to swing that decision away from you.
Put more succinctly, when your name comes up, what is the associated dialog? Does the decision maker know you? Have they interacted with you? Have they had a conversation with you? Do they know your values and accomplishments? Or, alternatively, do they simply not know enough about you to form a corresponding dialog? If this decision maker had the inclination to spend a brief amount of time searching to find out who you are, what will they find?
How to identify your existing personal brand
Hopefully, by now, the importance of having a Personal Brand has become clear. With this in focus, the next question then becomes, “What is my Personal Brand?”.
Do you know how to describe your Personal Brand? Good, bad, weak, strong, or absent, you have an existing Personal Brand. Do you know what it is? What are your strengths? What makes you unique? What is your value proposition to your current or potential employer? It’s paramount that you understand your current brand if you are going to market it effectively.
As a Personal Brand consultant, I’ve found that identifying and articulating your brand is easier said than done. To help in doing so, it’s sometimes helpful to first consider how brands are communicated in the consumer world.
Consider car branding as an example. What is the brand of a Mercedes Benz? Most people would say luxury, prestige, performance, or craftsmanship. What is the brand of a Kia? Most people would say affordability, quality, budget-friendly. These car brands are unique, distinct, different, and relatively easy to identify.
So again, do you know what your Personal Brand is? Are you creative, influential, or artistic? Are you a motivational speaker, an analytical spreadsheet guru, or a community organizer? Are you an entrepreneur, people manager, or expert fund raiser?
As you go through the process of identifying and clarifying your brand, don’t be afraid to reach out to those you trust and ask them what they believe your brand to be. Feedback from others is an absolute gift and can provide you with invaluable information about how they see your existing brand.
Marketing your personal brand
Whatever your brand is, define it with absolute clarity and do your best to identify what makes you unique. Then, having established this clear picture of your brand, the next step is to be deliberate in communicating it to others. Here are three ways to accomplish this task.
- Be true to your brand – Your actions and values must reflect the brand you are communicating. The person who says they are a cooperative team-player, but who then conducts business as a quiet recluse, will be seen as a hypocrite. The manager who claims to welcome real-time employee feedback, but who always has a closed door, will be seen as disingenuous.
- Take advantage of social networking tools – We live in a world of social networking tools that can be very effective in communicating your brand. If someone looks you up on LinkedIn or Facebook, what will they find? Does your published content communicate your brand? Your posts, references, recommendations, and photos should collectively tell others who you are and what your brand is.
- Reach out to strategic people and contacts – There are always strategic and influential people within your career circle. Your skip-level manager, your manager’s peers, and organizational leaders all have the opportunity to, and frequently do, provide an impact on your career progress. Make an effort to get in front of them and let them see who you are first-hand. Request a 30-minute virtual meeting with an organizational leader and ask them about a project they are working on and how you can contribute. With your manager’s blessing, reach out to one of their peers to ask them about their career journey and any advice they might have for your journey. Seek out and volunteer for an extra assignment that will give you an opportunity to be seen by these strategic contacts.
As stated earlier, building and marketing your Personal Brand isn’t extremely difficult, but it does take a focused and deliberate effort. In my consulting career, I’ve seen many people achieve tremendous results by taking the time to define, refine, and market their Personal Brand. Get started on your journey today.
If you’d like to find out more about your Personal Brand, or enhance other important career-oriented human skills, please do get in touch. At SkillUp Online, we know the difference that strong soft skills can make to a professional’s career, and you can benefit from that too.
Coach & Director Human Skills