Personal brand? Brand “you”? Building your brand? Differentiating yourself? What does it all mean?
And … does it even matter if you are living a flexible life?
What is personal brand?
Personal brand is another name for reputation. So says Dorie Clark, a marketing strategist and speaker who talks and writes about this topic and “reinventing yourself”. More on this later. Where did the expression “personal brand” come from?
Management guru Tom Peters coined the term personal brand in his 1997 article “The Brand Called You“. So it is not really new. It just seems to have become a buzz-word in the last few years. And, it seems that your personal brand involves all the things that you do and say – all the things that confirm your reputation in the eyes of others.
If you have a flexible lifestyle, do you even need to worry about this?
I think so. I would go further to say it is even more important for your personal brand to be robust and resilient in your flexible and changing world. But flexible and changing? Isn’t that the way the world is now anyway? If you live and work in different places, in varied roles, your commitment to personal branding needs to be effective across different geographies and different audiences. Being clear on what it is, enables you to present yourself clearly and authentically – in any forum (in person or online) and in any context.
To thine own self be true
It is easy to over-complicate personal branding. Megan Biro simplifies this by going back to the basics. Her summary:
- Listen to Shakespeare – “This above all: to thine own self be true.”
Your brand is you – the foundation of who you are and what you do.
- Take a personal inventory
Have an objective look at your strengths, weaknesses and personality.
- Be honest
Don’t force yourself to be someone you’re not. Be yourself.
- Don’t over (or under) sell yourself
Aim high and let your results speak for themselves
- Bring your best self
It is about understanding and being your best self
~ Biro, 2013, 5 Steps to Empowering The Brand You
Commitment to your brand
If you are committed to maintaining a personal brand or developing your existing one, you probably need to start by taking a good look at it. You could ask yourself what YOU think people think of you, or you could ask others. Scary? Perhaps. Revealing – yes! Try finding out (from an honest, trusted friend) what they think others would say about you if your name came up in conversation – say over coffee (if you were absent)? You may be surprised.
What will inform them? Their experience of interacting with you. They form a view at every touchpoint with you. For example, when:
- your name flashes up on their mobile phone screen – what do they think?
- there is an email from you in their in-box – what do they think?
- or they see you approaching them in the street – what do they think?
These are moments that contribute to your reputation – moments of truth for your personal brand.
Moments of truth
Moments of truth are opportunities for you to reinforce who you claim to be. They are created by various interactions with you in person and your virtual persona. They are your opportunities to make an impression. If everything aligns – what you do and what you say – everything is congruent, no surprises. It’s when things don’t align, that there is a mismatch. A mismatch between statements and actions means your brand is compromised.
Personal brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.
~ Jeff Bezos, Founder, Amazon.com
There are many opportunities for you to create effective moments of truth. Interactions with people you know and don’t know, count. It can be how effectively you present yourself – your image, self expression, building rapport with others. It can be the way you follow-through on promises (or not), organise yourself to be on time (or not), deal with unexpected outcomes positively (or not), deliver on your services (or not).
Social media is a great avenue for developing personal brand around your expertise, and especially convenient for flexible lifestylers. There are various platforms that you can use to build your reputation and expertise. LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs are just a start. No matter where you are in the world, you can engage with audiences through these social media channels.
What is you don’t like what you find out about your reputation/brand? It might be time to do some work on it. To change it or evolve it into the person you want people to know you to be.
What about if you don’t work on it – your personal brand I mean? Let it evolve organically on its own without any deliberate intervention? I heard one branding expert say, “if you don’t create your own personal brand, someone else will”. I think the same applies to managing it. If you leave it to develop on its own, it may end up being something that compromises your potential.
Developing your brand and evolving or changing it is possible, and not as hard as you think. If you want to “reinvent yourself”, you can. Dorie Clark has written a book about this. First though, start with your current situation. What is the state of your personal brand? Do a simple gap analysis. Enlist the assistance of trusted colleagues or friends.
- What is the current state of your brand? Make a list.
- What is the brand you want to have? Make a list.
- Compare the two. Identify the gaps and what you have to do to bridge them.
Download your Personal Brand Gap Analysis worksheet here
A moment of reflection
Think about what you have done lately. What has made you stand out? What would your colleagues or your customers say is your greatest and clearest strength? What it your most noteworthy personal trait?
What will you do now? Get into action and “manage” your brand? Or, do nothing – thinking – this is really not for me? If you need more, there are some resources listed below. Whether you act on this or not – is entirely up to you. Either way, it will speak volumes about brand YOU.
- The first step to building your personal brand
- Reinvent your personal brand by Dorie Clark
- How I used Twitter to change careers
In future posts:
- The role of image/style in personal presentation
- What your emails say about you
- Make your mark – how to be heard