Do You Have a Personal Brand?

Personal branding sounds like a very 21st century concept, but it was actually born in 1997, when management guru Tom Peters wrote about “the brand called you.” Now, though, the Internet makes it possible for everyone to establish a brand, and people like my friend Dan Schawbel have established entire careers teaching people about its importance!

Why You Need a Brand

Personal branding can be defined as how you market yourself to other people. Your brand should be strong and memorable enough to set you apart and to make a positive impression on people you don’t know.

Most importantly, personal branding is like a career insurance policy, because even if your current job goes away, your brand doesn’t.  Plus, a consistent brand allows you a platform to showcase your existing reputation and skill set to prove to employers in new organizations or industries that you are capable of doing many different kinds of work.

Understand the Big Picture

To create an effective personal brand, you have to have a solid understanding of where you are in your career and where you’re going.  The clearer you are about this, the easier it will be to differentiate yourself and communicate why others should care about you.  In addition to showcasing your own blend of expertise and experience, your personal brand should demonstrate the qualities and values you want to be known for — for example, being cutting-edge, helpful, provocative, approachable or honest.

Try a Focus Group

If you need some help, do an informal focus group with personal and professional contacts to get their feedback on how you are perceived. Ask if they see you as the type to thrive under high-pressure situations, or if you’re more comfortable knowing exactly what to expect and having time to prepare for it.

Use Online Tools – and the Media

Become familiar with the tools, including online communities, of your industry, and make sure your presence on them is  updated to consistently and accurately reflect brand you.  A strategy Dan recommended is to become schooled in graphic design and/or web development so that you are better able to translate your brand visually. And one of my favorite methods is to serve as a media spokesperson for your target of interest so that others will witness you as a credible expert first hand!

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  • Our firm has spent a great deal of time over the past year clarifying our branding and creating strategies to communicate that brand to the online world.

    I think too often marketers focus on branding in terms of logos, slogans and images. I think that the best logos and images won’t accomplish successful brand if your product/service stinks. Also, if you don’t maintain a commitment to superior customer svc., the best imagery and brand ideation that money can buy won’t mean anything.

    What people, prospects, connect to initially, isn’t your images and slogans, it’s how you treat them, how their experience of your business makes them feel. How do they feel as they are negotiating with you? How do they feel when they are on the phone with a cust. svc. agent? How do they feel when you present to them the deliverables? How do they feel when they pay the final invoice?

    Focus on these questions, and not superfluous questions of “what’s our logo gonna be” – and then you will be building a solid brand.

    Notice that our Intranet has nothing to do with imagery, or logos. We do have some text in there relating to slogans and so forth, but it’s mostly just raw, hard data and useful info. It isn’t about a fancy Flash video or a website with a bunch of bells and whistles. The Intranet is a tangible thing; clients can play with it, go in there and get the goodies. The Intranet is all about making them feel like they’re special, when they get in there, like they’re privileged. Because we want them to connect positively with us – our business, and our people.

    Eric Bryant, Director

    Gnosis Arts Multimedia Communications LLC

    • Alexandra Levit

      @Eric: You’re absolutely right. Product/service quality and customer experience help to drive -if not define – a brand. The same is true for the individual brand. You could do a great job selling yourself, but if you don’t work hard and inspire trust, you won’t last very long in any given opportunity.

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