Simple Steps and Tools to Manage Your Personal Brand
We all have a brand, whether we consciously work to create one or not. The question is, does your brand serve you?
Your personal brand is simply what your acquaintances think of first when they remember you.
Here are some examples:
- Cute, fun, a little ditzy
- Smart, intense, arrogant
- Partier, “guys guy”….plays favorites to friends
- Helpful, eager to please, good with numbers
- Sees the big picture, no patience for details, expects the job to get done
We all have an inner circle of close friends who know us well enough to see and appreciate the depth of our personality, strengths, and the value we can offer in a multitude of situations.
But our professional network is made up largely of acquaintances, and none of us have enough mental bandwidth to learn or remember nuances about people we don’t know very well. So we tend make a few broad characterizations and leave it at that.
To test this – write a list of people you know who are outside your inner circle but whom you may have met a few times, or may know casually from work. Then describe those people in a few words. Would others describe them the same way? Chances are not exactly, but there will be some overlap. This overlap works like a default personal brand.
A small percentage of people actively work to manage their professional brand by choosing how they want to be perceived, working to stand for a specific set of values — or look a certain part. They then actively solicit feedback to see how they are doing.
For many of us this type of brand building feels daunting, and could even seem a little embarrassing or inauthentic.
However, your brand exists whether you do anything to build it or not. And it automatically influences who wants to meet you, work with you, and what opportunities people send your way.
When you don’t put the conscious effort in to discover and shape your personal brand, you leave it to chance. And in these cases the most common default is either to be branded as unremarkable or in a way that doesn’t support your highest aspirations!
The good news is you don’t have to invest a large amount of time, money, or energy to shape your personal brand.
Here are a few easy things you can do to get started:
Simplify Your Idea of Yourself:
Consider this – if every acquaintance in your network would only remember three words or phrases about you, what would you want them to remember?
Get Objective Feedback:
There is an on-line tool called 360Reach that will allow you to do a brand assessment on yourself at no cost. I am experimenting with the tool now and will be sharing what I learn in our Branding Learning Forum coming up next week. You can also use a tool like Survey Monkey and come up with your own questions, or request feedback directly with an e-mail. For example, if you have a website or LinkedIn profile – ask 20 of your friends to give you three words or phrases that come to mind when they scan it.
Choose Simple, Consistent Actions to Support Your Brand:
You might be surprised at how easy it is to shift your brand, once you are clear about what you want to portray.
In his book Disrupt You, Jay Samit, a high tech entrepreneur, tells the story of a new role he took in the record industry. There he was tasked with convincing established executives to move to new social media-based delivery models. He arrived in his best business suit to his first visit with a barefoot executive in her artistic Los Angeles living room, and learned quickly that his “corporate” attire would alienate him and make it difficult to develop rapport. With her help, he changed his wardrobe and personal style, and that helped him establish the credibility he needed to open doors.
In another story, shared by Karl Speak, an executive branding coach, a woman wanted to be seen as more strategic in her company, and she simply made the conscious effort to use the word “strategy” more frequently in her speech. Within less than six months people were independently describing her as strategic, compared to her initial brand survey where the word hadn’t come up at all!
Although these changes may seem superficial in their simplicity, it’s important to understand that the brand you create will only be believable if it is an authentic expression of who you are. Not only does it take a lot of energy to exhibit behaviors that aren’t in line with your values, it comes off as exactly what it is: a person trying to pretend they are someone else.
In our recent Branding Learning Forum, we did exercises that helped participants discover how they were branding themselves, and discussed simple practices you can implement immediately to consciously shape that brand into something that serves you better. Here is a 20 minute video excerpt of the class:
Is the effort to shape your brand worth it? The answer depends on where you are in your career, how known and valued you feel, and how many opportunities are coming your way naturally through your network. How much better would your work situation would be if 3-4 times as many people in your network knew and appreciated your greatest strengths? If, after watching the video, you’d like a little more support and guidance on developing your own brand, feel free to reach out for a consultation – we offer training and programs at all price levels and we’d love to support your growth!