Your personal brand is important because it’s how you show up, how you develop relationships and go about your business. And, perceptions are often reality. A person’s brand can be the difference between getting promotion or not, or worse, keeping or losing your job. Stick around to learn the five steps to create a strong personal brand.
Step 1: Understand what makes a good brand.
The strongest brands in the world share this common trait: they create an impression and let people know what they can expect from them. Kleenex, Apple, Martha Stewart, love them or not, products, companies and people make you think and feel a certain way.
Strong brands clarify what makes them the best, sorting themselves from the competition, and distinguishing their unique value. This is true not only with national or global brands, but also with individuals within organizations. Plain and simple: People with strong personal brands are perceived as delivering strong value.
Step 2: Take a close and honest look at yourself.
As with products, companies and famous people, you, too, already have a brand; you have a reputation. You create and shape your brand every single day. Disciplined or laid back? Always on a caffeine high, or slow and deliberate? Strategic thinker or tactical execution expert? Organized and methodical or a chaotically divergent creative thinker? Leader or follower?
Some people are very clear on what their brand is. Others may have no idea. It’s important to first consider what you think your own personal brand might be. Who are you? How do you describe yourself? If you had to pick a few words that capture and communicate who you are, what would they be?
One of my Blueglass clients, Jeff* had a great brand as a tactical doer who could get a lot of work done. But he was having a hard time getting promoted because his leadership team thought he needed greater “executive presence.” I worked with him to understand what that really meant and to define some things he could adjust to improve his personal brand. This included how he introduced himself and led meetings, his personal appearance, and how he physically held himself over video and in a room, his posture, hand movements, and the energy that he was brining into his relationships and interactions across the company. As a result, he was promoted to take on greater responsibility and was well-positioned for the future.
Start with what are you really good at doing and where you have demonstrated success. You might be highly efficient at managing programs and complex initiatives, a terrific facilitator, a great relationship builder, or a heart-centered people manager.
As you consider your brand, thinking of analogies will help you to paint a more vivid picture of who you are. Are you an execution machine? A mechanic who can fix complex problems? A world-class coach of people? The Gandhi of understanding people and developing relationships?
Step 3: Find out other people’s perceptions of you
Rather than asking for general feedback, contact trusted colleagues, asking them to pick six or seven words that best describe who you are and how you work. If you ask ten people, you’ll get seventy words. You will likely see a theme. You can also ask your manager, other leaders, your mentors, and your friends. Try to find patterns in the responses you receive.
If you have previous assessments or personality tests, or if you know you Enneagram, find trends that match what you’ve learned from others. Use all of this input to come up with a general sense of how others see you and how you see yourself. Are these two views aligned? Is there some work you have to do to better understand others’ perceptions and to adjust what you believe your personal brand might be? Have you left anything else? You may not realize that you’re a terrific strategist, but others may have identified this for you.
In my own career, I had managed people for many years and had a strong reputation as a strong and respected people manager. People wanted to come work for me and be a part of my team. What I didn’t realize is that in managing my team and mentoring those in other groups, I was a good coach, helping people identify their aspirations and develop concrete plans on how to pursue their goals and advance their careers. As a result of this realization, I made a career shift and started my own executive and leadership coaching business.
Find the three qualities that make you better or different than your competition. You might be a great strategist, expert in working with large, complex organizations, and adept at finding greenfield opportunities.
Step 4: Write your personal brand statement
Describing your personal brand in one to two short sentences can help you keep your value front-and-center and make it easier for people to remember you, what you stand for, and how you’re different than others. It can be a lead-in for your resume or LinkedIn “About” section. It also serves as your north star when someone says, “Tell me about yourself.”
Your brand statement should explain your value (who you are or what you do), address your target audience (for whom do you work), and highlight your unique selling proposition (what makes you different than your competition). Ideally, it’s memorable.
A business strategist who helps large corporations re-envision the future and find a unique, opportunity-filled position within it.
A matchmaker of great companies, finding unique ways for companies to partner for exponential results.
A successful, inspirational sales leader with a passion for serving customers and driving results.
An expert project manager who cuts through the noise to deliver exceptional value.
A world-class marketing strategist who creates a unique and power voice in the digital world.
Step 5: Testing your brand
Now, test it out! See how it resonates with you and with others. If you find yourself stumbling over it, you probably need to shorten and simplify. See if there is anything that is off-brand about it, or if there’s something that doesn’t ring true.
As you go through this process, some people find they don’t have a good brand. That can be scary and disconcerting, but not the end of the world. If, for example, someone indicates that you are highly sensitive or reactive, try to find out more about why they might have that perception. This will help you to understand yourself better and adjust where necessary.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask, “Who says that’s true?” Just because someone says it, it’s not necessarily true. Be brave and develop a brand that clearly communicates your unique and powerful value.