I am sure we all agree that marketing as a business tool has changed in the last 10 years. The growth in social and business networking on-line and face to face has given the marketing game a new twist. Personal Branding is hailed as the new marketing phenomenon.
The standard definition of Personal Branding is the art of attracting and keeping more customers by actively shaping public perception of the benefits of associating with ME. In fact, to be a strong contender in business today our most important job is to be marketing director of brand ME.
As with most ideas in business the Personal Brand concept has been around since the dawn of time. Take Alexander the Great, for instance. He would have been just another forgotten Greek warlord had he not surrounded himself with scribes and followers employed to broadcast his successes. More recently Simon Cowell would be just another A & R executive, Madonna another female singer from the eighties who we can barely remember. They are the architects of their own unique Personal Brands.
The ultimate personal brand is that of Barack Obama. During his presidential campaign he built his brand around three things: his idea of change, a strong visual identity, and phenomenal verbal skills.
Anyone can build a Personal Brand. Actually, we already are our own unique brand, it is the marketing of it that takes concentration. Just think of your Facebook profile and you realise that you are in charge of how others perceive you. Delivering a clear and concise message that defines who you are involves long term effort on your part. Having an authentic and well constructed Personal Brand will shape the way people understand you, will draw the business you want towards you, and will carry you throughout your life.
Everyone has a chance to improve and build up skills that contribute to make brand ME. Here are some basic steps to begin with:
1. Think of your personal goals in life, create a mission statement for Brand Me
i. What am I passionate about
ii. What do I want for the rest of my life
2. Think of yourself as your own personal asset
i. What do I do that most brings value to my company
ii. What am I most proud of
3. Ask your most trusted colleagues, friends, family “What do people say about me, when they think of me?” Do they call you caring, serious, thoughtful, humorous – they are all perceptions of your brand but you have to be comfortable with them.
Your self impression = how people perceive you
4. Be honest about who you are, your attributes and qualities. If you know yourself you can promote an honest brand
5. Learn from the Big Brands – what is it about you that makes you stand out (value, speed, quality, female in a male dominated business, personal service vs call centre) What have you done recently that is better than your competitors. What do your customers say is your greatest strength. Establish your niche and stay focussed on it – being a Jill of all Trades or a one-stop shop just confuses people
6. Don’t be afraid to zag when others zig. Obama’s competitors took a traditional approach to raising funds for their campaign, gala dinners and appeals. Where they zigged Obama zagged. He built the biggest war horse campaign ever using the internet and encouraging small donations from individuals.
7. Use words wisely. Research shows that communication skills are one of the top determinants to professional success. To have a strong Personal Brand you need to be a good communicator so make sure your verbal and written skills are at their best.
8. Realise that your network, your boss, colleagues and clients can be your most powerful ally – or enemy. Never speak ill of them, their perceptions of your abilities and accomplishments can make or break you.
9. Be ubiquitous
i. Build your profile of social networking sites (LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, Facebook – use a consistent profile, handshake. Don’t forget a decent photograph of you on all sites – no vodka bottles or bikinis and turn on privacy options
ii. attend as many networking events as time allows, get on the speaker circuit, volunteer to run or chair events, run workshops
iii. Control your networking, make it relevant to you /your business – research shows the more credited appearances you give (whether face to face or online) the more positive an impression you create for your product or service. It’s all wrapped up in your PB
10. Your brand = your reputation, and your reputation is what people are saying about you so try to monitor this.
11. Be consistent in everything you do and don’t do! Face to face discussion, phone calls, blogs ………..all have to be consistent otherwise it undermines your PB
12. Maintain authority at all times: you do what you say and you say what you mean
But what happens when your actions are incongruent with your Personal Brand. I am thinking of political journalist Andrew Marr’s recent revelation about taking out a superinjunction to prevent the media from publicising his affair with a colleague. This hypocrisy is at odds with the ‘no stone left unturned’ journalist we know him to be. Politicians, too, struggle to maintain a consistent personal brand in the face of media scrutiny. Once the brand is undermined, so too is the reputation, and the public’s trust.
This demonstrates the importance of protecting our Personal Brand in all aspects of our lives. We may not be a celebrity or politician but if our PB crown slips so does our credibility. If it is a struggle to maintain a consistent your brand in all aspects of your life, perhaps it is because you are trying too hard. Nobody is perfect and we all accept this as a fact of life, so let your Personal Brand reflect the real you.