Dan Schawbel, one of the pioneers of personal branding, defines personal branding as « the process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. In this way, individuals can enhance their recognition as experts in their field, establish reputation and credibility advance their careers, and build self-confidence. »
The highlighting of specific goal is mine, because I believe that to be the key to understanding the subject and making sure that you create the right brand for yourself. If you think of all the brands you know, and there are, at a conservative estimate, thousands of them*, the ones that stick in the mind are those that are coherent and match the products that they are promoting. Hopefully by the end of this article I will have shown how important this element of branding is and why it is key to the proper and effective branding of you.
One of the first people to write about personal branding, (if not the first), was Tom Peters, (the celebrated business writer of In Search of Excellence and Thriving on Chaos, both still in print), in his essay « The Brand Called You » (Fast Company Magazine, 1997). He wrote: « We are all CEOs of our own companies. To be in business today, our most important job is to be the head marketer for the brand called you. » Notice that he did not say that we have to be looking for work, but indicated that anyone in business today should be promoting themselves.
Since the introduction of social media on the internet, (the Web 2.0 as it is known), this has become even more important and pressing, more so that when Peters wrote his article; (in 1997 hardly any of the social networking tools that we take for granted today existed. See the timeline here http://www.taitran.com/blog/social-media-timeline.html). Today there are so many more outlets where we can be seen and heard, to the extent that there are even tools such as Seesmic to manage your membership within different communities.) And all the time more are being added.
It is not just for your ego that you should be creating a powerful brand of yourself. If you are looking for work then you can be pretty sure that recruiters will be scouring the net to find references to and of you. The same is true for those that might want to work with you, either as a collaborator or as an employee. I personally know people who were offered a job (in different companies and at different times) that turned the jobs down because what they found out about the Managing Director of the company. Managing your brand means that it is you that is in control and that you emit the signals that you want others pick up on. There is an interesting anecdote told by Seth Godin, (one of the internet’s principal bloggers on branding), about the time one of his friends wanted to hire a housekeeper. I will let you read it for yourselves – http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/02/personal-branding-in-the-age-of-google.html. You don’t have to be a housekeeper to be affected!
Personal branding then is firstly an exercise in getting to know yourself better, setting some clear and realistic objectives and using a variety of resources, (from the old-fashioned delivering on your promises to the more modern social networking tools), to promote yourself in such a way that you become the logical choice for anyone looking for the right person for the right job. If you manage to brand yourself correctly, you’ll get people coming to you to get things done and you won’t have to go to them. You will be the reference point and the go-to person!
Most of the press one reads is still about e-entrepeneurs and job seekers using personal branding, (creating videos, running blogs, shouting look at me!), but as I mentioned in my previous article, it is not limited to these two types. In the communication savvy 21st Century, we all need to be aware of our brand, and to try and take control of it. If you are a managing director trying to push through change, it is going to be your strength of character that sees it succeed and you must communicate this strength to those around, and this is your brand. If you are an entrepreneur looking for funding, then making your personal brand represent innovation, planning, dedication and enthusiasm going to go a long way in persuading investors put money into your dream. If you are looking to move ahead in your career, then making sure that you project the right values to the right people will mean that you will have no problem in achieving your objectives.
However, to know what values to invest in, to know what strengths to promote, to know the right objectives to set, before even thinking about creating your brand, means getting to know yourself properly and this is where outside help has to come in. More often than not, the way others see us is more positive than the way we see ourselves, and as being authentic and true to ourselves is fundamental to the personal branding process, then finding the right person to help you develop your brand is also an important step.
Using the new Web 2.0 tools that are available help in promoting the brand, but having set the clear objectives means that you will be able to choose which is the best channel to use and waste none of your precious time. A thorough understanding of who you are and where your strengths and weaknesses lie is the real secret to getting your brand launched and accepted. And it applies to everyone whether we like it or not. Act today to get your brand managed and take control of your future.
* Many studies have shown that the average American is exposed to over 3,000 separate pieces of advertising per day, and the spend on advertising is somewhere over $600 billion globally. This figure varies depending on what is being measured and for what reason, but just try and count all the messages you see from the pens on your desk, to the toothpaste you use in the morning, to the newspaper you read and the adverts you skip when relaxing in front of the TV. They have even started getting into the films we are watching.
Stuart Clarke, Consultant in Branding and Creativity