When most people hear the word brand it conjures up names like Nike, Apple or Coca-Cola, but brands are not just for corporations. They are for people too and not only for the likes of Oprah or Kim Kardashian. Each one of us has our own unique brand.
For all we hear about brands, however, a lot of people are still not totally clear on what a personal brand is or why it’s important. Don’t be fooled, your personal brand is critical if you want to create a fulfilling career. It doesn’t matter if you are an entrepreneur, a corporate executive or a government employee; personal brand management is one of the most important jobs you have on your journey to success.
So what exactly is a personal brand? In short, it is your reputation. Your brand is comprised of everything about you, your expertise, personality, work ethic, the way you dress and even the way you communicate. Basically, it’s everything you put out into the world that represents who you are. However, that’s only half of the equation. The other half is the perception of you held in the minds of your audience. If that audience is your boss or a potential client you can see why it’s so important to be thoughtful about your personal brand management.
People make assumptions and judgements about each other all the time. You want to be sure the assumptions people make about you are the ones you want them to make. You want to have as much influence as possible on the perception others have of you. Cruise control works for cars, but is detrimental to careers. You want to be in the driver’s seat of your brand.
There is a misconception out there that personal brand management is about putting on a shiny, fake veneer to impress or intimidate your audience. This is a false interpretation. It is instead acting with a clear and focused intention so you can reach your potential in a way that make you feel excited and grounded in who you. It is expressing your best, most authentic self in a way that is alignment with your goals.
Of course, you want to impress people, but you want to do it from a place of integrity and personal power and there are few things more empowering than having a clear and confident sense of who you are. The problem is, most people don’t know what they want and if they do know, they don’t know why they want it so they blithely go down a career plan that often leaves them feeling dissatisfied and frustrated.
We don’t want that to happen to you, so here are some key tips to keep in mind when thinking about your personal brand:
Clarity Is Key:
The first step to a powerful personal brand is awareness. You need to take the time and space to think about yourself. It may sound a bit “new-agey,” but it’s called a personal brand for a reason. This is about you, you career, your happiness.
No one can answer the questions to the deeper motivations for your brand better than you. When you do allow others to think for you, you give away your power and create a default brand that may not be in your best interest. You must give yourself permission to ponder the more thought provoking questions.
Here are few to get you started:
What do I care about?
What do I value?
What are my passions?
What are my unique strengths?
What kind of work am I doing when I feel most alive and empowered?
What kind of impact do I want to make in my field or even on society?
What do I want my career to look like 10 years from now?
What kind of environment or people do I want to be surrounded by?
This may not be something you can or should do in one sitting. These are big life questions, so be patient with yourself if the answers don’t immediately pop to mind. If you sit with them for a while, eventually what feels most true will gurgle to the surface.
Declare Your Position:
Once you’ve answered some of these questions, it’s time to decide what path you want to pursue and declare who you are in terms of how you want to be seen in pursuit of that path. This declaration can be in the form of a personal manifesto or simply statements made about who you that are sewn into your brand communications in places like your social media channels, professional bio, website copy or even in media interviews.
It may sound lofty, but making a declaration about who you are is very useful not only for you to define yourself, but also for those around you to be able to recognize, remember and most importantly, refer you. You begin to take up a unique space in the minds of your audience and differentiate yourself from the crowd.
By committing to a specific direction and point of view, you begin to refine and strengthen your position as a leader which then opens up more prestigious and profitable opportunities.
Remember, great brands are narrow and deep, not ambiguously wide and unfocused.
Take Consistently Aligned Actions:
Once you are clear on what you desire and have clearly articulated your unique value, you need to take action, but not just any action. From this point forward, you want to be sure your actions are in alignment with and accentuate your desired brand perception.
For example, if you want to be seen as C-suite material, you need to consistently look, act and sound like someone who could take on that role. Do you dress like a leader? Do you speak with confidence? Do you make bold and valuable contributions to your company? Does your professional bio paint a vivid picture of your expertise? Are you stepping up for leadership responsibilities?
If you are an entrepreneur, does your website have a clear message? Do you have good visual branding with your logo, fonts, colors etc.? Do you know how to communicate your unique value in a way that is immediately obvious to your potential clients? How do you show up on social media? You need to be consistent across all platforms.
These pieces either build or damage your brand equity. If you want to accelerate your success, you must create a clear, cohesive and consistent brand presence with everything you do professionally. It is a noisy world and if you want to stand out, you need to find and project your own unique voice and keep it out there long enough to get noticed.
Heather Poduska is a brand strategist, business coach and opera singer who helps entrepreneurs and small business owners create client attractive brands, polished brand images and brand communication strategies to increase their visibility and impact in the marketplace and grow their businesses. You can find out more about Heather by visiting her website at www.clearvoicebranding.com or connecting with her on social media at www.facebook.com/ClearVoiceBranding.