Having a strong brand in marketing terms means that it has a positive and consistent image amongst its customers.
However, the growth in social and business networking on-line and face to face has given the marketing game a new twist and an important new role: the personal brand. This is hailed as the new marketing phenomenon and is reinforced by the emergence of a wave of personal brand agencies and workshops on the subject. People now see how important they are in representing their business, and the networking mantra of people buy from people has finally sunk in….
Definition of personal branding: the art of attracting and keeping more customers by actively shaping public perception of the benefits of associating with ME, but at its basic level it is everything about you that makes you YOU.
But it isn’t new: Alexander the Great would have been just another forgotten Greek warlord had he not surrounded himself with scribes and followers who would 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.
It represents the individual’s values, strengths and experiences, it’s the difference they make and the value they add in their business and personal life. So to be a strong contender in business today our most important job is to be marketing director of brand ME.
Why would I want to create a PB? Why is it important?
What people think and say about you will dictate the level of influence you have both within and without your network.
People will rely on your Personal Brand whenever they meet you. What makes you different is not what you do but how you do it. It’s the HOW that differentiates you and your business – your USP. You are the X-factor that determines why people become your customers – they are buying into you.
Similarly, successfully employing staff or engaging businesses to collaborate with is influenced by your Personal Brand. The impact and impression you create in communicating your vision will be the deciding factor for others. People want their careers to flourish surrounded by like-minded people. And a great business is built on a great team of people.
Investors also have to be convinced by your Personal Brand. A great business model needs the right individual to make it succeed. As with the Dragons Den, banks, venture capital, and angel investors frequently say that it is the person they invest in.
Finally, we are in the digital age. People will have checked you out online long before they meet you and have formed an opinion based on what they see. So, be aware of what you put on the internet, You Tube, social networking sites – a lack of consistency can lead to confusion in what you are about.
How to create a strong Personal Brand
Most important: don’t just do it for the sake of it. Having an authentic and well constructed Personal Brand will shape the way people perceive you, will draw the business you want towards you, and will carry you throughout your life.
- Think of your personal goals in life, create a mission statement for Brand Me; what am I passionate about; what do I want for the rest of my life
- Think of yourself as your own personal asset; what do I do that most brings value to my company; what am I most proud of
- Be honest about who you are, your attributes and qualities. If you know yourself you can promote an honest brand
- Learn from the Big Brands – what is it about you that makes you stand out vis a vis the competition. What do your customers say is your greatest strength
- Learn from Personal Brand masters. During Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign his competitors took a traditional approach to raising funds with celebrity hosted gala dinners and appeals. But he built the biggest war horse campaign ever using the internet and encouraging small donations from individuals – and won.
- 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. Join organisations like Toastmasters or hire a professional coach to make sure your verbal and written skills are at their best.
- 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.
- Be ubiquitous. Attend as many networking events as time allows, get on the speaker circuit, volunteer to run or chair events, run workshops; build your profile on relevant networking sites and use a consistent profile with a consistent ‘handshake’. Don’t forget a decent photograph
What if they can’t find you, read about you, or perhaps they have never heard about you? Not having an online presence is almost as bad as having an inconsistent profile. Actively managing your digital presence and ensuring it reflects accurately who you are is key to having a strong Personal Brand.
Your brand = your reputation, and your reputation is what people are saying about you so try to monitor this. Set up Google alerts (www.google.com/alerts) and search Twitter at search.twitter.com
But what happens when your actions are incongruent with your Personal Brand: take Barack Obama, for example. He spent time and effort on the campaign trail promoting a winning personal brand. The decisions he has had to take in his presidency, the biting recession, the ongoing problems with Afghanistan and Iraq have made a second term look less of a possibility. In politics a strong personal brand is a must-have, because everything else aside, it gives Obama’s supporters a reason to trust him as a person.
We may not be running for a second term presidency but this demonstrates the importance of protecting our Personal Brand in all aspects of our lives. We may not be a celebrity but if our crown slips so does our credibility. Nobody is perfect and we all accept this as a fact of life, so let your Personal Brand reflect the real you.