Back in the ‘dark ages’ when I started my marketing career, ‘brand’ was solely a textbook subject and limited to entities, not people.
The idea of how I presented myself professionally and how that might positively (or negatively) impact on my career never entered my head. The emphasis was on self-improvement and less about self-promotion. Today it’s all different and marketing professionals can career plan and promote personal brand messages to their (competitive) advantage.
David Bittiner, of the BD Consultancy, gave an insightful talk on personal brand building at a recent PM Forum event. I found myself agreeing with him that having a personal brand is more important than ever, as the marketplace is more competitive and standing out from the crowd can pay real dividends.
So what is it?
Definitions of personal brand vary; here are three to ponder:
‘Personal brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.’ Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder
‘Think of your personal brand as your calling card – your unique promise of value. It’s what you’re known for and how people experience you.’ PricewaterhouseCoopers
‘A personal brand is a frame through which the world sees you.’ Emmelie de la Cruz, business and branding blogger
Ultimately personal brand is about how you position yourself, your image (aura) and your behaviour (reputation). All of that equates to your personal differentiation and value. And it’s different from reputation alone; reputation happens regardless, but your personal brand needs to strategic, considered and executed – you need to make it happen.
What are the benefits of personal branding?
Regardless of your career stage, chances are you are pretty busy, so why bother with something else that needs time and effort? The professional services marketing arena is highly competitive and personal branding plays an essential part.
We considered what characteristics make for an effective personal brand based on our own experience and came up with many, including authenticity, trustworthiness, the ability to challenge, honesty, being engaging and the ability to connect emotionally (EI). Perhaps no surprise then that these characteristics are so close to leadership qualities: enthusiasm, integrity, toughness, fairness, warmth, humility and confidence. (See John Adair’s 7 qualities of leadership).
Your personal brand strategy
Time to get honest. Self-analysis is key to creating your personal brand strategy; knowing your personal strengths, weaknesses and passions will all help define your goals and identify what creates distinction in your personal brand. Once you’ve identified what makes your brand distinctive, you can communicate that value to your chosen audiences. You should look to maximise your communication channels for optimum impact to create on-going momentum over time.
The path to personal brand serenity has some common pitfalls. Try to avoid superlatives such as ‘guru’ or ‘expert’, listing everything you can do, or listing too many trophies – think about what defines what your effect, rather than just what you do.
Measuring your value
Your personal brand success will depend on how you measure your value as it develops over time. Criteria for measuring value are individual, but might include: 360 degree feedback from colleagues, cultural change shifts, client and/or brand feedback, numbers of new clients or enquiries, external speaking events, personal mentoring – there are many to choose from, but some form of self-assessment is key. You’ll know you’ve achieved buy-in when you’re viewed as the ‘go-to’ person for your chosen criteria.
Getting the message out there
Don’t underestimate all the touchpoints you have for communicating your personal brand, there are probably more than you think: face to face meetings, emails, calls, formal and informal presentations (internal and external), social media communications, internal/client networking, online communications. No doubt there are more.
Make it happen
Best intentions rarely materialise into actions, so make a plan to develop your personal brand and make it a reality. David suggested an eight-point action plan:
1. Write down your personal brand goals and objectives
2. Consider your audience(s)
3. Find a ‘mediator’
4. Identify links between your job description and your personal brand
5. Seek alignment between the various elements
6. Communicate the benefits
7. Be visible and memorable
8. Get appraised by a trusted source
I’d endorse David’s advice to any ambitious marketer looking to shine in a tough and over-crowded marketplace. Just wish I’d had such an insightful view 20 years ago!
About the author: Hilary Gladwell
Hilary has 21 years’ experience of senior marketing and business development in professional services, including in-house roles and consulting projects. She studied Politics and Modern History at Manchester University and later went on to complete her CIM Postgraduate Professional Diploma. She is a chartered marketer and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. See Bio…