Whether you like it or not, you probably already have one.
With the rise of the internet and social media, your online presence - something as simple as your photo or LinkedIn profile has already created a perception in someone’s mind.
Let's take the world's leaders - without knowing them personally, we can describe their appearance, even the colour of their clothes, the way they stand, how they use their non-verbal body language and what they stand for – or at least we think we can.
As American political strategist, Lee Atwater, once said - 'perception is reality'. A scary thought but one that continues to be proved right.
This article is designed to help you think about your personal brand and the importance of tailoring it to your personality and your goals; how to create a positive and lasting impression and to start to think about the media that is best suited to raising your profile.
Where do you start when creating your personal brand?
Recruit mentors, get feedback and continuously adapt as you grow in your career.
There is often the misconception that a personal brand is a sheen to cover up who you really are. This is a definite no-no! Personal brand is all about self-packaging to present ourselves in a unique and consistent way but the aim is to be who you are - understanding yourself and how you are perceived is the first step in creating your personal brand.
Over the 30 years of my career, I have had some inspirational mentors. The most profound moment was when I realised I wasn’t cut out for the corporate world at the age of 16!
Working in the largest defence company in the country in the 1980s, I remember telling my boss, Mr Travis (you had to call everyone Mr then), that I liked his haircut. This didn’t go down well with the head of the office admin team, under the pseudonym of Dotty. I remember she told me that I was impertinent and overly confident! The horror and embarrassment ... the next day I waited for the P45.
But completely the opposite happened. That week, Mr Travis came to me and said I have the perfect job for you in our advertising agency - how do you fancy it? From here on I realised my calling as a creative and driven marketer.
Throughout my career, I can name many mentors from colleagues, business friends to business leaders who have advised me on all aspects of becoming a professional. Some feedback was hard to receive, but I have always listened, and this approach has helped me shape my own personal brand.
One of the best pieces of advice I have received recently is to read one book a week! 'It will enrich you as a person and make you more successful'. This is a challenge – so any mentors out there that can tell me how to fit in one book a week, I would welcome some top tips!
Your first step to creating a personal brand is to find out more about yourself. Find out why people like you, why they like working with you, your strengths, where you can improve but seek constructive advice. Then you can start to create a brand the best suits who you are.
So, why do you need one?
It really depends on your goals and the stage of your career. Is your aim to:
Whatever your goal, by understanding more about your own personal brand, makes pitching yourself much easier in these different scenarios. Knowing how you are perceived, your value proposition (ie what value you bring to the world), being able to describe yourself in no more than half a dozen adjectives and by knowing what drives you helps improve confidence when presenting in those moments where are you are asked to:
to describe ourselves as a fruit! (we’ve all had to do it!)
make an introduction around a table of strangers
tell me about yourself
networking and meeting someone for the first time.
We can all remember these moments and were filled with dread.
A top tip: Create an elevator introduction using your value proposition and personality descriptors - and deliver with passion. This is an age-old but successful technique. In just 30 seconds, a good elevator introduction can give people a positive lasting impression. Be mindful of the fact that you will need to prepare one for every different type of event you go to – first project meeting as the lead consultant; a networking event; for a public speaker opportunity or panel debate.
How do you go about creating one?
Self-packaging is not new. In 1937, Napoleon Hill wrote a book called Think & Grow Rich. It gives examples of how successful businessmen ‘achieved anything they imagined’ by knowing what they want and having a burning desire to succeed.
Once you know what you want to achieve and you have the determination to do it, you can begin to think about who you want to appeal to - ie your target audience. From here you create your personal brand using two aspects – you as a person but also your ability as a professional. Ask yourself the three following questions and try to put it into an elevator introduction.
1. What is your value proposition? What do you want to be known for?
2. Write down a list of six adjectives, that best describes you personally and as a professional.
3. What can you talk about endlessly? What are your passions? What makes you angry?
The answer to question one helps you understand your unique qualities.
The answer to question two helps you think about your tone of voice in language and appearance - your dress style and colours for example. Colours can be used to reflect personality traits of confidence, creativity, energetic, status. Black and white are both confident status colours - think of Steve Jobs and Richard Branson. Your adjectives can also help with the way you put across your message and the way you write.
The answer to question three will help you come up with a list of topics from which you can collect and tell stories to create credible blogs, articles or just striking up interesting conversations with strangers!
Where and how can you promote my brand?
Whilst the internet has given us a new channel to promote our brand, face to face networking is still important.
There are lots of articles on how to promote your personal brand. I recommend reading as many as you can to determine the best approach for you - our Twitter feed has a few to get you started!
For social media, choose your media wisely. Which platforms best suit your brand? LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube? Regular posting of your own thought leadership articles on platforms like LinkedIn gives you a bank of content you can promote in different ways and on other channels to boost your personal.
Don't forget face to face networking! Whilst the internet gives you the profile, getting the message across in a personal and human way is invaluable. We have been building relationships for hundreds of thousands of years to keep our communities safe and in the know. This I am not about to change anytime soon.