Not so long ago all you could hear wherever you went was talk about branding and more to the point personal branding. People went off to set up websites, YouTube accounts and blogs here, there and everywhere with no real rhyme or reason to it.
Personal branding is nothing new. Tom Peters made reference to it way back in his book ‘In Search of Excellence’ first published in the 1980’s. Napoleon Hill the author of ‘Think and Grow Rich’ talked about personal branding in the 1930’s. With the advent of social media and Kim Kardashian (ho-hum) personal branding has reared its head again and is all the more important. All of us now have the opportunity to get our talents out there and to be seen and heard.
You may not think it… but you already have a brand. You already are a brand. The question you must ask yourself is this:
“What does my brand say about me… and what do I want it to say about me?”
What is branding
In a complex world where there are so many decisions to be made on a daily basis, branding cuts out the guess work. When I go to Mc Donald’s I know exactly what I am getting. It doesn’t matter what country I’m in… the Big Mac is the same. I imagine that there are loads of start-up companies who feel they could take McDonald’s on. They feel that they could produce a better burger. The problem is that no one knows that they can. They may be able to produce burger heaven but unless people know about them their business will never get off the ground. The same goes for you. You are smart and talented but employers, customers and anyone who can help you achieve your goals need to know you. I had a discussion with someone the other day who told me that she didn’t agree with all this “personal branding malarkey” as she called it. I asked her how she thought should could help others to build their brand…which is effectively what everyone in business is doing… when she has no brand of her own or any social footprint to speak of. When you talk to potential employers’ customers and clients these days the first thing they do is check you out online. You need to have a presence!
Your Facebook page, your LinkedIn account and what you put up on social media is your walking… talking… living C.V.
Branding is the process necessary to get a product or a service in the forefront of peoples mind. It is not a one off exercise it is continuous and ongoing improvement…your improvement!
People buy things because it reflects who they are. Everything we choose to buy is a symbol of what is important to us. When we see a product produced by a company we need to know whether that company shares the same values as we do. This is why companies go to great lengths to talk about health, the environment or quality to show us they care about the things we care about. It is the job of branding and the brand to tell us that thy share the same values and aspirations in life. Great branding is not about how great a product is, it is showing how the product will make us look and feel great. When Nike run a campaign… they show people in action, keeping fit and getting healthy. They show us what peak performance is like and they invite us to join their club of fit people by buying the product. When we wear Nike products we are demonstrating our values and our lifestyle to others.
I ran a personal branding session in Poland not so long ago and I asked the delegates how many of them owned a Nike garment. I would say that 90% of the group owned something made by Nike. Then I asked them, how many of them actually worked out or went to the gym 3 or 4 times a week. Only about 20% of the group did any form of regular exercise. I wonder what Nike would say if they knew that people were buying their product so that they could pretend to everyone else that they were fit and healthy. Nike probably knows that there are only a few hard-core fitness fanatics amongst their customers. The rest of us simply aspire to be like them. Buying the tracksuits is probably as close as it gets to fitness for most. Buying the product keeps the dream alive!
In order for companies to brand their products effectively what they do is turn the product into a person with a name and a personality. They then market the ‘life style’ of the product so that people can identify with it and buy it.
Personal branding is different from product branding. You do not have to give yourself a name…. you already have one. You do not have to give yourself a personality… you already own one of those. What you need to do is the exact opposite of what Nike, MacDonald’s and Virgin do, you have to turn your name and personality into a product.
Personal branding is the process of marketing yourself as if you were a product
In order to do so… it is important to take 4 important steps: Authentic self, Unique brand, Customer obsession and Intentional career.
You know when you hear a song and before you know it you can’t get it out of your head no matter how hard you try. You find yourself humming the ditty all the time much to the annoyance of very one around you. Well that is exactly what I am talking about here. Authentic self is discovering your signature tune. Your tune is synonymous to you. It is like what ‘I did it my way’ is to Frank Sinatra and ‘Blue suede shoes’ is to Elvis and Apple was to the late Steve Jobs. Your song defines you!
Writing your own song
-What do you do?
– How do you do what you do?
-What is your passion? What do you love to do? Your passion is what you were designed to do. Your song should exploit your passions.
-When you sit down to work on the lyrics to your brand consider what is important to you about what you do….and why people should sit up and pay attention.
There are literally thousands of people doing what you do. Some can do it better some do it worst. Some have more experience and others have more opportunities. It doesn’t matter! One thing is true no one can do what you do like you do it. You need to capture what you do and how you do it and put it in a bottle. If you listen to 20 singers singing the same song each of them will put a twist on it. It stands to reason …they are different people. It is the difference no matter how slight that sets you apart from the crowd and can give you the edge.
Making your song special
-Take time out to list your skills. Ask yourself what skills are you the most proud of and why? What is your approach to learning something new and how do you know when you have mastered a skill? Asking yourself these questions will cause you to examine you unique selling proposition. If you can’t find anything then do the exercise again with a friend.
-If you are going to establish your brand you may have to upgrade certain skills such as presentation, communication and negotiation skills to be in keeping with your brand message. It is no good having a wonderful internet profile but you can’t string a sentence together in face to face interactions.
– Consider how you are going to connect with the movers and shakers in your field? Social media will help you. Be a little discerning when choosing your social media networking services. Get to understand what each service can do for you and how to get the best out of them. The only thing to remember is that everything you put up on social media should be consistent with your brand. It is not a good idea for people to see your wonderful professional post in LinkedIn and then see you rolling out of a bar blind drunk on Facebook. Your message has to be consistent and congruent. In other words what people see is what they think they will get!
Having a presence on social media
It is agreed that there are over 200 social media networking services in existence. The majority come and go in and out of favour but the top 4 seem to stay and go from strength to strength. They are LinkedIn, Face book, Twitter and Instagram
In a nutshell LinkedIn is excellent for professional networking. Facebook can show the kind of person you are, the face behind the professional persona…On Facebook you can show your interest, hobbies and if you are involved in a charity work. Twitter can be used to get a short sharp message out to the masses. It is also a great tool to pick up what is trending. Instagram is where you can post images of you and what you stand for. As well as the top 4, choose a networking service that specialises in what you do. This is important so that you can keep abreast of what’s going on in your field. For example I have an account with Goodreads which is a site for authors and readers to mingle. Remember less is more in all of these things don’t be a social media junkie.
It is paramount that you show social media etiquette. Do not join a group and start touting for work right away. You wouldn’t walk into Richard Branson’s office and demand a job….would you? The same applies on social media. You have to build connections. A good rule of thumb to adopt is to contribute to a group or post stuff regularly for about 6 months before you drop the fact that you are looking for work. If there is someone that you really want to hook up with send them a short letter of introduction and tell them why you think you could be useful to them. I wanted to connect with a very prominent person on LinkedIn. There was no reason why he would want to connect with me. But I sent my letter of introduction anyway and I thanked him for being so generous with his knowledge on the internet. 3 days later we connected. Flattery will get you everywhere it seems!
Now here’s where you get your song into employers, customer and stakeholders heads. You have to sing that song everywhere you go. You have to make it simple… yet impossible for them to ignore.
Making your song go viral
-It is important for you to position yourself to your customers and clients as a business partner. If you succeed at this you will get yourself on their accredited list of preferred supplier or the ‘go to’ person for projects. How you do this is by finding out all you can about their business. What are their problems and how could you solve them. What are their customers saying about them?
-It is a good idea to research the people that you want to work with so that you get to understand the Meta and micro communication. Meta communication is the sense you get from them. When you look at their website what feelings come to mind. What are they trying to say to their customer? Do they use visuals or is it text. Are they light and fresh or is it tradition and establishment. The micro communication is the tone they want to set. What words and phrases do they use to communicate who they are? I once was involved in a branding exercise for a medium sized company. It was a fascinating exercise. The whole processes was conducted in stages, workshops, focus groups and assignments. It cost literally hundreds of thousands of pounds in money, time and effort. Believe me when I say you should study the social media foot print of anyone you want to work with. Every word that they use has cost them a ton of money, a lot of agony and it means something to them!
When you understand their business model then you can come up with strategies on how to make them sit up and pay attention to you.
Once you understand their business…it is the necessity to establish yourself as a trusted advisor. You do this by demonstrating your integrity, credibility and professionalism at every juncture. You show them your commitment to continuous improvement. You show them that the reason why you work so hard is because their goals are your goals.
There is an old adage which says that if you do not manage your career then you are destined to work for someone who will manage your career for you. The problem with being passive with your career is that others may not always have your best interest in mind. Being intentional with your career is simply you being serious about how you earn a living. Let’s face it…you’re probably going to be working for a good few years to come so you may as well take it seriously and go as far as you possibly can. Make sure that you are awesome at what you do. Make sure that you upgrade your skills often. Make sure that you keep up to date with the latest thinking in your zone. The internet is excellent for that. Make sure that everything you do in your career is on purpose and directional. Have a game plan.
Getting your song to No: 1 in the hit parade
Where do you aim to be in the next year? Now where do you aim to be in the next 3 to 5 years? People do not plan to fail they just fail to plan so make a game plan!
What skills will you need along the way? Make a list!
Who can help you? Make a list!
So there you have it… 4 easy step to setting your brand in motion. You will not get famous overnight it takes a bit of time and effort to establish your brand but it is so worth it. Don’t overdo it. All it requires is about 30 minutes to 1 hour of your time every week to make yourself known, seen and heard within your industry.