We are all brands. Really. The business of you, how you present yourself to the world, is a brand, in the same way Pepsi, Apple and Kleenex are branded. They each come with a reputation, a particular way of being framed and set apart from others in their field, they each have their own features, and most of all, they all stand for something. Your brand, also known as your professional presence, is what defines you, and helps drive your personal effectiveness.
The Building Blocks of a Strong Brand
Your professional presence has its foundation in two areas:
- Core skills, strengths and experience
- Values, image, relationships, competence
You likely have various social identities, across platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, a website, blog, twitter feed, or your resume (online or paper version). Hone your brand across all of these, by clarifying the two professional presence foundations above. Then work through each of your social identities, ensure that the same thread runs through each one, and that they all lead back to your core skills and most importantly, your values.
Clarify Your Values
The most successful brands are known for the behaviors and values that reflect them. They may be trusted, strive for superior quality, create consistent products or services, and they advertise their value, amongst other qualities.
Have you ever said to yourself, “Hmm… that doesn’t sound like Jeff.” This kind of sentiment is the sign of a strong personal brand. Jeff has built a particular reputation and relationship of authenticity with his colleagues, friends and family, which is strong enough that acting in a different way surprises those around him.
Now put yourself into this scenario. If someone says, “Now there goes a man/woman who _______________.” Your answer here is the key to your personal brand. Here are some possibilities:
“…has strong skills and follows through on all of his/her commitments.”
“…is known for his/her personal and professional integrity.”
“…is able to lead in a fair, measured way.”
Taking Action on Your Professional Presence
For the statement or statements that you identified above, identify the behaviors that you will exhibit in your daily life, to ensure that you are building (or have built) the foundation to support your brand statement. Next, let others know about your brand. Talk about your values and beliefs, much like Kleenex a ad would talk about its features.
In a recent Forbes online article by Cynthia Stoddard, CIO of NetApp, she says,
“A personal brand—when well-defined and executed—will showcase your expertise and place you in a position to thrive in an uncertain environment. It will identify you as a high-caliber professional—an asset to any organization. In short, you need to define it, then build it, and continually review it.”
Follow Through with Personal Behavior
Your personal behavior, an outward demonstration of your inner values, is the hallmark of your brand. Ask yourself the following questions, to foster a clear idea of your own values or use them as discussion starters in a group:
- Do you own your choices, or blame situations, organizations, and people for outcomes?
- Give an example of how to maintain professionalism through power, integrity, leadership, and trust.
- How does your physical self reflect your personal brand? Consider your dress, etiquette, netiquette, and your poise.
- How do you relate to others in conflict?
- How do you typically sell your ideas?
Your personal brand is no longer a job title, as it may have been in the past. It is a statement about your skills, values, and behaviors. Most of all, it tells the world what qualities you are bringing to each situation, discussion and position.