Looking at your personal branding for 2016
Personal branding is a consideration frequently overlooked by those who are seeking a career change or wanting to improve their upward mobility within their organisations. Too often, it is misunderstood and seen as being self-aggrandising, egotistical or just shameless self-promotion. While there are ample examples of this, these reflect potentially poorly thought out and executed strategies.
To start, branding is generally regarded as creating an image in someone’s view that involves the characteristics of a product or service. Ideally, structuring an impression of perceived value being better than competitors and/or associates creates an expectation as to what the product is. Examples could include Tesco – “Every little helps”, Starbucks, Costa or Nero – quality specialty coffee, the Apple logo – you immediately relate to iPhones, iPads or a Mac as leading edge technologies … there are many more we could add.
This also applies to people. Think about the way these people have branded themselves: Steve Jobs, Colin Powell, Mark Zuckerberg or numerous other corporate and political leaders. Branding yourself helps to define who you are, what you are about, and your reputation. It is a great way to associate great value with a product (that product being you!). Branding is not just about winning a job or promotion, it is being seen as a solution to a problem and being recognised as someone who can add value. Trust is essential. People want to work with, do business, hire or promote people they know and feel good about.
As a starting point, we would like to suggest 9 steps to building your personal brand.
Self-reflection will help you identify the tools you have and the areas you need to improve. It is something that it is an ongoing, lifelong process and not something that you do when you start out – then put it on the shelf.
It is imperative that you regularly benchmark your skills against others and develop a plan to keep your skills on the cutting edge – lifelong learning is essential to build your brand. Add a Degree (majors/minors), participate in continuing education programmes, attend conferences and workshops and consider spending time with a mentor – this is a subject in itself.
Prepare a Marketing Strategy
Prepare a mission statement that will set the direction of where you want your brand to go. Keep this to no more than two or three sentences, or about 30 words. Create a vision statement stating what specific tactics and methods you will use. Develop a marketing plan on how you will communicate your value. Volunteer, speak, write and help people.
Build a Relationships Network
Defined in the dictionary as: a group of people who exchange information, connections and experiences for professional or social purposes. This is an extremely powerful tool. Keep in touch with your network. Make sure your network knows of any recent successes, without coming across as being pretentious and egotistical. Find opportunities to weave your personal mission/vision statements into conversation with your network.
Prepare Marketing Pieces & Message
This refers to the letters, resumés and inquiries that you prepare in response to a position. This also includes: cover letters, articles, research topics and your biography. Consider how you will incorporate your mission/vision into your promotional pieces and how and where you will distribute these.
Deliver your Message
Opportunities to deliver your message vary from informal settings, emails, conversations, comments on blogs and interest groups to formal presentations, interviews, meetings. Remember to dress appropriately and professionally as appearance is a key part of your packaging and sets a tone. How you present yourself, speak, respond to blogs and emails all have an impact, as do the photos you post or share online.
Good follow-up communication assists in creating a positive association with your brand. It conveys the impression that you are consistent, reliable and that you get back to people. Return calls as soon as possible (this establishes trust); respond to all requests (shows responsibility); write a thank you note after an interview (associates courtesy with your work) or in appreciation for something someone has done for you; write acceptance/decline letters upon being offered a job. Keep in touch with your network.
Create a presence, build a website and get your name out there. When setting up your public profiles, remember this is setting the tone, look and feel of your brand. Other ideas include commenting on other people’s blogs, write some articles, go to industry meetings, conventions and events, and make contacts in your field. This ties in with your message strategy. Be sure that all your endeavours are focused and relevant to both your skills and your career goals.
Don’t shy away from looking yourself up online via search engines, LinkedIn profile stats, Google alerts or using any of a variety of tools available. Like any product launch, you need to see if it can be found and the perceptions of potential customers.
Creating a brand allows you to associate value with your product (you!). There are many competing brands… you must position yourself so employers choose you by branding yourself – you’ll stand out, can be found and be recognised as someone with expertise in your field.
If you don’t brand yourself, someone else will do it for you.
Jerry Brennan & James Butler
Security Management Resources (SMR Group)