What does your personal brand say about you? A better question may be, do you have a personal brand strategy and are you intentionally shaping and controlling it? Whether you are a doctor, professional engineer, school teacher or barista at Starbucks, you have a brand perception in the minds of your patients, students, clients or customers.In the words of Harry Beckwith, author of You Inc., “The first rule of sales and marketing is not “You are who you are.“ It is “You are who you appear to be.“ The sales and marketing rule Beckwith refers to applies directly to branding. Your brand lays the foundation for your sales strategy, promotion plan and user experience.
Your brand should be one that you have shaped and are managing daily. It cannot be a random set of impressions that people have of you based on what kind of a day you’re having or mood you are in. Even on a “bad day” you must commit to living your brand authentically so it can rise above your situation and feelings to consistently and passionately model your values and principles. Brand consistency is critical for success but it is hard work. Developing a powerful personal brand requires commitment, effort and discipline to become and stay successful. Success can be fleeting. Customers or followers of your personal brand are constantly bombarded with messages and promises from other brands such as your competitors, coworkers and friends. It takes effort to stay front of mind and remain relevant and desirable.
To assist you in refining your brand, consider two critical aspects that are at the core of a powerful brand.
Self-awareness informs and defines who we are and what we want to become. Personal values and beliefs govern our conscience, create boundaries for our behaviors and actions and enable us to choose right from wrong. A positive attitude towards personal development and willingness to step beyond our comfort zone, provide opportunities for improvement and growth. Ignoring our conscience or intuition can be dangerous when it comes to improving our brand. I have witnessed people rationalize poor decisions by using so called logic to justify their behaviors. Rather than listen to their conscience and intuition, which are screaming at them not to do something because of the negative impact or outcome, they proceed and hurt others and themselves thereby damaging or weakening their brand and reputation.
Self-awareness can be developed and enhanced. If you struggle with this consider asking a close and trustworthy friend or colleague for candid, objective and supportive feedback about your strengths, talents and weaknesses. This feedback will help you become aware of how others see you. This will also reveal potential blind spots that you must deal with in order to improve and grow. Get a coach or mentor that has strong E.Q., relevant experience and is passionate about helping others develop. Let her or him tell you what you need to hear but may not want to hear. Use this input to prepare a personal growth and development strategy that will improve or further strengthen your brand.
Authentic brands are transformational. Your creativity and imagination may enable you to see what others cannot. Use these talents to differentiate yourself and to create your unique personal brand. Creativity also helps you become authentic and different – not just another brand of vanilla. Your authenticity will make your brand more appealing. Too often branding is reduced to creating a public or online “image.” The image, whether personal or corporate, can be viewed as the clothing your brand wears. The most authentic and powerful brands, personal or corporate, are dressed or packaged to reflect their core. Some are sporty, others are casual and some sophisticated. There is no wrong image as long as it is yours. Your image or persona should reflect your unique strengths, talents and passion. It’s who and what you are. Just like the unique strands of your DNA, your brand should reflect what separates and differentiates you from everyone else on the planet. It will also attract those that relate to, or have an affinity for your brand and what it promises. People love authentic brands and the companies which are comprised of remarkable people who share common values and beliefs. The best and most powerful brands are an amalgamation of clarity, consistency, authenticity all of which promise value and make an emotional connection and create a positive experience for their users or customers.
One caveat about authenticity, your brand and offering may not be for everyone. That’s OK. Just be certain it is your brand.
For a thought provoking perspective on authenticity watch the presentation by Philip McKernan, entitled “The Authenticity Code”.