- Who & Why?
The term “brand” is usually related to food, cars and clothing. It has been our job (and an uphill one at that!) to show companies and business owners that branding applies to people as well. However, much to our pleasure these days, the term “brand” is used much more widely and commonly with respect to people and groups.
Just recently, Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal delivered his party’s formal response to Obama’s vision for this country. In his response, Jindal said, “We had a number of Republicans damage the [Republican] brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments.” Jindal was referring to self-sabotage in sending a brand off-course. Self-sabotage is sadly a common characteristic of the human race. We would like to deny it as much as possible, but we cannot. In the personal branding world, we see self-sabotage play out daily. We don’t even know we are blocking our personal brand success until it is often too late. Even then, we may not want to believe it is our fault.
We don’t just come up with a personal brand for companies and employees. We help you understand your individual uniqueness as a person and then work on communicating that uniqueness to your target audience so that you captivate them with your memorability and credibility. We want you each to be different, understand the difference and bring that uniqueness to the business brand so that there is a synergy created based on a common, united front- that’s the synchronized, harmonious business brand/perception the target market feels when they encounter each of you. As a natural consequence of self-sabotage and poor personal brand management, we also rehabilitate personal brands.
So what exactly is the brand of a Republican or a liberal or any other group for that matter? Well, it depends on the audience and their perception. The way we define “brand” is a list of identifying characteristics of a person or group. This list of identifying characteristics is dictated by the person or group, as well as by the audience perception.
So for example, Jindal believes the Republicans damaged their brand. Does his audience believe the same? And even more important, what are we going to do to rehabilitate the brand- inside the group and out in the audience?
What’s important for you to do is start paying more attention to the term, “brand”. First define your identifying characteristics, then manage to audience perception.
Personal Branding involves your visual brand, including what you wear that reflects your personal branding goals.
How many times have you attended a crowded networking event where it seemed every professional in attendance was wearing a blue or black suit? How many times have you left events where everyone and everything seemed like a blur? What I mean is you could not quite remember anyone’s name or practice. In other words, no one left any type of impression on you. No one was memorable, let alone credible. Ever wonder why? It is because no one stood out for you. In a sea of sameness based on profession, what is it that you have to help you stand out?
Visual branding is about how you show up for me visually. In other words, we are talking about your actual appearance. Your appearance is only about twenty percent of the personal branding package that we are working to create, but nevertheless an important piece. When you are at a crowded event are you wearing something that will make me stop and take notice of you in a positive way? Or do you choose to blend into the background? Another good way of thinking about your attire and visual brand is to keep asking yourself, “does my attire and appearance bring me profit?”
This is often the point where people roll their eyes. In their opinion the visual portion is “fluff”. After all, not many of us professionals are working daily to make a fashion statement. I tend to agree. However, we also need to realize that society is visual in nature. Why do you think it is that so much money is spent each year by retail clothing stores, and designers producing clothes, marketing them to us and the rest of society?
Society (and businesses who would hire you) tend to pay attention to these things. Michelle Obama is a great example. How often have we heard and seen commentary about her fabulous and toned arms? Or what about her Gap sweaters and casual skirts? And the latest was all the commentary around her red Jason Wu gown at the inauguration ball.
I can’t say I was a fan of her red Jason Wu gown. In the past her clothing selection has denoted a personal brand element for her that was consistent and had clarity. This particular Wu gown did not send the same message to me about Michelle Obama’s personal brand. That’s my perception, that’s my reality and therefore, it is correct- for me.
Regardless of whether you liked Michelle Obama’s red gown or not, the fact is that we are talking and writing about it. There was even a column in the Huffington Post on it! Just as we notice Michelle Obama’s arms and gowns, people notice you and your visual brand and form judgments about you and your business based on it. If you disagree because you claim you are not the First Lady and thus, not super visible – you are fooling yourself!!
Does your attire bring you profit? What is your visual brand? Does it work for you? If not, what will you change and how?
Nowhere in any of my programs will you find me saying that the point of personal branding is about you getting more business or “taking” for yourself. This seems counter-intuitive because personal branding is about selling yourself and your uniqueness.
However, the entire premise of personal brand management is about understanding that you are to give to others and fulfill their needs by bringing them value. Oftentimes, I find that as professional service providers (lawyers, doctors, CPAs, etc) clients get confused here.
They tend to think that everyone is trying to sell them something and thus, they need to sell, too. We addressed the ability to make the big “ask” here. With the exception of the holidays, as a society, we are most often in “taking” mode instead of “giving” mode.
Understand that the universe is a dance of giving and taking. You get what you give. There is reciprocity in all things, including you getting back your fair share. However, it has to start with you wanting to “give” and help others without any expectations of getting anything back in return. It is then, and only then, that you will truly receive back.
Understanding and applying this concept has everything to do with you having a strong personal brand. People want to hire, buy from and be around those professionals who are truly about giving and not taking. Try it on. I’ll guarantee your results if you do it right.
In the personal branding world, identifying and managing our stress is critical. As we define personal branding, if people are buying your uniqueness then stress is not a big selling point to your target market. After all, what potential client is inspired by a stressed out service/product provider? Not me. We all want to buy from companies and hire people who seem in control and manage their stress well.
Looking at various definitions of the word, “stress” we often see reference to not just one aspect of stress, but to a variety of things such as, “mental”, “physical”, “social”, “pressure”, “real vs. perceived”, “capacity”, and “breakdown”, to name a few. What this all means is that stress is different for each one of us and affects various parts of our physical and mental state.
So how stressed are you? How does your stress manifest? Are you tired, frustrated, angry, overwhelmed to the point of ineffectiveness and inefficiency? Stop and consider how we perceive you as a person and a professi0nal and how you actually feel and act towards others as you go about your day.
An effective personal brand equals high self- confidence, increased productivity, and a statement to the world and clients that you know your stuff. Content is king but so is the container. YOU get to decide how you are known in the world! Your business is an extension and expression of who you are and how you show up. We are earning trust over time.
So does your stress make you memorable and credible in a good way? Obviously if we stop and think, the answer is always “no”. How could it make you stand out in a good way? If not, then you must take action before it ruins your health, your practice and your personal life.
One of the biggest obstacles I’ve discovered about business owners trying to master their personal brand is their inability to know when it is acceptable to toot their own horn, or self-promote. The result becomes a poor personal brand, filled with uncertainty.
A couple of things factor in to this obstacle. First, is that people lack the self-confidence in understanding their uniqueness and owning it. People do not believe their lives are unique or that anyone would care. This poor mentality manifests in so many parts of our lives. For example, I have found that when people get a compliment, they cannot even say a simple, “Thank You”. Often, people put down the compliment and, as a result, put themselves down.
Second, people cannot seem to be able to discern the line between healthy self-promotion versus too much self-glorification- or bragging and boasting. If you brag or boast too much, you turn people off and your competition becomes jealous and has ammunition to hold over your head as to why you likely don’t run a quality business.
I know you are now thinking, what does bragging have to do with my ability to run a good business? Well, peoples’ perception is that if you are bragging too much, then you must not have enough substance in your business and therefore, need to rely on boasting about yourself to compensate. They could certainly be wrong. However, self-promotion is a healthy part of any successful business when done genuinely.
So what makes self-promotion valid and acceptable? Well, we get asked this question a lot around here. In fact, personal brand management is about self-promotion: owning your uniqueness and communicating it effectively to your target market.
That’s why it was so funny when I got accused a few months ago by a fellow lawyer, turned business coach, of being self-promoting. I was not offended at all. In fact, I felt really bad for the person making the accusation. In the past, she had told me that she envied how well I was able to express what I did and promote my business. So it was no wonder that she was now accusing me of being self-promoting. It was clear to me that something I had done had made her jealous and this was her best response.
You will find this response often true from those who may accuse you of being self-promoting. Self-promotion is fine if it means you are explaining your uniqueness, raising awareness and thereby, explaining how you can help your target market. How else will you let people know what you do and how you can help them live a better life and run a better business?
Self-glorification, or bragging, is when you no longer care about helping others, but looking to gain praise and be better than others. If you have a strong personal branding strategy and self-promote with the intent of helping others, then you can never be accused of bragging or boasting because you have healthy intent behind your self-promotion strategy.
So what are you doing to self-promote?