Building your brand

By defining your personal brand and developing it, you will be able to position yourself for success.

Lately we have been hearing a great deal of buzz around personal branding and self-promotion. For some, personal brand can be an uncomfortable topic. Creating a brand for yourself may seem superficial, unappealing and political. However, whatever you want to call it — brand, style, image — it does matter and it is relevant for your professional development. Your personal brand can have a positive impact on advancement by helping you focus and articulate your strategy on where you want to take your career. It will help you market and position yourself for a new role or promotion. Defining your brand will allow you to stand out in the market and helps you differentiate yourself from your competitors. Referring back to your brand statement on a regular basis can help keep you focused on your objectives and goals. And most importantly, by behaving in a consistent manner that supports your brand, people will see you as predictable and trustworthy. They will feel confident depending on you and working with you.

What defines your brand?

Although the thought of developing your personal brand seems a bit daunting, don’t think of it as a complicated process where you need to reinvent yourself. A personal brand is simply how you define yourself and how others perceive you. What are the unique qualities that you’re known for among clients, colleagues or peers in your personal life? Try to think of the one or two things that make you memorable — it’s not meant to be a resumé that captures all your abilities but more so what you want to be known for. This can be a combination of the skills and the knowledge and abilities you possess.

When defining your brand, think about your top strengths and talents. Also think of things that differentiate you in particular — why would someone recommend you for an assignment over another colleague? For ideas, turn to feedback you have received on past performance evaluations and to conversations you have had with a boss. What are you consistently recognized for? Some examples may include being innovative and visionary; being a team player; or a results-oriented strategic thinker. Business and leadership development consultant Norm Smallwood provides an excellent step-by-step guide for constructing your brand identity statement by putting together your key qualities. Here is one of his examples: "I want to be known for being independently innovative, deliberately collaborative and strategically results oriented so that I can deliver superior financial outcomes for my business." Your brand should be authentic and genuine — don’t claim to be someone you’re not. You can’t fake a brand.

In an article on personal branding, Leah Eichler points out, "With so many people vying for a piece of the knowledge-based economy, the market dictates that we must differentiate ourselves if we want to stand out." Perhaps you are an expert in a particular industry or technical area. Or maybe you’re friendly, approachable, and able to connect with people right off the bat. Do you excel at public speaking and can deliver key points in an effective manner?

Values also come into play when developing a personal brand. What’s important to you? Your values influence how you behave and interact with others and will therefore shine through in your brand. Are you loyal and trustworthy in your personal relationships? Do you have a strong sense of integrity and respect for others? These characteristics and values can be important components of your overall brand. Your personal brand should also support your company’s values and brand. It’s critical that everyone is aligned in your organization.

How do people come to know your brand?

The most obvious way that people learn of your brand is through your brand statement. This is included in your bio or is delivered in response to the statement "tell me about yourself." But more importantly your personal brand is apparent in everything you do. Think of your daily interactions with others whether in person, over the phone, through email, or indirectly through word of mouth — these are all opportunities to build your brand. How long do you take to respond to emails? How often do you cancel meetings? If you consistently respond to emails in a timely manner and keep commitments in your calendar, you’ll be recognized as dependable and responsive. If you take six days to follow up or are constantly rescheduling meetings, that will have a negative impact on your reliability. You may start to find that people would rather deal with someone who will get back to them quickly and will meet with them when they say they will. Each day we make decisions about how we’re going to handle particular situations, how we’re going to react to conflicts or how we’re going to respond to a request. Every activity can impact your brand and how you’re perceived by others.

Another way people come to know your personal brand is by your appearance and presence. Do you walk the talk? If you define yourself as a polished leader, do you look like one? If you define yourself as a successful negotiator with influence, do you behave in a confident manner and sound persuasive when delivering a speech or communicating with others? Make sure the image you are projecting aligns with the way you label yourself. If you look stressed and exasperated whenever plans change direction, this won’t align well with a branding of being resilient and adaptive to change.

A leader’s brand can also be promoted through his or her team. At Impact, client service is an important aspect of our brand. I like my communications to be polite and professional and I strive to follow up in a timely manner. My team knows this about me because I practise this in my interactions with it. I model the behavior that I want my team to use when interacting with our clients. Make sure that expectations are clear and that everyone is the champion of your brand and the brand of your organization.

Branding yourself will help you to focus your career strategy. By identifying your brand and developing it, you will be able to position yourself for success. Make sure that it is distinct from others so that you stand out in the market. Know your brand statement and strive to be consistent with it in everything you do — how you dress, how you speak, how you behave, and how you promote yourself in bios and on social media. When you have successfully established your brand, there will be a consistency to your actions. People appreciate predictability and in turn, this helps to build and maintain trust.

Sandra Oliver is a business coach and owner of Impact, a global business coaching firm. She is also CPA Magazine’s technical editor for people management (sandra@impact-coaches.com).

RESOURCES

"Get our your branding iron and make your mark" by Leah Eichler, The Globe and Mail.

"How your personal brand will help or hinder your career" by Karen Wensley, The Globe and Mail.

"Define your personal leadership brand in five steps" by Norm Smallwood, Harvard Business Review Blog Network.

"7 questions to ask when uncovering your personal brand" by William Arruda, Forbes.

"11 ways to build your personal brand" by Gill Corkindale, Harvard Business Review Blog Network.

About the Author

Sandra Oliver


Sandra Oliver is a business coach and owner of Impact, a global business coaching firm. She is CPA magazine’s technical editor for people management.

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