I’ve had many conversations over the past few years with executive coaches and personal branding strategists on how to build and sustain a strong personal brand. Here are a few insights they shared with me on why it is important to remain vigilant in managing and protecting our personal brand.
The Difference Between Success And Failure Comes Down To Three Simple Steps:
According to Diane Baranello, former NYWICI Board member and president of Coaching for Distinction, those steps are:
- Build your brand on your core strengths and values. Know what you stand for. If you don't know what you stand for, no one else will.
- Define yourself around what makes you unique and what sets you apart. Develop a plan that differentiates you from the competition. Blending is not an option.
- Communicate an authentic and consistent image in everything you do.
Brands Are More Than A List Of Subjective Adjectives:
According to Rachelle J. Canter, Ph.D., president of RJC Associates and author of Make the Right Career Move, "focus on objective hard-hitting results and achievements. Since the best predictor of future performance is past performance, your results make the strongest impact on others. Defining and operationalizing your brand in concrete, factual and quantifiable terms is not only the most powerful approach to market yourself, it is a more comfortable way for women to market themselves. So, rather than say ‘I'm a smart, dedicated, persuasive and incisive leader,’ take the ‘just the facts, ma’am’ approach by sticking to describing what you’ve actually done, what objective indicators of extraordinary customer service you have displayed, time or money saved, service improved, etc."
"To kick start your list, remember that depth and breadth are often sources of competitive advantage. Customize your brand to your particular audience, emphasizing specific things that mean the most to them. This enables you to simultaneously market yourself and reinforce relationships by focusing on how uniquely well qualified you are to help them. You brand and reinforce the relationship by making it all about them.”
Your Brand Gets To The Next Place Before You Do:
Selena Rezvani, author of PUSHBACK and The Next Generation of Women Leaders, adds that "people will know you — even those whom you’ve never met — based on the way in which in you interact with others, how you present yourself, and what kind of reputation you’ve developed. That means that you want to be proactive in sculpting your brand, as you’d like it to be, rather than merely reacting and ‘putting out fires’. One way you can do this is to think about your career with the end in mind. When you leave this company one day, how do you want to be remembered? When people consider the impact of your career, what will come to mind?"
"Figure out the legacy you’d like to leave and allow that to be your guiding vision, just the way a company creates a vision statement to which they strive. By understanding your legacy, you will shed light on the brand you want to create and have a decision making tool against which to measure your actions.”
It Is Never Too Late To Join ‘The Personal Branding Club’:
According to Catherine Kaputa, president of SelfBrand and author of Graduate to a Great Career, You Are a Brand, Women Who Brand and Breakthrough Branding, “the strength of your personal brand influences your marketability which, in turn, influences your current earnings and the financial value of your career.” Think of it this way: the more we earn, the more free cash we have available to save, which has the potential to make our golden years in retirement all that more golden. Catherine offers a list of “must-do” action steps for thinking and acting like a brand:
- Leverage the power of a first impression: The first 15 seconds and your first 15 words are the most important.
- Have 3 accomplishments and 3 stories: Don't talk functional responsibilities; tell stories about three projects or accomplishments that demonstrate what you can do in the new job.
- Find sponsors: We've all heard about networking and finding a few key mentors, but those who out-compete others also find sponsors. A sponsor is a senior executive who will advocate for you and introduce you to others.
- Pose powerfully: Studies show that certain poses project confidence and power, such as leaning in when others are speaking to you while other poses brand you as a wimp.
- Think of your resume as a narrative: A resume should tell an interesting story, not be a laundry list of everything you've ever done. Jettison things that are irrelevant to the plot line.
- Level the playing field: You demonstrate confidence when you engage the interviewer with questions of your own. It immediately levels the playing field.
Branding Is About You:
Kathleen McQuiggan, vice president of Pax World Fund stresses that “personal branding is about YOU. You need to define it. You need to develop it. You need to be able to communicate it and have a strategy on how to grow your brand. Think of your brand as a campaign to talk about yourself.”
Be Concise and Specific:
Nanci Raphael, author of Entrepreneur’s Guide to Mastering the Inner World of Business, gives this advice on how to phrase your branding message: “Be clear, concise and specific when building your pitch. Keep it short so others will remember and repeat it. Constantly reinforce your brand, in writing or when speaking. Make it your mantra.”