Why You Need a Strong Personal Brand

Let’s get one thing straight.

You don’t need to be an entrepreneur, a business, or a celebrity to have a personal brand.

Everyone has a personal brand. A lot of people, however, choose to ignore their brand and let others form that brand for them. As your parents may have told you while growing up, “Be a leader, not a follower.” Well the same concept applies here. And from that concept, we derive one painstaking truth.

No one is going to hire a follower. In fact, genuine leaders are largely in short supply. Today we see it more than ever – with outsourcing on the rise and technology overtaking more and more jobs, we need to ask ourselves: how do I set myself apart? The answer is in how strongly you represent your personal brand. It’s not easy, let me tell you. I’ve actually flip-flopped my own personal brand several times in the past few years – from technical to business to branding. It’s never an easy journey, but it can be incredibly rewarding.

So what do we define as a “personal brand”? A brand is what encompasses the very nature of the product it represents (in this case, yourself). A brand must fully express in utmost brevity the exact reason for why someone should partake in mutual business. You may be asking yourself, how does one do this?

There’s a simple 3-step process which I follow each and every day. It goes like this:

1. Market

2. Network

3. Perform

While I could definitely come up with a silly acronym for this process (MNP, PNM, PMN), it does no justice. Remembering these three words will be key in the success of yourself and your brand. Therefore, let me explain each one in detail.

1. Market

Always take the opportunity to casually talk yourself up. You’re a web developer? If you strike up a conversation with a local handyman, give him a tip or two on expanding his local presence online, and mention that you specialize in that area. Don’t be pushy, but hey, if you have a business card, now is the time to shine. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Network

Make sure that you take advantage of networking events. These include meetups, pro bono work, conferences, and professional events. Networking is what I believe to be my specialty. My networking skills have led me to have conversations with Fortune 500 CEOs, top C-suite exec’s for a number of tech & insurance companies, and successful entrepreneurs. Networking is the art of getting to know someone on a first name basis.

3. Perform

This is absolutely critical in addition to the first two steps in the process. Performing by under promising and over delivering is the key to success as a professional in any field. Think a project might take a few days? Tell the client it will take until the end of the week. Chances are you will not meet that deadline as soon as you think, because life can creep up on you in unimaginable ways. That way, when you deliver the project Thursday morning, the client will be impressed and you will have a greater chance of being rehired in the future. Likewise, there may be a detail that you missed, and providing the client with extra time to review the project will reduce stress on both ends.

 

But how does an employed professional use these skills to excel within the 9-5 workplace? My response: how does one not use these skills? If you take this process for what it is – Market, Network, Perform – you will realize that not only should you be doing this in your occupation already, but it should encompass the very progress of your average work day.

Take time out in the morning to converse with upper management, maybe mention a project or account you are working on. Make the move to invite fellow co-workers or co-workers from another department to a round of golf on the weekend. Or maybe you can crunch those numbers a little faster or close that sale a bit sooner and impress your boss! Taking initiative on these little things can lead to a greater impact on your career later on. That means potential promotions, raises, bonuses and recognition. Who doesn’t love that?!

All in all, follow this process and DO NOT think for a moment that a personal brand is something left for the better half of the professional world. Your brand only starts when you begin to take it seriously. So start today.

“Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful.” Sir Richard Branson, CEO Virgin

Committing to Your Brand

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

-Aristotle

 

And commitment is that habit. Hopefully everyone has began settling into the impending summer heat with their lawn chairs and mixed drinks on the beach. I’m pretty sure that’s something everyone can commit themselves to. But what becomes a struggle for many is the art of committing to excellence – to excel one’s brand to the highest point possible, and then some. I’d like to address that.

It isn’t uncommon to find those who amplify zeal for themselves or their product, as entrepreneurs possess this passionate quality. The key though is to understand how to unlock that potential, how to obtain such a passion that it becomes obsessive in and of itself.

Well that’s the key: obsession.

As it was so aptly put by Justine Musk in this Quora posting, the key to success, excellence, and all other things considered, is obsession. You must live and breathe the very nature of your brand. You must always have it on your mind, because your brand is always evolving and creating new opportunities. Try this on for size:

Brand Tip #394 – If you frequent a certain coffee shop or public area, safely tape a business card or apply a sticker to the top of your laptop. This gives onlookers the knowledge of who you are and what your brand is without actually telling them.

This can be done quite easily, and the reward of striking up a conversation with someone you might have otherwise never encountered is unmatched. Although you will want to make sure that your business card / sticker is catchy yet simple, in order to avoid any confusion for the onlooker. Make it easy, and you’ll reel them in.

How else can you advance your brand and cultivate your obsession? For starters, always have several pitches ready for every possible type of encounter, and continually edit these pitches in your head. In the same checkout line as a potential investor? Unleash a quick 20 second pitch. Stuck waiting in line for coffee and you strike up a conversation? Keep it casual and don’t get too attached – they really only came here for the coffee, believe it or not.

Ultimately, what’s the best way for you to stay obsessed?

Think. Always be thinking.

Thinking is what made this guy famous, and it can get you close to it! Rid your mind of any doubts or concerns and solely work up creative concepts for advancing your brand. Train yourself using “what-if” scenarios from the moment you wake up, and condition your conversational responses as you look into the mirror while brushing your hair. All of this boils down to what Aristotle said: Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. Act on it, make it a habit, and only then will you truly be able to commit to your brand.

Back to the Basics

Over the past few weeks, most of my posts have been very involved – discussing specific  themes in personal branding or addressing popular issues. I want to take this opportunity to  focus on getting back to the basics of personal branding. So let’s tackle the tools which will  aid in advocating your personal agenda…

Audit your online prescence

Take advantage of the world of free tools to monitor who’s saying what about your brand or your work. Two great resources I strongly recommend are Google Alerts and Mention. Google Alerts allows you to receive email notifications detailing summaries of articles and online posts where your name/brand is mentioned. Mention.com offers a great service where it scours the internet – social networks and all – for mentions of your name (or keyword of choice). It then emails you a daily summary of your mentions and is actually totally free. Well, freemium, but if you choose to upgrade it’s well worth the price.

Network within your comfort zone

I wouldn’t advise that you simply share your work with family and friends, but I would agree that emerging within your comfort zone is something of key importance. When you are first starting out, associate with other “brands” that you are familiar with – your alma mater, your company newsletter. Beginning with something familiar is a way to boost or kickstart your brand, just like when you sold those candy bars in the 5th grade to your aunts and uncles. Starting small isn’t a bad thing, and in fact, networking within your comfort zone is how I got started!

Pick a model and follow it

Life is all about decisions and so is your brand. You’ve got to decide how you present yourself, who you target, how you market, and what you will offer to your audience. A big recommendation would be to pick a role model – someone who has successfully done what you want to do, or something similar. So if you wanted to work on business branding, you could use me as your model, since I mostly focus on personal branding – and what you would do is look at how I approach the topic of branding and apply it to business. Simpler said than done.

 

So go forth and multiply! Your audience, that is. Take what I’ve thrown at you and try to spin it around a little bit. I wish you the best of luck as you get back to the basics.

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