What makes you so memorable that you stick in people’s minds long after you’ve left the room?
If you can’t answer that question quickly, you probably haven’t created a personal brand strong enough to be considered a business asset.
You’re also not alone. It’s estimated that over 95% of business people haven’t bothered to create a personal brand.
The other 5%, people like Donald Trump, Howard Stern, Gisele, Martha Stewart, have leveraged their personal brands into a competitive advantage.
So has the person in your company who seems to defy the odds and get all of the promotions. And so has your competitor whose product is no better than yours but who magnetically attracts clients while you battle it out with the rest of the pack. And so has that industry ‘expert’ who gets the phone calls from the press for commentary.
A strong personal brand has the ability to increase your value in the marketplace, raise your profile within your company, attract like-minded clients and customers who identify with your brand, and increase financial returns. And every day you don’t spend time cultivating and leveraging your own personal brand, you are creating missed opportunities.
I worked with an executive who decided when he was in his 20s that he wanted to become the global CEO of a major organization. From that moment on, he considered his personal brand a business asset.
While he wore the same blue suit, white shirt, and black loafers as everyone else in the company, he naturally stood out.
He was gregarious, he showed an interest in everyone he came in contact with, he asked a lot of questions, he went out of his way to support others, he built a strong network of people at all levels, he smiled more often than not, he found solutions, he showed up.
All common behaviors of successful leaders.
When people saw him, they saw a future CEO. He used that brand to set himself apart. It became his distinctive advantage. And he became a global CEO in his 40s.
That’s what personal brands do. They build expectations of what you promise to bring to the game. And every time you deliver on it, your brand becomes more valuable. It sets you apart as the go-to person for the skills associated with your natural brand. Your value goes up.
Whether you know it or not, you already have a personal brand. It may be an advantage, it may not be.
The power is in knowing what it is, how people perceive it, and cultivating it every day to stand out from the crowd – even when you’re dressed like everyone else in the room.
Here’s how to create an unforgettable personal brand that fires up your business success
1. ACCESS YOUR NATURAL BRAND ADVANTAGE
The most effective consumer brands are powerful because their central promise is built into the fiber of their organizations. Everything they do – from their products to their customer experiences and marketing messages – are all designed to articulate and reinforce their central brand message.
Your personal brand is exactly the same. To be effective, it must communicate the values and behaviors at the core of your personality.
Who am I? What value do I bring to the table? What sets me apart from everyone else? Your personal brand must answer these questions.The good news is the values that make up your brand are there. You just have to dig them out and take a good hard look at them.
Think about the kids you grew up with. If they were asked to describe you, what would they say? That unvarnished truth about how you behaved consistently as a kid will give you a good indication of your starting point.
To this day, I can go down the list of kids I grew up with and tell you exactly what their personal brands are:
– THE BAD ASS: Becky was the tough, take no prisoners bad ass who backed up her challenges to ‘bring it’ with a few epic brawls that set her brand firmly in neighborhood lore.
– THE OLD SOUL: Nonnie was the quiet, kind, and thoughtful girl who always chose to sit on her front stoop and read a book while raucous games of dodgeball and double-dutch played out before her.
– THE GOLDEN BOY: Todd seemed to be able to effortlessly do it all — the football hero, the straight-A student, and the kid who was able to build a fort out of snow that could withstand any frenzied snowball assault.
Why do I remember these people so clearly years later? They were consistent; what you saw was what you got. I knew if I wanted help with a troublemaker, Becky was my go to. If I wanted to sit and chill out, there was Nonnie. And if I wanted help conjugating a Latin verb, bring on the Golden Boy.
Identify your natural brand advantage and you’ll reveal the behaviors that flow naturally from the values at your core. You’ll understand what you won’t do even under the toughest peer pressure, and what is so memorable about you naturally that it sticks in people’s brains even years later.
2. DEFINE YOUR BRAND PROMISE
Determining what sets you apart is only a professional advantage if people can quickly recognize the promise of value that goes with it. Or, in other words, what’s in it for them?
This is the promise that underpins your personal brand – the value you bring to an employer, colleague or client, consistently reinforced through all your interactions.
Ask yourself what it is about your personal brand that makes someone’s life or business better, easier, happier, or more profitable. What expectations do you want your personal brand to build in the minds of the people you work with and for? And what can you consistently deliver on?
Becky promised protection, Nonnie promised good conversation, and Todd promised to elevate my standing in the neighborhood simply by being a part of his inner circle. They all brought clear, consistent value to my life.
This is how you become a go-to person. Communicate your brand promise clearly — and deliver on it consistently – and you’ll quickly rise to the rank of indispensable.
3. MANAGE YOUR BRAND
With your clearly defined personal brand in place, consistency becomes the name of the game. Just as consumer brands build loyalty over time with consistent customer interactions – and lose it with one bad review – you must also put your money where your mouth is.
Consistently reflect your personal brand values in everything you do. Not just in delivering your hard and fast KPIs, but also in how you interact with colleagues and clients everywhere from the boardroom to the water cooler.
For your personal brand to be seen as an asset, people have to experience it over time so they can build a confident frame of reference as to what to expect when they interact with you. To leverage your personal brand, you have to think, talk, and act in a way that delivers consistently.
People are looking for clues that they can trust you, that you mean what you say, and that you will deliver on that brand promise you made. Give it to them.
4. ELIMINATE DANGER ZONES
None of us are perfect, and we all run the risk of falling into old behavior patterns or allowing negative emotions to drive reactive responses to stressful situations. This, of course, is part of being human. However, identifying and understanding your triggers will go a long way to keeping your personal brand on track even when the stress hits its hardest.
Stay mindful that everything you do and say has an immediate impact on your personal brand and, just like a bad review, snapping at a colleague, letting down a client or losing focus on a project will threaten to topple your carefully constructed personal brand.
Set aside a few minutes at the end of each day to evaluate how your behavior that day reinforced or detracted from you brand. Identify any negative behavior patterns that need busting, confront any emotions that are likely to send you into a downward spiral, and consciously de-stress.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself in your lesser moments. We all fall off the wagon from time to time and behave in ways we’d rather not in hindsight. But take these missteps as opportunities to learn and grow, not as reasons for self-punishment.
And remember, to master your personal brand, understand that talk is cheap. Say what you mean and do as you say and you will turn your personal brand into a business advantage.
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