How to Brand Yourself
How to Brand Yourself
The Value of Personal Branding.
All of us know the importance of branding, but how does one go about it? Blaise James, Former Gallup Global Brand Strategist and former Strategic Planning Director at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, explains his theory of self-branding, and says that your personal brand isn’t a couple of adjectives, and shouldn’t be a résumé either. It should demonstrate your authentic talents and strengths. Your self-brand is integral to your career and your life, and it influences your long-term career strategy and development.
According to James, your personal brand helps you map out the best of who you are and apply it to the best of what your company is. To do that, James recommends writing a statement of purpose, determining your point of view, and ascertaining your principles. Not only do they act as guides to conduct your strategies, but also are hard for anyone else to replicate. Your self-brand can help you become invaluable to your company or to a hiring manager.
- Q) Is self-branding the same thing as purpose?
- A) When I create brand strategies, I go beyond purpose. You need to unpack purpose and help people understand how they carry out their purpose. First, you find the intersection point between you, your consumer, and the environment you share. I call this finding the ‘you, them, and us’. Then you take that information and create statements of purpose, point of view, and principles. The point of view tells us the why, the purpose tells us the what, and the principles are the how. They’re how you achieve your purpose.
Your statement of purpose comes first, and it will be a guide to how you’ll conduct yourself and a filter for the decisions that you’ll make as you deliver your brand. So, for example, the statement of purpose for a Human resources Manager, Jane, might read “I’m in the business of providing senior managers with the human capital they need to feel confident in leading our company to growth.” A CEO might say, “I’m in the business of inspiring global organizations with the leadership, management, and futurism they need to create value for the world’s shareholders.” And the statement for John, a Marketing Director for a non-profit hospital, might read “I’m in the business of providing visionary Executive Directors with the strategic new audience development expertise they need to achieve their healthcare mission.”
A statement of purpose is good, but it’s possible for someone to replicate it. Although purpose is important, it’s only one step in creating differentiation. The second step is to determine your point of view – your beliefs and unique take on the world. You do this by completing this sentence: “I believe the world would be a better place if…” This exercise is valuable to establishing your personal brand because it’s hard to replicate beliefs. They also give you a real motivation for doing what you do. Most people and companies never answer this question for themselves, let alone for their consumers.
- Q) What should your statement of beliefs include?
- A) Your statement of beliefs should articulate what you will do that’s positive in the world.
Let’s go back to the example of our non-profit Marketing Manager John and look at his point of view. John believes that even the best ideas need the genius of execution and follow through to make a difference in the world. remember, his purpose statement is “I’m in the business of providing visionary executive directors with the strategic new audience development expertise they need to achieve their healthcare mission”. So, his point of view now answers why he’s trying to achieve this purpose.
The answer to a ‘why’ question really helps us differentiate ourselves. For corporations, this answer can be incredibly motivating to employees who deliver the brand.
- Q) What else can help you differentiate yourself when crafting your purpose statement?
- A) This is another reason why knowing your talents is so important. Let’s say that John has taken Gallup’s Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment to help him identify his talents. John’s top talent themes include Analytical and Activator, which in this context provide insights into how John thinks and how he influences others. John knows the type of Executive Director that he wants to attract.
He wants to work with people who consistently look toward the future – this is a talent often found in the StrengthsFinder Futuristic theme. Many people in non-profit organizations embody the theme of Adaptability; they must dance on a dime to accomplish their mission with limited budgets.
Now we’ve reached our brand intersection: where Analytical and Activator meet Futuristic and Adaptability. So, John’s brand focus is as a realizer of visions. He can help Executive Directors activate their ideas. And because this statement is genuine to John, it’s valuable and hard to duplicate.
The point of view tells us the why, the purpose tells us the what, and the principles are the how. They’re how you achieve your purpose.
- Q) Explain principles. Do you mean values or ethics?
- A) Think of principles as either/or statements. Either you make good on them, or you’ve compromised your purpose. Statements of principles begin with ‘always’, ‘only’, or ‘never’, and they give a structure to and are a litmus test of your personal brand.
Let’s use John as an example again. His statements of principle would be something like this, “I will only work for Executive Directors who have real vision,” “I will never send a résumé to a non-profit organization with a mission that I don’t believe has lasting, significant relevance”. These principles will help him achieve his purpose. Just like any good brand strategy, they act like a filter that guides his decisions.
You can’t stand for everything, or you stand for nothing. You must focus. By the way, CEOs are often shocked when you tell them their corporate brand can’t be everything to everyone.
- Q) Of what value are social networking sites to self-branding?
- A) Don’t confuse strategy with tactics. This is just a word of warning: Many personal brand coaches lead with ‘Build your brand on Facebook’ or ‘Do self-branding on Twitter’.
If you hear that, proceed with caution. These folks are confusing strategy with tactics. Your résumé, your interview, your networking groups, your Facebook page, your tweets, your LinkedIn connections – all that stuff is tactics.
They’re the ways in which you reveal your brand. Your purpose, your point of view, and the principles that guide you, those must come first.
- Q) So how do you use these sites in a way that is consistent with your strategy, your brand?
- A) When you have a solid personal brand strategy, who you’re following on Twitter makes sense. The tweets you send have common themes because they come from your sense of purpose, your point of view, and your principles.
Depending on what your principles are, you may decide never to shotgun a résumé to monster.com. You may not subject yourself to the decision process of TheLadders.com. Instead, you may send a creatively packaged snail-mail letter to the Senior Vice President of Human resources, or you may join the Arts Committee that the CEO and her husband chair. Those are all tactics that send a message about your personal brand.
But are they the right tactics? You will only know after you’ve put your strategy in place. Once you’ve done that, your résumé stands out because you’re focused like a laser beam on what you want and how you talk about it. Hiring managers get a real sense of your difference and are clear about why you want to work at their firm.
So much job advice these days is about just getting a job. Just get it – and so what if you take a step down?
- Q) But that’s a reality for many people.
- A) It absolutely is, and it’s bad for companies. This is exactly the cross-purpose that hiring managers are facing. They don’t want to spend the money to bring in workers who are just looking for any job. Instead, they’re going out of their way, in my estimation, to sniff out people who are just trying to get a job for the sake of working.
- Q) What gives people away when they’re doing that?
- A) Résumés, for one. There’s a whole way of gaming résumés nowadays, and it’s not at all strategic. If you’re cramming your résumés with buzzwords that you think are right for the job but have nothing to do with who you are or what you’ve done, how have you differentiated yourself from everyone else applying for that position?
Self-branded employees are self-directed and more innovative. They’re problem solvers, and they’re a lot more engaged. This is key: don’t start on tactics until you have your brand strategy. Then, when you get into the tactics, don’t just do what’s hot. Bring a sense of who you are to how you present your skills and experience. Think about how to differentiate yourself and your brand over the long-term. remember: You’re now an embedded entrepreneur. I hope that opens a different way of thinking for people.
The way the world is going, markets are so cluttered, and competition is so acute, and companies can basically replicate a product or service overnight.
- Q) What is an embedded entrepreneur?
- A) Having a personal brand also helps you realize that meeting your goals matters as much as meeting the company’s. When you’re pursuing your goals – and they’re aligned with your company’s goals – you’re much more engaged to act on the company’s and the customers’ behalf. It also gives workers a sense of control.
- Q) How are embedded entrepreneurs valuable to companies?
- A) Embedded entrepreneurs point their brand toward the problems of the business. If you don’t know what your talents are and you don’t know what your brand is, it will take you a lot longer to get up to speed, and you’ll be less productive. Anything that helps people express their talents leads to increased engagement, which benefits the company. ultimately, people feel more engaged in their jobs when they’re coming up with ideas, thinking creatively, and pursuing an agenda – being proactive rather than reactive.
So, if you’re a CEO, you want your workers to know their talents and use them to construct their identities in the company.
That takes some work, and some profound thought, but it’s worth it – self-branded employees are self-directed and more innovative; They’re problem solvers, and they’re a lot more engaged.
- Q) What can managers do to help people build their self-brands?
- A) Ultimately, people must do this on their own. It’s a personal process that factors in someone’s whole life. It’s not top-down – it works from the bottom up. But managers can encourage employees to develop their brands, and they can focus on their own brands and chart their own way through their companies. Your personal brand is more than just words – its actions. Live out your principles. Don’t pay them lip service. That’s something managers can do, lead by example.