Every person has a brand, represented by a name and face that has a host of associated characteristics, such as: professional skills and assets, career paths, communication styles, appearance, personalities, interests, activities, friends, family and more. The brand influences all relationships by affecting how a person is perceived and whether he or she is liked and respected.
The “personal brand” can be actively managed with disciple and consistency over time, or it can be allowed to drift. There is a huge payoff to employing the active management option, and there are large risks to the alternative.
There are three keys to getting your brand under your control.
Your brand needs to have a strategic vision that details what you want it to stand for. It should be aspirational but realistic in terms of what can be added, changed or made credible. Just the decision to manage your brand and develop a brand vision can be transformational. Several questions need to be addressed:
- What is the current image? What do people think of you in terms of personality, skill, activity, possession and people you associate with? What are their expectations of you in terms of talent and motivations?
- What are your assets, such as your education, personality elements and people skills? What are you good at? What are you interested in improving?
- What are your plans for programs to upgrade or change? Any plans to build new skills, add new activities or dial up of existing ones?
- What image would you like to portray? How is it different from your existing one? How aspirational is it? Is it simply emphasizing some aspect of your brand that already has credibility, or does it represent changing the person and ultimately the image?
It should be recognized that the latter is more difficult. Several alternative brand dimensions should be on the table. Usually, there are alternative ways to group and prioritize them. The end goal is to develop an aspirational image that will resonate with the target audiences, be credible or capable of becoming credible, and reflect personal aspirations. Recognize that a single person brand will not work in all contexts. Each context will potentially require an adaptation of the master brand or sometimes even a separate brand.
In particular, a person may need a professional brand and a personal brand. And a professional brand may need a slightly different face for subgroups such as clients, co-workers, subordinates and senior executives. One challenge is recognizing how to reconcile these different brands.
There should be some characteristics that are core to the person and common across all brands. Adaptation can simply involve emphasizing some of these common characteristics in one context more than another. For a professional brand, it might emphasize different talents for different audiences. For a personal brand, the humorous side might be dialed up for friends, and/or the romantic side for a spouse.
There might be contexts in which a person brand vision needs to be augmented by adding a characteristic that is not inconsistent, but is unique to that context. For example, in the co-worker context, being a mentor player might be a characteristic that is added but doesn’t appear elsewhere.
Develop a program to make the aspirational brand come to life — to reinforce on-brand patterns of behavior, to create programs and to develop communication vehicles. What can and should be done in order to communicate the brand? A good way to get ideas is to consider role models. Who inside and outside your professional or social circle has been successful at achieving the brand vision you aspire to, or at least has been successful with respect to a dimension of the brand vision? How did that person get there? Is there something that can be learned from the role model?
Examining the behavior of successful people almost always stimulates actionable programs that can be adapted. A person brand reflects everything a person is and does, including his or her appearance and actions. That means that there are a lot of tools to work with, but it also means that the task can be overwhelming. In a firm, the culture and values can help guide the implementation of the brand. For a person, some central personality elements or core themes, such as being supportive, might be developed to play that role and inform a wide variety of behaviors.
Managing your own brand will take uncomfortable introspection and discipline in terms of emphasizing “on-brand” thoughts and actions and avoiding being seen as “off brand.” It is difficult, but it can be very worthwhile.