Every person has a brand, represented by a name and face. This brand has a host of associations. The brand will influence all relationships and affect how a person is perceived and/or respected. Your 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 large risks to the alternative. Here is a road map to getting control of your personal brand:

Assess Your Target Audience

Describe the group who you would like to have the right impression of you. Who would want to spend time with you? Who might admire you? Who do you want to respect you? For example you may want a professional audience, a family audience and a friend audience. You might pick out a few representative people in each segment to provide focus and clarity. It may be useful, at least at the outset, to focus on one or two segments that are the most important or in need of the most attention.

The ultimate brand visions will have a lot of overlap, but there might be vision element that occurs in one and not the other. For example, in the co-worker context, mentorship may be a goal where it isn’t in other contexts. Some vision elements may be interpreted differently in different concepts. Creative enthusiasm in a professional setting might be about innovation, whereas in a family context it might be about your willingness to participate in adventurous activities.

Appraise Your Image

Be brutal with yourself. What are your positives? Why are you respected? Why do some like to be with you? What are your negatives? Why do you lack respect from some? Why are some not attracted to you? What annoys people about you? What do people think of you in terms of personality, likability, appearance, skills, possessions, and the people you associate with? After you have a draft of your image in your head, you might ask for input from others to see what you are missing. Such input is often an eye opener—both positively and negatively.

Make a List

Now that you know how you are perceived, think about how you would like to be perceived. It can involve elements like being stimulating, well-versed, interested in politics or movies, a trendy dresser, clean-cut, humorous, kind, thoughtful, friendly, adventurous, calm in crises, competitive, competent, creative, gets-the-job done, outdoorsy, environmentally conscious, or whatever is important to you and those you care about. When your name comes up, what characteristics would you like people to come to mind?

Convert that list into personal brand vision concepts

Evaluate the elements on the list. Delete or downgrade those that will not impress your target audience or that you might not be able to realistically deliver. Then group the remaining characteristics into six to twelve concepts. After eliminating redundancy, the grouping should represent different perspectives or dimensions of concepts that you feel are important to be associated with you.

Prioritize the elements

Two to four of the most important elements should comprise your core vision. They should be the most important drivers of relationships. The remaining will consist of things you need to do to avoid messing up relationships, but they won’t be key drivers that will make a difference in building them.

Identify what you need to work on

Create programs to develop or nurture yourself or your interaction pattern so that you deliver. Maybe one of your elements is positivity. Your program could involve daily positive behavior goals. Or maybe you’d like to be more empathetic and kind. You might need to develop the habit of performing small acts of kindness. You need to be able to deliver on your brand vision, and that might require changes in substance and not just perceptions.

Develop a communication plan

How can you communicate your brand vision, particularly for those elements that you now deliver but do not get credit for? This might be difficult, and it will take some time to shift perceptions. Some suggestions:

  • Consider role models: Who inside and outside your professional or social circle has been successful at achieving the brand vision you aspire to? How did that person get there?
  • Consciously change your activities, your appearance, your companions and your interaction patterns. Be consistent and persistent.
  • Develop visible programs to represent the new you. If you are trying to lose weight, get involved in a charity, or become less rigid – let people know! Accountability is key.

Managing your personal brand will take uncomfortable introspection and discipline in terms of succeeding. It will take emphasizing “on-brand” thoughts and actions in order to avoiding being seen as “off brand.” It’s difficult, but it will prove worthwhile both personally and professionally.