The new buzz word these days is “Personal Branding”. The words scare people because you immediately think of people such as Russell Simmons, Madonna, Oprah, Jessica Simpson, Ralph Lauren and the likes. We don’t think of ourselves as displaying a brand. As business owners and individuals whether we are conscious of it or not we reinforce our “brand” everyday to the world.
The message that we send to people as business owners is always essential. It doesn’t matter if you are a used car salesman or a neurosurgeon your image is important. People make a judgment about you within the first seven (7) seconds of meeting you. People don’t just notice your attire and your hair. They go beyond the obvious and make judgments about your knowledge, abilities, personality, quirks, desires, expectations, etc. Glamour Magazine’s recent article, (http://www.glamour.com/health-fitness/2012/05/weight-stereotyping-the-secret-way-people-are-judging-you-based-on-your-body-glamour-june-2012) reinforces that we are constantly being judged. It says if you’re thin people think you’re superficial, ambitious, conceited, or confident but if you are overweight you are perceived as lazy, giving, insecure, passive or careless. So, I’m sure you’re saying, I don’t care what other people think because I’m smart or I’m the best doctor or I’m the best person they can find to do the job. All of that may be true but the saying that first impressions are lasting is true too. Not only is it lasting but the first impressions can either build your brand or erode your brand. It’s up to you to determine the outcome.
When I was growing up my mother would always say, “You always have to be the bigger, the better or the best”. It was and still is a running joke in my family because I have always been competitive, talkative, a “know-it-all”, argumentative and opinionated. I hated that impression but I finally had to embrace it because that is who I am. Conversely, I had to find words that were synonymous with the adjectives my family used to describe me. I have changed the words to: I am a conversationalist, driven, well read, educated, debater and so on. Once I found synonyms that empowered me versus disempowered me I was then able to harness the energy not only personally but also professionally. Today as a Business Development Consultant I have to be the expert, to drive performance, to coach leaders, to ask the tough questions, to train organizations to get to the next level and if good – to get organizations/leaders to think big! By changed the words from negatives to positives I was able to accelerate my brand and develop strategies to ensure my success.
Personal branding often times gets a bad reputation but people see the results not the efforts. The following are five (5) “it’s” misnomers that intimidate people when it comes to Personal Branding:
1. It’s Reinventing Yourself – First, you can’t reinvent yourself to be a successful brand! You have to be you. Now, can you be a better you? Absolutely! To create a successful brand you have to be tenacious about understanding who you are and what you represent. You have to know your brand and make sure that you are consistent in your representation of your brand. Being conscientious about how, when and where you display your brand is easy – every way, everywhere and every time – no exceptions.
2. It’s Expensive – Person branding is actually very inexpensive because it is “you” but maybe enhanced. It’s taking those things that are unique or specific to you and putting them on high beam. Assume you love Bic writing pens and you want to make sure people associate you with your Bic pen. To associate this with your brand always carry a Bic pen and keep extras so that people know that you’re a Bic pen user. That will become a part of your persona and thus helps to build your brand by what it implies. It implies you have planned ahead, you expect a certain quality and standard, you are always prepared, you are looking out for the next person and you know what works best for you. This translates into a business owner that you can trust! So, it’s those little things that make the brand and as my mentor would always say the devil is always in the details.
3. It’s Pretentious – The root word of pretentious is pretend. Pretending is not necessary instead you must absolutely be the embodiment of your brand. The only thing that you can embody is what is truly inside. These are called your core values which is what you are selling. You have to “be” what you are selling. If you are a physician, you may think you are selling your education, skills and expertise but because there are many other physicians in the market you have to have a distinguishing feature. You have to sell your competitive advantage would be something like your professionalism, efficiency, patient advocacy, sensitivity, judgment, consideration, etc. People make this determination in many instances outside of your office such as when they see you in a restaurant, at the hospital, at church or the synagogue or in situations that you would least expect. They make these determinations when they see you handling difficult situations like a difficult cashier at the grocery store. If you are pretending to be nice and patient the truth will unveil itself when you least expect it.
4. It’s Packaging/Scripting – Brands are only successful when your passion and belief are displayed – consistently. If you do not believe in yourself then it will show. A script or packaging will not build your brand if you are not passionate about your product (which is you) and believe in your abilities. Conversely, if you are passionate and believable a script will not be necessary and the brand will always shine. It all becomes second nature. Although if you have a script or packaging then your brand can only be reinforced. If nothing else it reinforces that you are always prepared!
5. It’s Complicated – Paying attention to your image can be complicated if it is not natural and your purpose is not sincere. Have you seen an entertainer that doesn’t want to sign autographs or take photos with fans? Albeit being “on” all the time gets tiring but if you are entertaining because you love to perform then paying the price to acknowledge the fans should be a small price to pay. Spending long hours in the studio to make sure that you do it perfectly becomes a part of your mantra. Complexity comes when your heart isn’t in it and you’re out of touch with your brand; otherwise it is considered a part of the process!
Spend some time thinking about the brand image that you want to project. Invest in the success of your brand. Be true to your brand. Show the passion for your brand and build a mantra around your brand that reminds you every day that this is “MY brand” that I am presenting to the world. Taking pride in you and ensuring a positive conversation with yourself will ultimately build a solid “uncomplicated” personal brand!