We know that businesses need to have a consumer brand. It helps them market their product or service to consumers.
But do individuals, in turn, need to have a personal brand to market themselves? The answer is “yes.” And it needs to be a good one.
Anne-Kathryn Flanagan, corporate communications manager at Colonial Life, explains the value of personal branding in our careers.
“Depending on the brand you’ve created, it could have both a negative or positive impact on your professional life,” Flanagan said. “If you’ve created a fake version of yourself, you’ll eventually be found out. If your brand is an accurate reflection of what makes you unique, then you’ll stand out from the crowd at networking events, in a stack of resumes or on social media networks like LinkedIn.”
So, if individuals need to have a personal brand to help their career, what exactly is a personal brand? Well, if you use the consumer brand analogy, it’s your reputation and your credibility.
Flanagan says the best way to understand your personal brand is to “think about what makes you…you. In other words, you need to be authentic, and your brand needs to be an accurate representation of yourself. Your brand should be about who you are, your beliefs, your values; it should reflect your areas of expertise, the professional skills you’ve acquired and what you have to offer.”
Here are five things you can do to strengthen your personal brand:
Once you’ve established the purpose of a personal brand, it’s valuable to think about your brand and find opportunities to strengthen it. Even if you’re happy with what your brand is currently, you might say to yourself, “I’d like to steer my brand in this direction eventually.” Or “It would be great to add this to my brand.” Here are five topics to consider:
- Identify what your brand is … and isn’t. It’s important to be aware of how others see your brand. Is your impression the same as others? Don’t be shy about Googling yourself. Are you happy with what shows up on the first few pages? Ask a few close friends for their honest thoughts.
- Realize your brand is everywhere (social media, in-person, emails, etc.) We might tend to think of this only from a professional perspective, but our brand affects our personal life as well. This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, post a few meme’s, etc. However, think about the image you send (along with the consequences) in both your personal and professional lives.
- Look for opportunities to confirm your brand. Any time you have to deliver a result, whether that’s at work or on a volunteer committee, you have the opportunity to tell everyone who you are and what you stand for. Yes, there will be times when we won’t accomplish the goal, but how you react can strengthen your brand.
- Explain when you can’t deliver your brand promise. It happens. There are moments when we can’t deliver on time or must confront an unpleasant issue. How you handle it can speak volumes about your brand. Take responsibility, communicate clearly, and renegotiate the commitment.
- Build your network. As much as we might not want to think it, we are the company we keep. It’s important to build a network of contacts where you can share your expertise. From a professional perspective, this can impact your future job assignments and responsibilities (i.e. the CEO’s special project that would get you noticed.)
Maintaining Your Personal Brand isn’t Difficult
Creating and maintaining a personal brand doesn’t need to be complex. In fact, think about it in terms of the things you probably already do.
- Be yourself. The number one rule of personal branding is make your brand authentic. Don’t duplicate or copy other people.
- Practice self-reflection. Occasionally, think about your brand and make sure you’re happy with the direction. And, when you make decisions that can impact your brand, ask yourself “is this what I want to be known for?”
- Stay open to change. As we change, our brand will change. Don’t feel your brand is permanent and unchanging.
Everyone has a personal brand. It helps maintain positive relationships and can present new personal and professional opportunities. So, stay cognizant of your personal brand and make it something that helps you achieve your goals.