Personal Branding – change and transformation…

2009 will surely go down in the history books as the year our understanding of personal branding finally hit home. The philosophies, values and actions of individuals have not only affected the rise and fall of personal fortunes, but have contributed to expensive wars and bringing down our financial institutions.

And as we have seen with Tiger Woods, brands built on illusions are deeply vulnerable and a lesson to us all. No amount of smart labeling and advertising will hide the truth – well not in the long run anyway. Interesting to compare Woods’ brand with that of Sir Richard Branson who very cleverly has never set himself up for such a fall.

Simple stuff really – its all about cause and effect and thankfully, most of us are not open to the relentless scrutiny of the media. We are, however, open to the scrutiny of our business partners, investors, clients and colleagues and in times like these, the realisation that we have little control over anything other than ourselves has hit home hard.

The greatest opportunity for real growth and transformation is during times of change - the pause or space in-between letting go of what was, and moving on again. I was reminded of this in a coaching session with a client this week. My client, lets call him Peter, had a role change in what seemed on the surface of things, to be a challenging corporate re-shuffle. Peter’s new role is not the one he hoped for, however, it represents the most extraordinary chance for him to establish a new way of working, instantly.

Allow me to explain – whenever we change roles or responsibilities, it is far easier to establish new practices, new attitudes and new ways of working from the start. Those you are dealing with will accept the new you instantly. It is far more difficult to take your old supporters, colleagues and friends with you. They will wait to see how you get on, and will be the last to adopt. Their perception of you will take some time to change, whereas your new audience will take you at face value.

When it comes to building your personal brand, how you are perceived can be directly related to your ability to be successful. When we say that perception is reality, what we really mean is that it’s a form of reality as it can be demonstrably false. And all too often it is. So when you are facing a new situation, take stock of how you are perceived and ensure that you start your new endeavor with the changes that you would like to make. It may seem like a risk, however the rewards will be enormous.

With this in mind, I thought I would share my top personal branding tips for 2010:

  • The relentless rise of social and digital media means that we are all found online. Your digital footprint is being created as we speak and its up to you to ensure that it works for you. But personal branding is not only about managing how you are perceived online, it’s also about what you do and the impact you create in person and offline.
  • Potential business partners and employers will google you - ensure what they find online is a true reflection of who you are in a business context. Un-tag yourself from those silly, party pictures on Facebook and ask your friends not to post any photos or videos of you. There are far better, less potentially damaging ways of sharing fun times.
  • Analyse your markets or audience and ask yourself what each person or group is looking for in someone like you. So if you are an entrepreneur, your markets/audience might be your customers, your investors, your employees, your business partners, the media, industry related bodies and your suppliers. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself if there is anything you could be doing better?
  • Go to market and find out how you are perceived. The only way to do this is to ask. Pick three or four people from each of your markets/audience and ask them how they perceive you in a business context. What you learn will be invaluable.
  • Find out what it is about you that makes you compelling to others - most successful people get it right most of the time, but they are not always sure why. This little nugget will give you the self-knowledge to keep delivering the essence of what makes you successful, which in turn delivers a sense of control over your career. Its all about understanding cause and effect - you are the cause and you can measure the effects.
  • Specialise - we can’t be all things to all people so pick an area of expertise that you have, make sure that its desirable to your markets/audience and then make it well known. You can do this online (write a blog, comment on others articles in online publications), offline (write a letter to the editor, write an article for your trade press), and in person (host a meeting, invite an expert to talk - you will raise your profile by association).
  • Consistency is key - consistency builds trust so keep delivering what others find compelling about you consistently. Think about your career as you might think about Heinz baked beans - no amount of smart labeling or advertising will compensate for the consistency of the product. When you open the can, it needs to be the same. Every single time.
  • Get smart and get online. Write a blog, record video (its bigger than blogging or social networking), tweet and get your profile updated on Linkedin. You control the content, you control the message, you control your brand. There is a proviso here - we really don’t want or need to know what you had for lunch unless you are a food critic. It’s all about adding value.
  • Take the time and put energy into developing your talents and your self-knowledge. Oh, and take regular breaks too. At the risk of sounding clichéd, you need to invest in yourself and that includes having some down time, some ‘me’ time. You will come back refreshed and it will add a fresh perspective to your work.

Louise Mowbray

Leadership, Impact and Personal Branding Coach

Mowbray by Design