When people mention your name, what value proposition comes to mind?
Does your name act like a “brand” for you?
Think about some well-known business names:
Warby Parker. McDonalds. GoPro. Soul Cycle. Target. Tesla.
The value that comes to mind is clear and easy to understand. You know right away what it’s all about, and whether you’re interested or not.
Imagine having that kind of clarity in people’s minds when they think about you.
That’s your personal brand.
And it works for employees as well as entrepreneurs. Because, maybe your name isn’t going to flash up on a billboard sign, online ad, or email pitch.
But your name is mentioned around the water cooler. In meetings. Outside the office. At conferences. Among your clients. Across your network.
People think certain things when they think of you.
Ideally, what they think of is a good value proposition for them and also something you are proud of.
And maybe you should do something to establish, strengthen, or change the current perception.
That’s personal brand work.
What Do You Want to Be Known For?
Leadership and executive coaches Jason and Jodi Womack put it clearly with one simple question:
What do you want to be known for?
This foundational question helps you to think about your own personal motivation, which is an essential part of your personal brand.
Just like the best marketing, your own personal branding is not something you tack on as an afterthought. It’s a reflection of your core value.
In the best case scenarios this is something that you are both good at and enjoy doing.
If you can get a clear sense of that, you’re winning. If you don’t have a clear sense of that at the moment, then that’s your step one.
As I’ve reflected on this myself, it all seems to come down to being a consultant. I actually held that role in a few organizations for a decade. But that’s not the main reason I think of myself as a consultant.
It’s because what I’ve done before, during, and since that time is to help people think through and act on things. I help them to grasp the essentials, see the possible paths forward, pick the best one, and then see the change through.
What’s your personal brand if you had to boil it down to one word?
Reflect, Reinforce, Reach Out
As you work to get a sense of your brand value, you can start to take more actions to reinforce it, for yourself and for others.
Thinking of myself as a consultant helped me to grow my subsequent jobs to be bigger and hold more responsibility. I worked to bring professionalism and to step up to the plate as often as I could, without being asked. Because that’s what a good consultant does.
The more I acted that way, the more people saw me that way. They might not use the word consultant. But they word certainly use related words and phrases like strategic, insightful, good at guiding a person or group forward, calm and cool demeanor, and the like.
How do I know this?
Because I’ve asked. I took the time to reach out to a bunch of folks that I’ve worked closely with over the years at all stages of my career. They know me well and that’s how they see me.
You should do that. It’s a valuable exercise.
If you want a copy of the exact email message I sent out to solicit this feedback, just let me know. I’ll be happy to share it with you.
What About Social Media?
Social media is a great way to expand your network beyond the four walls of your current work environment. To reach out. To expand your brand. And, most importantly, to learn.
I find the ability to gather and connect with others around ideas absolutely intoxicating.
It’s also a powerful way to work on your personal brand.
You get to figure out where you want to go. Who you want to follow. What you want to say.
This is a great way to follow a path that includes interests related to your personal brand, and to connect with others on the same.
The goal is not to get famous or grow a following, but to pursue ideas you like, connect with others on that topic. You want to learn and hone and develop your skills and knowledge in your area.
Then, you can bring all that stuff back into your current day job. You can talk with others in your network. Learn more from them. Bring it back online. Expand that network. And so on.
It’s a good way to create a little cycle of thought and discussion.
Think of it that way and social media becomes fun and energizing. Not another chore on your task list. Social media should be a natural extension of your personal brand work.
You have a personal brand already. Think of it as a fine-tuned version of your professional reputation.
And if you don’t have something fine-tuned, it might be time to focus on that.
Looking inward to consider more about what you are both good at and like doing is a good way to get down to some core values.
You should also reach out to trusted colleagues. They can tell you clearly and succinctly what your most valuable brand assets are. They can see it more clearly in you, just like you can for them.
After you’ve given that some reflection, you can start to act to build your brand. You can strengthen it by doing more things in that area. A little focus will go a long way in reinforcing your brand, for yourself and for others.
You can also reach out well beyond your current network using social media. This gives you a chance to connect with more people around certain ideas and topics. Which gives you a chance to expand your network and enhance discussions and activities.
Work at it little by little over time.
Soon you will have a clearer understanding of your best personal brand, a bigger network built around something you like doing and are good at, and more confidence and experience to keep building and growing.