Most people understand that building brand awareness is a bit of a no-brainer for a business. Successful brands communicate simply and directly what a business offers, how it offers it, and why people can feel comfortable in trusting it. Ok, so we’re in agreement.
The importance of building brand awareness for an individual, however, is often less clearly understood… and, let’s be honest… thanks to cringeworthy soundbites from some public figures over recent years, it is often dismissed as arrogance.
But here’s something to grasp: as an individual in the 21st century workplace, your personal brand exists whether you like it or not. People will form opinions of you based not just on direct experience of working with you, but also on what they hear from others and what they observe of the ways you work. So, assuming that you actually want people to like and trust you, and assuming that you want people to instruct you, you ignore your personal brand at your peril.
What does a good personal brand say about an individual?
Here are some questions. Is this person trustworthy? Am I convinced I need their expertise? Are they credible? Do they exude positivity? What makes them stand out? Are they a good ‘fit’ for my business? Are they a good team player? Do they get the right results? If these are all examples of what others will be looking for as they consider you for a job or contract, then they are precisely what your brand needs to communicate.
Having accepted that your brand will exist with or without your direct input, you may wonder how you should start to work on it.
The internet and social media make it very easy for people to find out quite a lot about you before they even meet you, so you could do a lot worse than starting with a serious look at what exists about you online. Ask what it says about you and whether that is what you want it to say, and make no distinctions between personal and professional material. If it’s in the public domain at all then it’s part of your brand, so does it make you stand out for the right reasons?
Second, consult friends and colleagues. This can be scary, but if you can summon up the courage then you’ll find it useful to know what people see as your strengths and what unique contribution they feel you make. Do the things that you think make you remarkable actually resonate with others? Ask yourself what you have done recently for which you can rightly feel proud, ask what is important to you and ask what your objectives are, and then measure these against what other people think. You may not get the answers you hope for. That doesn’t mean that you have failed, but it may show where your brand needs work.
By and large, people with successful brands are clear experts in relevant and important areas (note ‘relevant’ – you might be a brilliant violinist, but that is unlikely to add value for your motor fraud insurance clients), with clear vision and an ability to see the bigger picture. They are supportive and collaborative team-players, and they are the people who see the solutions as well as just the problems. Above all, they communicate authenticity.
When you tick all of those boxes then you have a successful personal brand as your starting point, but you need to build it. So, what to do?
Firstly, as an individual, be visible in your field. Get out on the conference speaking circuit, write articles, be a regular commenter on relevant topics on social media, and seek out leadership roles or activities in the wider world. Secondly, within the workplace, show your eagerness to be involved, be helpful and supportive, volunteer for things, and work to get yourself into leadership or project-management roles (i.e. we mean, yes… when they’re looking for someone to organise the client trip to the Cheltenham Festival, stick your hand up). Thirdly, to your existing clients, be responsive, be loyal, be honourable, and be trustworthy.
It is important not to overlook the need to reinvent yourself.
Brands that never evolve rarely survive, but evolution doesn’t mean that the core principles at their heart change. Often for you it will be the little things that make the difference – we’re not talking about Kardashian-level makeovers…
Make sure that information available about you online is up-to-date, working through this at least once a quarter to add the latest information. Develop a strong personal introduction or ‘elevator speech’. Consider your physical appearance and dress – do they match the person you want people to see when you walk into a room? Finally, work to discover your real strengths and learn how to engage people most effectively. There is plenty of online help available for this, and a small investment of time might produce big results.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, embrace the idea of your brand. Your brand is you, so never view it as a conceptual add-on. Getting it right is getting yourself right, and success will follow.