“Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of
the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of
branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc.
To be in business today, our most important job is to be
head marketer for the brand called You.”
– Tom Peters in Fast Company
Do you know what others think about you? (This is a scary question, especially for us women isn’t it?)
Timid, arrogant, indecisive, aggressive, pushy, fake,incompetent, indecisive, bossy, wishy-washy, unimpressive, belligerent, hesitant, cynical, wasteful, secretive, ignorant, grumpy…
Authentic, intelligent, funny, competent, creative, calm,mature, capable, upbeat, vigorous, encouraging, cooperative, fair, generous, responsible, thoughtful, talented, witty, courageous…
Even the famous first impression is formed within a maximum of 45 seconds.
How powerful is a first impression? Opinions differ on the lifespan and impact of the first impression. I personally believe that it makes sense to pay attention to the first impression and to make your life easier by making sure the impression you make has the impact that you are looking to have. After all, nobody wants to be associated with the first row or attributes, if we can prevent it, right?
Another important factor to be aware of is that most of the assumptions we make about people (including their level of expertise, success, education and knowledge) are based on this first impression. And more often than not we make these assumptions before they have spoken their first word! An impressive 55% of the impact we are making is based on our body language (how we look and behave), 38% on how we speak (the tone of your voice) and only up to 7% on what we actually say.
But let us start at the beginning. Some of you might not be familiar with the concept of personal brand – is brand not something companies have? Or some of you might be turned off by the idea of having to add a brand to their to do list – is that the same as this other scary concept “networking”?
Please bear with me…
What is a personal brand?
Firstly, a personal brand is not just the way you present yourself as an individual overall – it is actually held in the relationship between you and another person. Whether you like it or not, the world is going to have an opinion about you. This means every one of us already has a brand. “Personal branding” as an activity is about intentionally influencing how the world sees you. It’s about purposefully packaging that “brand called You.”
People will always develop and impression of you. This impression influences how they hear you, the trust they place in you and what they expect from you.
It is important to note that developing your personal brand is not just about getting people to like you. It could be far more important that you are seen to be trustworthy, reliable and consistent than likeable.
People might not always be bowled over by your award winning smile and all-rounder personality, but if they know that they can count of you to get the job done then they are still more likely to work with you than someone who has shown less consistency.
It is also important to be authentic. There is no need to try to be something that you are not, you probably know from personal experience that it is mostly very easy to spot if someone is trying to project a certain image. The secret to successful personal branding is to bring out the qualities that you already have, that you want the world to know and remember about you. I will show you how…
What does your brand say about you?
The first step to developing your personal brand is awareness. You need to know how you are currently perceived. It is invaluable to get feedback on this.
Be aware though, that the people you trust and that you feel most comfortable asking for feedback, might not be the ones that will give you the most valuable information. If you are like me, the people you would feel comfortable asking might be the people you love and that you know care about you. And because they do, they might be very reluctant to tell you about any negative perceptions. They probably also know you for a long time, so their impressions are based on shared experiences etc rather than a first impression so for this particular exercise you might not get good information.
Nevertheless, don’t count them out completely. If you get consistent feedback about certain qualities (and of course we want to hear the good stuff too!) then it is likely that this is what people commonly associate with you. If you are brave, go out of your comfort zone and ask people that don’t know you that well. Another good tool is a 360 survey, just make sure the questions are tailored to the goal of learning about your current personal brand.
We did a little exercise last year as part of our Success Series which was a BWN Ireland initiative. We had 60 committed women signed up to a series of workshops around personal branding with a graduation ceremony from our success academy at the end. We used the first 30 minutes of every meeting for networking and little icebreaker activities. One of these was an exercise on how we are being perceived by others. We set the clock for 1 minute and everyone had to write down the first 5 qualities that sprang to mind about the person to their left. Then we moved around the table. All feedback was given anonymously and the participants received the collected feedback at the end of the workshop (for their eyes only). In preparation every participant had answered the following question about themselves:
List 5 Qualities You Want To Be Known For
Every brand is based on a few good qualities. It makes it easier to connect and remember the product (or person) it’s attached to. You need to do the same. Choose a handful of qualities about yourself that you want to be known for – maybe you’re witty, a movie buff, a great organizer, and a green energy expert. Or maybe you’re a confident, detail oriented, serious, leader who’s a crazy sports fan.
What collection of attributes do you want to be known for by the world? Make sure you don’t try to focus on too many things – it’ll be harder for someone to remember any of it. Make sure you’re honest with yourself – pretending to be something you’re not never works well.
DO: Write down the 4 or 5 things you want the world to know about you
As a result everyone could compare if their own priorities matched with how their were being perceived by others. We got excellent feedback from the participants for this exercise.
How else can you shape your personal brand?
Here are only a few suggestions (collected from the sources below), there is so much more information to be had on this topic. I would also love to hear your experiences and ideas so take this list as a starting point:
1. Run a blog or website that is all you. It doesn’t matter if it’s not your first priority, or even your second priority, but it gives people a place to develop a stronger connection with you. (You might already be doing this!) Here are some content guidelines:
- Include a mini-bio at the end of each post, put time and effort into your About page and use it to paint a picture of your ideal personal brand. People will only remember a few things about you, so focus on telling the story that contributes most to your brand. Use your personal story as the basis for your expertise.
- Most companies have a presence on social media nowadays that reflect their brand. But their online “home base” is a website they own
- The reason’s simple. You can manage your online profiles, but you have complete control over a website you own.
- The same is true for you. You can clean up your Facebook account all you want, but if you really want to solidify your brand online, creating a personal website is the best way to make that happen.
2. Design a personal logo: which is a single graphical symbol that represents your Personal Brand
3. Attend a networking event: Meet some new people and introduce yourself using your new elevator statement
4. Hold a presentation: Volunteer to do a presentation in your team, project or other group and try to practise the elements you have learned about in the
5. Organise a study group: meet with other success series participants to work on the goals together and give each other feedback
6. Dress for success: start incorporating little changes into your wardrobe that reflect your personal brand and enjoy the positive comments. Or be drastic and change your style overnight!
And where do I use it?
CV/cover letter/reference documents
Portfolio showcasing your work
Blog or website
The better prepared you are to show the world who you are, the more likely the world will see you the way you want. That means:
- your coworkers
- job interviewers
- people searching for you online
- your social circles
When you have a solid personal brand, you’ll be more memorable, you’ll be more impressive, and people will wind up having a more favourable opinion about you – that’s the same thing that good branding does for a product. Consider your personal brand to be an investment. No matter what happens your personal brand will persist and add value to each new project you create.
We worked with this book last year and will continue using it in our regular meetings to keep working on our brands.
I hope you enjoyed this little insight into personal branding based on the experience with personal brand development in Ireland.
We would love to hear from you!
Sarah Machon on
behalf of the BWN Dublin (Ireland) chapter.
Some of our sources: