Posted August 13, 2014 by

4 Steps to Building and Defining Your Personal Branding

Personal branding on a torn piece of paper

Personal branding on a torn piece of paper. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Personal branding is your reputation. It is the name you build for yourself. And please know—you do have a brand. Whatever you have done consistently over time has become your brand. Or you may have met people only once, and they now see you as being a certain way. They branded you, and you may not have realized it.

Personal branding is how you differentiate yourself. It is the emotional response that others feel when your name is mentioned. A response that comes from the value that you bring and the way you leverage that value. Personal branding happens whether you like it or not.

In order to convey a positive brand, you have to communicate your message consistently. This consistency will build your reputation, credibility, the respect others have for you—your personal brand. A strategic personal branding campaign creates a strong, consistent, and specific association between the individual and the perceived value that individual offers.

In developing your personal brand, you will find it easier to break your brand into components that you can continue to break down further and define what they physically look like, what they mean to you, and how they will help support your goal.

1.    Appearance

When we refer to appearance, we are referring to anything that is visible to the eye without us opening our mouths. How are you going to physically present yourself every day to represent your brand? The saying “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression” is absolutely true. How important is dress when it comes to conducting yourself in business? Very.  If you want people to know how intelligent you are, your appearance sets the stage. It opens the door when people have no frame of reference with which to judge you. Consistency is key in anything, and dress is no different. Attire is more than your clothes; it encompasses your entire physical presence. It does not matter what size you wear; what matters is how you put yourself together. If you take time to look good and appropriate, the message you are sending is that you care about yourself. Think about how this applies to you and ask yourself these questions: “What could give me the edge?” “Am I doing anything, regarding my appearance, that is holding me back?”

2.    Behavior

The first step is to ask yourself the question, “What specific behaviors build my brand?” Once you have really thought through how you want to be perceived with regard to your behavior, you have to go to the next level. How is that behavior going to be exhibited? What do you have to do to ensure that your behavior is consistent? Now, think of all the behaviors you are known for and would like to be known for when your name is mentioned. Write them down and then go through each one and put specific behaviors that support that behavior.

3.    Competencies and Skills

Your competencies are your job skills. The main questions you want to ask yourself are: What are my competencies now that are adding value to my brand and to my company’s brand? What do I need to do to stay on top of my career?  What competencies, job skills, or technical skills do I need to attain to keep growing in my career? Our competencies are the price of admission. They are the foundation for everything we do. We definitely all have strengths and areas that we are more adept at than others, and it is important to know what our strengths are. Many people do not live in their strength area and find it hard to excel at their competencies. If you are building competencies in an area of strength, you will find more satisfaction in what you are doing. You will also be stronger in anything you do. If you find yourself struggling with your competencies and asking yourself how you are going to improve and grow them, you may want to reevaluate what skills you need for your job on a regular basis and if you are well suited to them.

4.   Values and Differentiators

What value do you bring to the table?

What differentiates you?

What makes you unique?

Why would someone call you or ask you to lead a project ver-  sus someone else?

How do you stay authentic yet differentiate yourself?

What does it mean to truly offer value? This is a difficult question to answer. After going through all the other components of building your brand, you may have answered this question, or you may be at a loss. All the aspects of our appearance, behavior, and competencies build our value. The key is ensuring that, in building your brand, all those branches really do differentiate you.  We hear people say things like, “My expertise is my differentiator.” Well, we hate to tell you, but your expertise is not a differentiator. Unless you’re Steve Jobs, or someone who is a genius in your field, there is one intelligent person with expertise right after the other. A differentiator is how you communicate your intelligence and expertise.

Some examples of differentiators:

  •     Follow up: Do things in a timely manner.
  •     Use receptive body language: Use eye contact when someone is talking to you. Nod to show that you are listening.
  •     Remembering names: This is a very important skill to master. Remembering someone’s name is an incredible way to make people feel important.
  •     Be a good listener: you have to consciously think about being present and make sure that you are exhibiting receptive body language.

After you have mapped out your brand and really thought through what you represent, you have to communicate it to others. The only way to truly communicate your brand is to “be it.” You communicate it through all the areas you have just mind-mapped. This then takes you to the critical piece of this pie. Without it, people will not believe your brand, and they will make their own decisions about who you are, whether you like those decisions or not.

Kim Zoller and Kerry Preston are the authors of Enhancing Your Executive Edge: How to Develop the Skills to Lead and Succeed (McGraw Hill, 2014). They are partners at Image Dynamics, coaches, and speakers.

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