People struggle with “What is my personal brand?” and “How do I create the right image?” Usually people put brand, reputation and image all under personal branding, but each piece is in fact different. Below are my thoughts. I hope you enjoy them and will add your thoughts as well.
Brand is what makes you uniquely you. As I’ve said before, everyone has their freak flag of value – things they are uniquely great at. Pick two to five things you are uniquely great at and love to do. These can and will change over your career and revisiting your brand each year is a good practice.
For example, do you work best on white-space problems that have no clear solution? Then creative problem solving as part of your brand. In the end, brand is about what you do. You can change your brand by learning new things and shifting the focus of your work and what you talk about to these new things.
Reputation is all about the how you deliver your brand pillars and your consistency over time. Reputation is a continuum, not a point in time. Every day you make your reputation better or worse on balance. Reputation is made up of two areas – your personality style and your action style.
Your personality style is how you communicate, how you speak, your body language and your fashion style. Do you command a certain presence simply by walking in the room? Can you inspire others by your words or turn naysayers to supporters with a few conversations? We’ve all said things like “He/she knows this space well. They look like a total mess, but don’t let the looks fool you.” or… “I don’t know how they do it, but they’ll have the whole group on board in no time. Somehow they have the magic to align people.”
Your action style is how you deliver on your brand focuses more on your organizational skills, planning skills, execution capability, problem solving and how close to the stated goals you come over time. We’ve all said things like “He/she is brilliant, but it will be chaos right up to the last minute and then it will all come together” or… “He/she will give you a solid plan and not stop until it’s delivered and you are happy with the result. They are a get-it-done person.”
Managing your reputation requires checking your ego at the door and seeking feedback on a regular basis. Trusted mentors and colleagues are invaluable for this. Often our own perception of our reputation is not completely aligned with how the rest of the world sees us. So it is a good idea to periodically do a 360 feedback process. There are many services out there you can use, just make sure you get anonymous feedback so people are more honest and that you solicit feedback from people can either hire your or endorse you. Don’t fall in to the all to common trap of asking for feedback from people you think will tell you all good things. This should be a reality view, not simply an endorsement of what you want to hear.
Image is the collective perception others have of you. Image usually comes in to play when someone has not met or worked with you before. A good digital footprint is critical to effectively managing your image. If someone is considering hiring you or is looking for people with your type of brand value, they will absolutely do a search on the topic area connected to your brand to see if you show up as well as your name to see if your brand holds up. They will then see whom they have in common with you and seek perspective on your reputation. A good way to think about your image is the collective reach and perception of your brand and reputation combined.
Brand, reputation and image – the three keys to a successful career presence. All can be managed well with simple focus.