Your personal brand is more than just a buzzword – it’s something all leaders should be thinking about.
Personal branding strategy comprises a combination of many elements of how you present yourself. It's what you write, what you do, and how you present yourself to others, day in and day out.
What's more, if you're a leader in your business, your personal brand is tied to the brand of your business. External audiences will make assumptions about what it's like to work with your whole organization based on interactions with you.
Being proactive about managing your personal brand starts with thinking about what you want to be known for, and then taking purposeful action to ensure that’s the image you’re creating.
There are many things you can control relative to the image you project, even though your brand is ultimately is defined by how others feel about you. By being thoughtful about the signals you’re sending, you can project a personal brand that's on mark — to people both inside and outside your business.
Things that impact who others perceive you include:
Clothes nonverbally communicate your attention to detail and professional success. How you dress gives people cues about how they should interact with you. Casual clothes may invite more joking around and casual conversation, whereas a suit made of fine fabric and perfectly polished shoes tell people you're all business. Match your "costume" to the environment and audience.
When attending networking events, have 2-3 conversation starters in your back pocket that represent your brand. Avoid letting others drive conversations and steering your talk too far from your brand. This isn't an excuse to abandon active listening, but having talking points will reinforce the personal brand you're trying to project.
If you want to be known as a thought leader, share your insight on current events. If you want to be known as intelligent, reference the latest book you read. If you want to be known as cutting edge, demonstrate your knowledge of the hottest apps on the newest smartphone. You get the picture.
For better or worse, there are certain actions you can take that people unconsciously attach to character traits. Leverage them to your advantage.
How do you speak with others? Assess how often you say "um," "you know," "like," and other potentially unflattering verbal ticks. If you want your personal brand to decisive, use direct and action-oriented phrases. If you want your personal brand to be compassionate, pepper your language with phrases such as, "What do you think?" and "How are you feeling?"
Sometimes we have to develop a new skill to create our desired personal brand. It may be reading more frequently, mastering some new technology, not drinking at business events, etc. Again, it's about aligning your actions with the brand you want to project. Make note of the skills of people whose brands you admire, and start emulating those habits in your own way.
Be critical of the company you keep, because the personal brands of other definitely affect your personal brand! People make assumptions about you, even if they've never had a one-on-one conversation with you, based on the people with whom you associate.
There are sometimes traits that we can't do anything about that may cause people to jump to the wrong conclusions about us. But we can have awareness of these traits and learn tactics to offset the damage they're creating for our personal brand.
For instance, introverts can seem cold and self-focused because it's unnatural for them to make what they feel is insincere small talk. To counteract this negative impression, introverts might take extra time to build personal, one-to-one relationships with follow-up calls and thank you notes. These actions demonstrate interest in and care for other people, even if a first impression indicated the opposite.
It may take a trusted friend to help point some of these things out to you — someone who can be honest with you about any unintended negative impressions you're creating.
Over to you: What over personal branding ideas have you put into play? Please share in comments!