What Apple, Coca Cola and Virgin have in common is that they are world renowned and respected brands. What most people don’t realise is that they could be more successful at work if they created their own personal brand – ‘brand you’.
Developing a personal brand can be particularly useful for senior women looking to gain a promotion who feel they are being held back. Building the right brand image can help women feel more confident, give them greater gravitas and help them present a more professional image so they are more comfortable demonstrating their knowledge and experience in the boardroom.
How to create ‘brand you’?
A personal brand is what you want to be known for and how you want people to perceive you. The secret to creating an effective personal brand is to consider carefully how you wish to be presented to the world, and what image you want to project.
A brand is all about your promise to stakeholders – letting them know what they can expect from you. It’s also about standing out from the crowd, and understanding what makes you different to other people in your organisation.
Consider what people will say about you when you have left the room. It’s about your reputation so it is essential to ensure you come across to work colleagues, customers and other stakeholders in the best possible way.
A strong brand image is critical if you want to climb the corporate ladder. If you don’t cultivate your own brand, others will do it for you and their perception can become reality. In the workplace, it is essential that colleagues and clients understand what is being offered and that they trust you to deliver it.
In the race for promotion, presentation and perception can be as important as your track record. Successful people often have an aura of confidence and work hard to develop their own brand, although they may not necessarily recognise it in brand-building terms.
Nevertheless, thinking about self-image in terms of ‘brand you’ can be a useful way to shine in the workplace.
Tips for creating your personal brand
Creating ‘brand you’ takes some thought to ensure it has the desired impact.
Here are some simple steps to follow:
1. Be authentic
A common mistake is that people fail to be authentic in their brands. Being real is the key. The most important things to remember are:
- Always be honest about your values and ideas
- Promote causes that align with your values
- Be consistent and reinforce your words with actions. Stick to your core messages
- Protect the integrity of ‘brand you’ at all times
2. Assess what you have to offer
An honest assessment of your situation is crucial to understand what you have to offer and the areas that need improvement. Identify the following:
- Strengths – Internal characteristics that give you a competitive advantage
- Weaknesses – Internal weaknesses that must be improved
- Opportunities – External chances that can be exploited in the marketplace
- Threats – External challenges that cannot be controlled, but may be addressed through opportunities
3. What are your values and what excites you?
This is about understanding what really matters to you and what gets you out of bed in the morning. Ask yourself the following questions to understand where your values and passions lie:
- What really matters to you?
- What gets you out of bed in the morning?
- What makes you angry?
- What drives you forward?
4. What is your brand mantra?
This is the heart and soul of your brand. You should create a quick and memorable statement describing who you are, what you have to offer and what makes you unique. Keep it snappy. Between three and five words is enough.
Think about what words others might use to describe you. It is always an interesting exercise to ask a few other people to describe you in three words. You may be surprised by what people already see and it could help form the basis of your brand mantra.
Committing to your brand
Once you have developed your brand and established a clear brand identity, it’s important to maintain it and be consistent. Trust can only be built by staying close to your brand identity. It is important that you present yourself in the same light each time people touch your brand and that your behaviour is consistent with your values, making that visible through all work, activities and actions.
You must commit to your own brand and not doubt it or keep changing it too frequently, as this can confuse people, and may erode your reputation, trust and brand image.
Developing a unique brand and committing to it can be a really positive step in anyone’s career, whatever level, but it is crucial at a senior executive level. Those that take the time to do this will reap the rewards, be more empowered and be more confident in achieving their career goals.
By Ishreen Bradley, an executive coach consultant whose passion is to enable smart people to perform at their best. She has worked with an array of clients from small business to some of the world’s largest organisations including Sky, Standard Chartered Bank and Hermes. You can follow her on Linkedin: @ishreenbradley.