“Personal branding” and “executive branding” have become buzzwords, leaving some wondering whether it’s actually a worthwhile consideration. If its perceived importance will fade in time, what’s the point of engaging in it you ask. The truth is, no matter what you call it, it’s here to stay. Many executives do not work on their personal brands, and even those who do aren’t always effective at it. This puts you at an advantage, if you make a commitment to building and implementing your own executive brand.
A strong executive brand communicates your value to prospective employers , staff and customers in terms of your strengths, qualifications and interests. Your brand is what will differentiate you in the marketplace, allowing employers to evaluate you as a candidate even before they meet with you. You want to make sure that what you’re communicating via your brand is sending the right message to the right people.
Quite simply, your brand is who you are. It’s also about who people think you are. Perception is reality, so you want to make sure that your reputation is a good one. The best brand is an authentic one – you can’t sustain being somebody you’re not for any length of time. Furthermore, people can sense insincerity, so “pretending” won’t do you any good. Take pride in who you are and what you’ve accomplished. If there’s a gap between who you are and who you want to be, then take steps to make the change.
Why should your brand your self?
Executive branding differentiates you in the marketplace. It’s a way for you to stand out among other professionals who have a similar background and profile, but haven’t defined their brand or put it into action. It’s a way for you to showcase your unique strengths and skills to the world, and specifically, to potential employers.
What do you need to do?
The top three things you need to do are (1) have the right attitude, (2) make a plan and (3) take action. A good attitude will put you in the right frame of mind, a plan will keep you on track and executing that plan is the key to success.
Who can help you achieve your branding goals?
You can get a great deal of guidance from business coaches , mentors or specialist consultants about how to develop and market your brand. The most important person in the process, however, is you. It’s your brand, and your responsibility to define, build and implement it. After all, you know yourself best. It will take some honest reflection, contemplation and analysis, but only you know the answers to questions you’ll be asking yourself during the branding process.
When is it appropriate to start?
It’s never too late to start working on your personal brand, but the earlier you can get to it, the better. It’s not something that can be accomplished overnight, and it’s also not something that is ever “finished.” You will continue to work on your brand throughout your career. It will evolve over time as you acquire new skills, achieve new successes and find new interests. Keeping your brand fresh is an on-going exercise.
Where is your personal brand most important?
Your brand follows you wherever you go. You should be mindful of how you present yourself in all situations from personal to professional interactions. If you are authentic and true to your brand, living it will be easy. Your brand also lives independently of you, as your reputation in the world, as well as in all of your marketing communications including your resume and professional biography. It’s also represented by your online presence, such as through your LinkedIn profile and activity.
How should you brand your self?
It’s all about execution. With a plan in place, the “how” is a commitment to doing it. In this guide, we’ve set out the following goals for you to start working on: (1) defining your brand, (2) building your brand and (3) being your brand. If you focus on these at a very minimum, you will be off to a good start. It’s up to you to supplement the activities we suggest with others that make sense for you. There’s no shortage of resources in bookstores and online to keep moving you forward.
Attitude is everything
Attitude sets the stage for executive branding. If you don’ t have the right attitude, you can’t fake it – but you can change it.
You have to be in the right mind-set to approach the exercise of creating and developing your brand. It’s important to be positive about who you are and what you stand for, as well as to recognize the value of representing this as your executive brand. Negativity will only block your progress. This doesn’t mean you can’t be appropriately critical during the process – in fact, you have to be. To develop a truly authentic brand, you have to be honest with yourself. Acknowledge your strengths with humility, and recognize your weaknesses as something to either accept or be open to improving.
Adapted from A Brief Guide to Executive Branding by Bill Holland, 2011.
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