#BeCreative in Personal Branding
“My name is Bond. James Bond.” In the closed world of intelligence agencies, there is no single doubt as to the face and associated capabilities and skill sets hidden behind this signature quote. This simple, yet powerful statement makes it clear that there is a guy who doesn’t do things by half-measures and you would probably do better not mess with him.
In the age of fierce competition and accelerated market disruption, companies are competing to win the highest share of minds (i.e. the first company people think of, when they need what the company offers) in the battle to win the overall market share. In this context, branding has become the key discriminator to differentiate from competitors and get consumers to choose and buy their products.
The same process applies for your career path, whatever the stage you are in. Whether you are looking for a job, or to get a promotion at work, you will face other applicants or colleagues with the same skill set and level of experience. In the current job market, there are unlimited choice options available. Effective branding of yourself will be key to win the hearts and minds of your recruiter or manager, and will land you your dream job or long awaited promotion. The strongest brand wins the job. So, let’s brand!
Personal branding: Emotional or Rational
There is no single or one-size-fits-all branding process to effectively build your brand, shine, and skyrocket your career in record time. Branding sums up all your professional experience and academic background, professional endeavours and accomplishments. But branding goes beyond those facts. It entails a wide range of intangible components. Focus on your technical abilities and you will become replaceable, focus on your core values and attributes, and you will become remarkable.
Here are a few creative tips to help you build, sell and sustain your personal brand:
1. Uncover your own personal brand: a brand called “You”
Building your brand requires time, effort and a great deal of work on oneself. Whether you are looking for your first job, or you are at a career crossroad, you have to start by knowing yourself.
To know yourself, start with an assessment test to determine your own personal and unique positioning. You have to be clear on who you are, what values you stand for, where you want to go (i.e. what you want to be known for and what you want to achieve). Chris Ducker, British entrepreneur and renowned expert on personal branding, published an article in Forbes on how to kick-off your branding process by diving into your inner self. He suggests that on a piece of paper, draw two lists – one list called the “Flatter Yourself List,” where you will write down all the things you master: Your strengths. In the second list called the “Be Real with Yourself List,” put down all the areas where you feel uncomfortable: Your weaknesses.
Going beyond the “Yourself List”, you can apply some common business tools. Companies often use the SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) to map out the best ways to position themselves to win. Do the same yourself by performing your own SWOT analysis to determine your own competitive positioning. The analysis will enable you to identify potential opportunities and threats, where you see yourself going, and what is holding you back. The SWOT analysis will enable you to ultimately identify what makes you unique and formulate your competitive positioning in the form of a brand statement or signature that you will promote consistently on all channels, both online and personal.
2. Build your own brand signature
Your brand signature is all about your USP – Unique Selling Proposition. It is all about what distinguishes you from your challengers. And don’t be shy, Be proud of your differences.
Here is what your brand signature should be:
- Personal: Focus on your own vision of who you are, what you do, and what your values are: Go beyond yourself and try to build some connections with your audience;
- Understandable: Avoid jargon and technical terms;
- Adaptable: Select standalone parts and adapt it.
3. Test your brand with others: brand yourself or be branded
Your personal brand effectiveness and success will largely depend on its perception on others. So if possible, do a crash test with people with whom you already collaborated or worked with in a professional environment. Invite them to a participatory ‘gamestorming’ session. The Heart, Head & Hand gamestorming used for persuasive communication, could be particularly good for this task.
The three-step Heart, Head & Hand approach unfolds as follows:
- Heart: to establish a relationship and seek empathy with your counterpart;
- Head: to support your talk with proofpoint appealing to both your counterpart and you;
- Hand: to lead your counterpart to take action
To perform this exercise effectively, start with the end goal in mind – what do you want your counterpart to ultimately do: Hire you? Grant you a promotion? Then support your story/narrative with evidence your counterpart can easily relate to facilitate his/her understanding and engagement, and lead him/her to take action.
This exercise will enable you to not only test the effectiveness, but also credibility of your personal brand. Of course, participants need to remain neutral and objective for the session to succeed.
4. Craft your personal brand
To successfully sell your brand, both content and format matters. It can be sold interchangeably on various channels: social media profiles (i.e. Linkedin, Twitter,..), business cards, email signatures. The choice of the dissemination channel will depend on who and what your target is, namely your audience, and the role you wish to get.
In any case, you have to convey a consistent image on all channels; however, this does not mean you can’t be creative when formatting. Here are some creative tools to help you tell your story:
- Infographics to win the mind!
Infographics are powerful tool to craft a visual story of your brand by providing a wide array of information in both an appealing and compelling way.
Some tools include Visual.ly or Infogr.am which offer some nice templates.
- Animated video to win the heart!
To go beyond and connect emotionally with your audience, create an animated video with characters that your audience can identify with and easily build personal connections with. Some tools include PowToons.
Building a personal brand is a work in progress. Your personal brand needs to be closely monitored and corrected to ensure its consistency. Remember, you have to convey the same personal brand message across all communications channels. This will enable you to sustain your brand in the long run. Your career path may not be linear and you may be required to re-write your brand. But, in any case, don’t forget to tell your story!
If you don’t spend the time polishing your personal brand, others will define it for you. So, let’s brand!
by Caroline Lefèvre