What is Personal Branding? Why is it important?
Personal branding is what you convey to the world about yourself.
How you look, what you say, how you say it, what you don’t say, and your facial expressions convey to others who you are and what you value.
The concept of personal branding is not relegated to the workplace. In fact, your brand started to be created as a child.
Think about it!
What did you say about yourself in elementary school? How did your teachers react to you? What did your parents say about you? What did you think about yourself?
Were you the shy child? The curious child? The obnoxious bully?
Were you the cute one? The well-groomed one or the messy dresser?
Preppy one? Sporty one?
What did you think about others? How did you perceive others around you? What do you believe and perceive yourself to be?
Did you believe what others said about you or did you counter their perception of you?
Unfortunately, we are not introduced to this concept early enough to realize that we control our perception to a very strong degree.
It all starts with how we perceive ourselves!
If we like how we are, then we should convey it to the world!
For instance, if we know we are curious, we are cute, we are aggressive. It becomes our choice to convey to the world the things we like about ourselves.
Seeing is believing
On the flip side, if we want to improve and become something better, then we must believe we are, act that we are and then we will become closer to that thing that we want to be in the world.
As an example, if you want to become more outgoing and less shy in class, then you should be determined and act more outgoing in class. Overtime, with behavior changes that you make, their perception of you will change as will your perception of yourself. Yes, it will feel uncomfortable! Growing is painful.
How many people want to be perceived as professional?
Then you must dress, act, and portray yourself every day in a professional manner! It is as simple as that!
Every choice you make says something about who you are and what you value!
It is not a ‘sometimes’ proposition, it is an “all the time” proposition!
By the way – this is not a business concept it is a relationship concept and is relevant in your personal life as well.
Think about it! If Nike was inconsistent with how they created and manufactured their brand, would we be happy or disappointed with them? If they changed the fit periodically and did not have consistent specs, would we think that they are a reliable, consistent, honest, trustworthy brand? Would we trust the next purchase? Would we look to Nike as the first brand preference when buying product? Of course not!
What brands have you experienced and been excited about, only to be disappointed the next time you interacted with it?
Your personal brand is no different!
What are qualities you want someone to say about you?
Did you know that 93% of what we communicate is done non-verbally?
Albert Mehrabian, a pioneer researcher of body language is credited in the 1950’s as finding that the total impact of the message is driven by 7% verbal, 38% voice tone, inflection and sounds and the 55% is non-verbal.
Clearly, we are visual people, so the most obvious brand elements are the ones that we see.
And that then speaks to why perception of how we show up is important every day.
- Personal Hygiene
- Personal Attire
- Body language – posture
- Energy level
- Activities we do
- Tone of voice/communication
Then there is the 7% verbal communication that we are telling the world , in verbal or written words.
You have heard the saying, “it’s not what we say it is what we do.” This gets right to the heart of Perception – that is 93% of how people perceive us is through what we do, and how we say it, not what we say!
Let’s dive into each of these personal branding elements!
WOW! Am I allowed to talk about this?
Yes, personal hygiene is important. What is a person telling the world about themselves? It does not make it fact, but with perception from others, it speaks about the person’s brand.
- Messy Hair – Don’t care about themselves? Did not make time to take of themselves
- Body odor – Don’t care about others
- Biting nails – nervous
Yes, this matters too! Understanding your environment and how to dress and connect with others around you is important to communicating and letting others know you get the environment.
Many of us were probably taught that we need to dress for the occasion. For instance, if going out to a cocktail party, we would not dress in jeans and sneakers. Or going to work, we might not think that shorts would be appropriate.
Generally speaking, every business or environment has a dress code policy, many written and many unwritten.
It is important to ask about the dress code policy, but equally important to understand how your personal brand will adapt to it.
As well, it is important to constantly assess the environment and situations to modify your personal attire to convey what you want your brand to say about you. Cultural impacts needed to be considered as well.
For example, if you are a trendy personality, there are way to express your style.
So, this is a big one!
We often keep body language top of mind for interviews, but the idea of always being conscious of what our body language is saying about your brand is important.
- Have you been in class/meeting and seen someone falling asleep? What did you think?
- Or someone slouched in a chair with their arms folded?
How your brand is perceived is directly connected to your body language in every interaction and situation.
Paying attention to your body language is critical to how you are communicating.
What do I mean by “energy level”?
Do you show up tired, disengaged, or do you show up energized and smiling?
We are human beings and can feel the energy from others.
My tip here is that life happens to us and we cannot always control our energy level, but we can certainly verbally explain our energy level to others, so that they understand that it is “off your brand” for the day…explaining a shift away from what you want to convey from your brand is critical for others giving you the benefit of the doubt. Just like when there was an error in manufacturing and the brand explains the product as seconds.
Activities we do
What do I mean?
Yes, for your brand, what you do is as important as what you do not do.
Now, there are some top activities that are much more positive in perception.
SENSE OF URGENCY
BE CURIOUS – ask questions
BE A STUDENT OF YOUR BUSINESS- always be learning, reading
NETWORK – be interested in others and learn from them
These are the top activities that I have witness make the biggest positive impact on your brand.
Be Proactive –
Don’t Wait to Be Told What to Do – You can’t have a sense of entitlement without a sense of responsibility. You’ll never get ahead by waiting for someone to tell you what to do. Saying “nobody asked me to do this” is a guaranteed recipe for failure. Err on the side of doing too much, not too little.
Sense of urgency –
Be the First In & Last to Leave – Work harder than others. It conveys that you care about exceeding expectations.
Be on time – or early – It is important to be on time or early. It conveys you care and respect the other persons time or respect deadlines.
Be Curious – Ask questions and share opinion
Speak Up, Not Out – Speaking up on topics let others know you care about the topic and are engaged. If you have a concern that needs to be voiced, convey it without emotion and share facts and opinion. Always good to direct in your concerns or praise.
Ask Questions – Ensure you have taken the time to understand the issue before hand. If you have, then asking questions continues to show proactive engagement. Asking questions when you don’t understand, shows you are a student and continuous learner, and not afraid to speak your mind or make mistakes.
Be a Student of the Business –
Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes
You should be making lots of mistakes when you’re early on in your career. You shouldn’t be defensive about errors in judgment or execution. Stop trying to justify your mistakes. You’re only going to grow by embracing the lessons learned from your mistakes and committing to learn from those experiences. Fail fast, frequently and forward!
Read More Books, Listen to Podcasts – Creativity, thoughtfulness and thinking skills are freed when you’re forced to read a full book cover to cover. All the keys to your future success, lay in the past experience of others.
Both the Size and Quality of Your Network Matter – It’s who you know more than what you know, that gets you ahead in business. Knowing a small group of folks very well, or a huge smattering of contacts superficially, just won’t cut it. Meet and stay connected to lots of folks, and invest your time developing as many of those relationships as possible.
Look for a Mentor to learn from – The most guaranteed path to success is to emulate those who’ve achieved what you seek. You should always have at least 3 people you call mentors who are where you want to be. If you connect with their personal brand, then it is a good way to learn shamelessly on how to shape your brand that way.
Pick Up the Phone – Business gets done on the phone and in person. It should be your first instinct, not last, to talk to a real person and source business opportunities. And when the Internet goes down… stop looking so befuddled and don’t ask to go home. Relationships are still a human activity!
NOW LET’s EXPLORE some ACTIVITIES that detract from your brand!
I am sure that you can come up with a long list quickly!
- Sloppy mistakes
- Interrupting others
- Taking credit for someone else’s work
Can you see how “what you do” creates your personal brand?
Now, certainly what we say impacts our personal brand, but that is much more widely understood intuitively by everyone.
- If we a rude, yell, or promise something that we do not do – that detracts from our brand
- Poor language conveys lack of caring or education
- Tone of voice – is more about how we say it and goes back to what we do vs. what we say
Your personal brand can be destroyed overnight, but often it is destroyed over time, with one action or interaction at a time.
What is your brand? What do you want your brand to be?
How are you going to show up every day to demonstrate your brand qualities?
Take the time to reflect, define, and celebrate your brand!
How can your personal brand be shared with the world?
- Social Media sites – Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn
- Your work
- Word of Mouth – mentors, ambassadors, sponsored, detractors
You are what people perceive you to be!
You are in control of how you show up in the world!