Understanding that client’s perception of you impacts your relationship and your business is a first step to look into your personal brand.
If you do not have yet a strategy for developing and maintaining your personal branding, here are 5 elements you need to consider.
1. Positioning – start with thinking how you are positioned in the minds of your clients, how you are perceived and how would you like to be perceived. Then evaluate your appearance, behavior and communication to support the message you want to pass. With every action you take, consider how it will be received, what emotions will trigger and how will it reflect on your personal brand. If your behavior will be perceived in a negative way, it will surely influence the way you are perceived and it will become an obstacle to achieving your business goals.
2. Consistency – keep in mind that your image and brand is constantly evaluated and every action is assessed and judged. Therefore, you should work hard on achieving consistency in all three areas – appearance, behavior, communication – to strengthen your brand. If it is perceived as consistent, it gives your clients reassurance on what to expect from you in any given situation. If you consistently deliver on targets, meets deadlines, have a professional look, you are considered reliable and trustworthy.
3. Authority – your personal brand of expert or leader has to command authority. While authority can be imposed by seniority, higher rank, longer service, it is equally important to be earned. And all elements of the image have to support it. If you look good, appear comfortable and confident then the focus is on the conversation and your appearance doesn’t distract from your message. There are many experts in the field, but not all of them are authorities. The difference is, the experts have the knowledge, authorities have the knowledge and the audience because they earned their trust.
4. Branding– your professional image reflects your products and services. You are the business card of your business and very often you are the first point of contact for your clients. Ensure that your appearance is consistent with your message and your image is consistent with your brand. Always strive to be the best possible representation of your company.
5. Timing – timing can make or break everything. Think strategically on introduction of various aspects of your image. Make sure that is not overwhelming. If it is too perfect, too well planned and executed, as it might be perceived as staged or fake. It has to come naturally from within and you have to consistently deliver the same values and qualities. If you are starting with building your personal brand, best take one step at the time and embrace the change. Let it become you first, before you show it to the world. You have to own it and control it, and it has to be an immanent part of you.
- Do you feel like you are not fulfilling your business and personal potential?
- Do you feel like you have more to offer than people see?
- Do you feel your outer presentation doesn’t endorse you in a way you would like it?
Probably it is time to look at your image and see if it you can take charge of the message you truly want to deliver. If you came to the conclusion that your client’s perception of you and your business is not as you would like it to be, it is time to make the decision to focus and invest in areas that impact the way you are perceived.
When thinking about Personal Branding you can’t forget about 3 elements – Unique, Reliable, Consistent
You need to stand out from the rest. If you, as an executive or entrepreneur, are like the others, why anyone would choose you, how would they know you deliver better value than anyone else. How would you differentiate yourself and make yourself and the business you represent special, remarkable and irresistible?
Be different, do not be afraid to stand out, find your uniqueness and market it. Present yourself in a personal way and put emphasis on authenticity and qualities that make you stand out from competitors and colleagues.
People need to be able to build relationship with you – whether it is business or private life and it all starts with trust. Your personal brand’s most powerful feature is reliability, and it is built on belief that you are credible, solid and honest in your relationship with business partners, co-workers and friends.
You should have strong business ethics and show high level of professionalism on every occasion. If people know they can rely on you, they put their trust and hope in you. You are then destined to become recognized as an expert and leader.
All parts of your brand must be congruent, they must match each other and they need to pass the same message. Elements of your appearance, your behavior and your manners, as well as business ethics have to contribute to a clear picture. If you are a creative person, you may want to emphasize your originality and boldness, but find a way your uniqueness supports your business goals.
Your personal brand audience is all the people you have contact with and every interaction you have with them, whether random or frequent, has an impact on your image and your brand as an individual.
Now that you have assessed your personal brand, it is time to look into relationship other people have with You. Take into the consideration the following:
- Who is your audience?
- Where is your audience?
- How do you communicate with your audience?
- Who would you like your audience to be?
Who is your audience?
Your audience is all the people you have contact with – whether face to face, over the phone, digitally via email, social media networks or website. People you are in regular contact – your family, friends, co-workers, business partners and clients – but also random people you meet in various places and during various occasions – taxi driver, waiter in the restaurant, your doctor’s assistant. All of them are your audience, although you remain in different relationships with them and you most probably communicate with them in different ways.
- Private zone – people with whom you have a personal relationship: family members, friends, colleagues, sport club members, your child’s school teachers
- Business zone – people with whom you have work-related relationship: co-workers, clients, business partners, board members, suppliers, contractors etc.
- Random contacts – people you meet, but do not establish long term relationship: taxi driver, shop assistant, flight attendant, waiter in the restaurant
Where is your audience?
For personal branding this question may be tricky, because everyone everywhere is your audience. But you need to understand that depending on their physical location, your contact with them is of a different nature. Personal contact with people is different than contact over the internet and they way you speak with someone on the phone differs from the way you communicate over social media or personal hobby blog.
How do you communicate with your audience?
Once you know where your audiences are, you need to consider the way you talk with them. As sender of a message you take responsibility for being understood. You need to speak the language that will be easily understood by your audience. You need to adjust your vocabulary and tone of voice to the receiver of the message. The way you describe your job is different if you speak to the business partner and the way you explain it to a 10-year old nephew.
The tone of voice you use when you speak during the board meeting is different than when you talk with family members, or when you write a post on your hobby blog. You are in different roles and your messaging needs to be adjusted to the situation.
Branding is a term associated with products and services, but when we talk about personal branding, you need to understand it is all about You. And by all I mean every single detail that is associated with you. From your business attire, the look of your office to a small detail like your business card.
If you think about branding yourself, you need to start thinking strategically about your image by creating it and managing to achieve success. And by success I mean to achieve goals you set for yourself.
Building personal brand is a process, which starts with the evaluation of your current image and the way you are perceived by other people. You need to remember that you can control the way you dress, behave, communicate, but you cannot control the way people perceive it, because each person add a different meaning to your image. It is simply the matter of interpretation. That interpretation is based on a person’s experience, beliefs and values. Your image cannot be good or bad, it simply can be helpful or distracting tool to achieve your goals.
Brand and Image are sometimes used interchangeably, but I like to differentiate those two, as they relate to two different areas. Image is more visual representation of a person, while the brand has broadened meaning and is related to values and exists in the heart and the mind of your audience.
To be successful you need to be in control of your total image and every single element of it. This cannot be created against your own nature, against your values. This has to come from within and needs to be constructed on fundaments that are immanent part of you. You can work on certain elements by focusing on developing your strengths and controlling your weaknesses and unsupportive behaviors to increase professional effectiveness and better your social life.
When planning your brand identity, you need to ask yourself; ‘what I want to tell my audience about myself, how I want to be perceived. What is my message?
Whether you are meeting business partners, new clients or going for a job interview, you need to answer those questions. The deal will be closed, new clients acquired and you get your new job if your image perceives the positive values those people are looking for. As I said, it cannot be good or bad, it simply matches your audience expectations of a perfect business partner or executive or not. So you need to realize your image and the way you are perceived is a matter of establishing trust in business relationships.
People do business with people they know, like and trust. And sometimes you have very little time to convince someone. Visual impressions are important and are part of the process of communication. You need more time to present yourself and show your value, so you need to buy yourself time.
Dave van Hose from Speaking Empire, with whom I organized a couple of events in Europe, says; ‘Show up like no other’. This is exactly the point. The first impression has to be remarkable and memorable. Be positive, confident, decisive, honest and pleasant. Gain people’s heart before you talk to their mind. If they experience you positively on an emotional level, they will be more open on intellectual level. And if you control your identity, you can control your career and your personal life.
If you wonder whether you have or not your personal brand, I can assure you have one. And if you wonder what it is, well… this is simply “what people are saying about you when you are not in the room”.
It is your reputation and how you are perceived by others. Whether you are aware of it or not, you have a brand, you may only not be in control of it, but your appearance and behavior are constantly evaluated by people around you.
So the question is: are you managing your reputation? Do you do it proactively? Or you let other people to decide for you?
The way you dress, present yourself on the phone, what you say on your resume when applying for a job, but also how you present yourself online – via social media or personal blog – it all creates an image of you.
You need to ensure that the information about you in online world is aligned with your brand and your offline image.
Your personal brand starts offline and later can be mirrored online. If you create a great image online that is in no way close to real life, you probably won’t be able to maintain your brand. Because brand is about the values and trust. You need to be honest with yourself and present yourself in an authentic way. It is crucial to build your brand from inside out in a way it represents the best of you in a way it is relevant and meaningful to your target audience.
You should think about your branding statement, a value you want to deliver to people around you – whether on personal or professional level.
Decide who you are and what you want, what you are good and passionate about and most importantly how can you help others.
Every interaction is a branding opportunity, so you want to make the most of it. If you have a message, find a way to communicate it. To do it, you need to consider the offline world – your appearance, behavior, communication style as well as online channels. Look at your blog, Facebook, Twitter and see what your post are saying about you, what is communicated by the photos you add. What image emerges from all those channels together? Is it a consistent image, does that image support your personal and professional goals?