Your Personal Brand – Does it Matter?
July 16, 2008 13 Comments
I was at a facilitation workshop last week, at which I gave an impromptu “from the heart” mini-talk on personal branding.
People often question if they “need” a personal brand. Here’s the news – you already HAVE a personal brand. The only questions are, what is it? And are you projecting it effectively?
When people see you, think of you, and relate to you, words and images and feelings come to mind. That is your personal brand. If people who know you think “friendly,” “diligent,” “kind,” when they see you and talk about you, you are well on your way to possessing a positive personal brand. Of course, you can easily see the flip side of this as well…
So, you have a brand. Do you know what it is? What distinguishes you from the teeming hordes of humanity? What are you known for? Here, you need some self-examination, maybe some personality profiling (I found the Gallup books on Strengths to be particularly helpful), and some honest friends to help you distill it down.
What you’ll find is a constellation of qualities, and perhaps 1-5 characteristics that really stand out. Those are what you build your brand on. And, once you really have a grasp on it, you can communicate to people much more effectively what you’re all about. Where you fit in. Even what your future business endeavors should look like. You project your brand NOW – but you can project it more effectively when you actually know what it IS, and feel comfortable in your own skin.
Here’s another reason why identifying your personal brand is so important – it frees you for paralyzing comparisons of yourself to others. Yes, there are many people whose gifts and abilities I’ve envied and still envy (sorry, 10th commandment breaker here) – but I’m reconciled to being who I am, and tossing the only hat I really have in the ring – my own.
What is my personal brand? I listen, analyze, distill, and rapidly find the core, then communicate it fairly effectively. There’s a lot more to Steve Woodruff, the brand, but that is the chief distinguishing trait. And, it’s a gift. It’s a hard-wired capability that I’ve been given, sought to cultivate, even built a consulting business around. The fact is, it’s just ME. And as I look to short-, mid-, and long-term personal & professional goals that brew in my mind and heart, the areas of endeavor that I’d like to pursue always have that personal brand at the center. Because it’s who I am.
Let’s make one distinction. There is your personal brand essence, which is that grouping of personality traits, character traits, strengths, and capabilities that make you you. Then there is your personal brand role, which is how you function in the world and marketplace. Your role may change, but your essence remains the same, and hopefully, your functional and professional role is increasingly aligned with who you (essentially) are.
I’ve had live and on-line conversations with several people in the last 2 weeks who are wrestling with how to define themselves, and project their personal brand. As it turns out, my core competencies of analyzing, distilling, and expressing makes that a very enjoyable and meaningful exercise.
You don’t have to be a personal branding guru, or a consultant, a blogger, or an entrepreneur, to have and project a brand. You simply have to have a pulse. And a willingness to discover what really makes you tick. You DO have a brand, and you DO have something to offer. What endeavor could more rewarding and noble than identifying that brand and running with it?
(Update: some related thoughts on differentiation from blogging friend Jane Chin here)
Related prior post: Personal Branding