What do people say when you leave the room?
I recently gave a talk to the NT Australia Institute of Office Professionals about the importance of personal branding. The talk focused on how successful personal branding can enhance your profile, increase your earning potential and widen your career opportunities. In a world where the professional and personal are becoming more blurred, and in a small business community such as the Territory, our personal brands are key to our success – we don’t have the luxury of anonymity.
Like it or not, you have no choice about whether you want a personal brand or not – you have one already. Your personal brand is the collective experience someone has through his or her interactions with you: so the question is not if you want a brand, but if you can define it, live it and manage it.
In a small town such as Darwin, where we are as likely to do business in Bunnings as in the boardroom, and our sports communities are business development networks, understanding our personal brand is more important than ever. Many small business brands are intricately linked to the owner’s personal brands. The perceptions of a small family business can be difficult to separate from the personalities of the owners as they are often the primary way in which people experience the business brand.
In some small businesses, the personal brand of the owner is more valuable than the business brand, which can work well, but what happens when new products are brought to market that can’t be leveraged off this brand? When this happens, this often requires unpicking of the brand to see what attributes belong to the personal brand, what can be leveraged for services and products, and what has to stand alone as its own brand.
Defining your personal brand is about understanding what is at the core of who you are, what you stand for, what you are passionate about and what your values are. These are the essence of who you are and run through everything you do. As with all perceptions, there are two sides to how these perceptions are made; on the one side there is who you say you are (brand identity) and on the other is who other people say you are (brand image).
Successful brand management is ensuring that your brand identity and image align – that it does what it says on the tin. By knowing who you are, you can start to manage how other people perceive you. A good starting point is to know where people experience your brand. Would you be able to list all the ways in which people experience you? What would the sum of these experiences say about you?
An even scarier element of defining your brand is to get an understanding of what other people think of you – what do people say about you when you leave the room? This is the only way to see if who you are say you are, is what other people see. If there is a disconnect then you need to think how to bring them into alignment. If people are constantly misinterpreting what you are saying and doing then either you are saying it wrong, they are the wrong audience, or the message is not relevant.
Living your personal brand is essentially about developing the habits of a successful brand – to be authentic, consistent, relevant and engaging. It is also important to remember that your behaviours are incredibly important – people don’t remember what you did; they remember how you did it. The idea is not to perfect your image, but to live the idea of who you are.
All day, every day we manage our personal brands in ways that we don’t even notice. We make decisions to ensure that people understand whom we are, and predict how we will act - from the clothes we wear, to the way in which we speak to people. So imagine what you could achieve if you started to be mindful of how people develop their perceptions about you. All brands have a story – how will you tell yours and to whom will you tell it.