What if I told you that your favorite client feels you are pushy, selfish and not a good listener? You’d likely be shocked, right? Oftentimes, the way others see us does not match how we see ourselves. But the way they see us directly influences our power and their willingness to recognize our value.
Your personal brand is what others use to assign you value and relevance. Everyone has a personal brand – it is your reputation. The way others perceive us, the feelings they have about us – right or wrong – affect whether they want to do business with our company and us.
Savvy business professionals understand the importance of differentiation, value and competitive advantage. These professionals are embracing the power of personal branding to intentionally build a reputation for themselves and their companies that maintains this competitive advantage – in person, through experience, and in the online world.
In my book, “Reputation 360: Creating power through personal branding” I offer this definition of branding:
“A brand is not something you can just put on paper, like a logo or a glossy photo; it has to be expressed in your actions. A brand needs to represent a set of values, promises and expectations and meet those expectations at nearly every step. Branding gives experience to something intangible; it gives names to the qualities I feel when I work or interact with you. Branding is all about feelings and emotions. Unlike marketing, which is when we direct an audience to action (buy now, act fast, use this coupon, call today…), branding sets the emotional expectations and promises between you and your target audience.”
Many people come to the decision that they need personal branding help for professional reasons. For instance, my clients have felt a need to create:
- A competitive advantage. How to define their value in a crowded marketplace;
- More money. Financial drivers often lead people to see if there’s something they could do to make themselves more marketable and attract more financially desirable situations;
- More visibility and support for their effort/cause/mission/agenda;
- A way to market themselves more intentionally in social media;
- Consistency with their values and beliefs as they market themselves in an industry; and
- An understanding of their ideal target audiences and how to approach them.
As you begin to define and build your personal brand, it is important to look inside first. Only then can marketing your value and reputation be authentic and effective. Ask yourself:
- Do people around me feel I am someone who can be trusted with confidential information?
- Do my clients feel heard and respected?
- Am I surrounding myself with professionals (and clients) who hold the same values I do?
- Am I living in concert with my beliefs?
Know your current reputation
Your personal brand already exists in the minds of colleagues, peers, clients and friends. As you interacted with them, your behavior and your ability to be consistent with what you claim have earned you a reputation. For instance, if you profess values of customer-first, but treat your customers poorly, then you likely have earned a reputation as being inconsistent with your own marketing. If you share beliefs and values of community service, and have numerous examples of volunteerism and helping others, you likely have earned credibility for that reputation.
Personal branding starts with you
Personal branding does not make you into something you’re not. It begins by understanding what you are passionate about, what you value and how you live an authentic life. What would you fight for? The personal branding process starts with you, your values and your goals.
Understand the needs of your audience
It is vital that you understand to whom you are positioning your personal brand: Your target audience. In personal branding we strive to make ourselves relevant and compelling to a specific target audience. Targeting those clients, customers and stakeholders who will find you relevant is critical and cuts down on your marketing efforts!
Create a powerful reputation
Professionals with strong personal brands show up consistently and authentically. They have achieved genuineness through confidence and experience and through focus and care. They don’t try to please everyone, get every client and satisfy every customer’s needs. They focus on the highest value they have to offer and target a specific audience with the lowest threshold.
Become intentional about the words you chose, the company you keep and the way you represent yourself. Your audience is looking for consistency and relevancy. Consider how you want to be perceived, the reputation you want in the world, then intentionally create a path in that direction.
With every action you take (from posting on LinkedIn, to participating at a networking event, to dressing for a presentation) consider how others could perceive you. How others feel about you will impact whether they assign you value or not.
Your personal brand differentiates you from your competition, attracts opportunities to you and enables you to receive recognition for your accomplishments. Personal branding can uncover your desired goals and bring you benefits over your entire life – personal and professional.
As a reputation management professional, my greatest success has always been in promoting companies, products or people that come from a place of authenticity and genuineness. A big part of the work I do is to help clients bring forward that authenticity and market it to the right audience. How other people see you directly impacts the value they assign you, and your ability to influence that perception directly affects the opportunities that you’re given in your career, your relationships and your life. Owning responsibility for your reputation and managing the way that you’re perceived are critical, for you and for any person at any level of business.
As Principal of LIDA360, LLC, Lida Citroën is an international branding and reputation management strategist who designs and enhances the identities of companies, executives and thought-leaders globally. With 20+ years’ experience, she has been featured in local and national media, including Forbes.com, Fortune Magazine, 9News, and Fox31 News, for her expertise in competitive positioning and social media. Lida’s book, Reputation 360: Creating Power Through Personal Branding, is a best-selling guide to gaining competitive advantage through reputation management. Her blog, UnleashingYourBrand is full of personal branding tips and resources.