Personal branding has become a hot topic in career management. It used to be thought of and talked of as one’s image. For some, that carried with it a sense of façade or fakery, as if your image was something you held up in front of your real self in order to project the “right” picture. Unfortunately, it means the exact opposite.
Your personal image or brand needs to be totally you.
There are several definitions of personal branding floating around:
- What people say about you when you’re not in the room (Jeff Bezos).
- Who you are and who you aspire to be. (Lisa Orrell)
- Your personal image.
- How you differentiate yourself from others.
For awhile, I had a hard time keeping the concept of a personal brand in my head. The way I chose to remember is still my favorite definition and the one I keep returning to: Know yourself. Be yourself.
The first step, knowing yourself, is critical to any brand. Who are you? What does it mean to be you? How are you different from others? These are not easily answered questions, and if you’re a living, breathing human being, they don’t stay the same forever. We change; we evolve; we grow, and so does our personal brand.
If you think that’s difficult, the second step is even harder: Be yourself. People have been telling you to do that since 7th grade, right? I am convinced it is a lifetime endeavor. By the time I have figured out how to do that, it will likely be my last day on earth. Still, it is worth doing. In fact, everything about your personal brand depends on being your authentic self. It boils down to integrity.
Integrity is key to any personal brand.
A solid personal brand is based on how consistently you hold to the values you have adopted. The definition of integrity I like best is choosing to do the right thing even when no one will know. It is your internal compass, conscience, and motivation, all wrapped up in one package. Integrity is what we mean when we say we must be true to ourselves.
You might have heard someone in marketing talk about “brand integrity.” That means consistency in the way the product or company is portrayed and perceived. We have the same issue with our personal brand. Since we can’t be known for everything we do, we must focus on a few key traits that define and differentiate us.
That’s a tall order, especially since our own perspective is always flawed. What we see and what we think others see is almost always different from what others actually see. So, how do you decide what your brand will be? You start by finding out what it is now.
The best way I know how to do that is with William Arruda’s Reach 360 assessment. Find a personal branding associate to help you with the administration and interpretation of the assessment. You will obtain a good cross-section of opinions and perspectives about who you are in public. That is your baseline.
Photo credit: The Italian Voice