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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why It Is Important To Craft And Build Your Personal Brand

Differentiate yourself with a personal brand.
Whether you like it or not, you have a brand. It's there, but you may not be paying attention to it. In today's competitive market, what your brand is can make or break your career. I want to tell you why it is important to craft and build your personal brand.

If your career goals are to just make it to the end and retire, then none of this will matter to you. If you're working your way up the corporate ladder, building a personal brand within your organization is important. If you plan to have a career that puts you in the public eye, then crafting and building a personal brand is imperative.

First, you have to understand the definition of brand I was taught by some of the leading brand managers in the world - Sony, WD-40, Cialis, Amstel Light, JetBlue, Tyco International, the NFL, Craftsman and about a dozen more. Your brand is everything that you do. It is your story. It is your image. It is your style. It is the way you treat people. But most of all, it is how you are perceived.

An axiom in marketing and advertising is: Perception is reality. It's not what you think it is, it only matters what others think it is. They are the ones that matter.

Your brand or your company's brand is an expectation, a promise, an overall snapshot of what you represent and what people can expect from you and your company.

As a former entertainer, I saw this so clearly. I came from stand-up comedy, and the advertising industry. When you rattle off the names of certain comedians, you usually get an exact visual of what they look like and have an idea of what to expect from them. They have all crafted and built a specific brand.

One of my favorite examples is about a guy named Dan Whitney. He was a struggling comic from Omaha, Nebraska. He started to develop a character that took off. The new character required a new look, a heavier accent than his own, a style, an attitude, and material to match that character. Dan Whitney became Larry The Cable Guy - the highest grossing comedian of all-time. He could not have achieved his success wearing button-down shirts and slacks the way he did when he was Dan Whitney.

When you think of Jeff Foxworthy, you see a guy with a sport jacket, a white shirt open at the collar, his mustache and his cowboy boots. You know what to expect from Foxworthy. And fans of his want more of it.

But how do those stories apply to you if you are a consultant? You can start by looking in the mirror. Do you dress the part of a struggling consultant or do you look like you are the best in your field? What kind of briefcase do you have? How do you conduct yourself in meetings? What is your follow-up routine? How prompt are you at returning calls, delivering proposals, answering questions, solving problems, winning over the tough clients?

All of these things can apply if you work in an organization. What do people come to expect from you? That is your brand. You can craft it and build it to be bigger and better. What new skill can you add? How can you be more beneficial to the organization? What additional skill can you add that will increase your value and differentiate you from those around you? Promotions follow people that work on their image and their skills.

If you're in the public eye, just look at people like Suzie Orman, Donnie Deutsch, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Jillian Michaels, Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, Oprah, etc. They all have a distinct look, style, personality and way that they do business and deal with people. Their story precedes them wherever they go.

The worst thing you can hear before you arrive is, "Who the heck is that?" And even worse, after you leave, "What was her name?"

Think how many people you visualize and their glasses are a distinct part of their look. What about their attire? Hair? Overall style? How do they speak? Are they deliberate? Fast-paced? Eloquent? Guttural? Crass? Brusk? Joyous? Cheerful? Arrogant? Self-effacing? Confident? Knowledgeable? Scatter-brained?

Before you start buying new clothes, attache cases, fancy watches, etc., you really need to know who you are. Who are you? What is your personality like? What skills do you possess? What is your area of expertise? Who are you going to be dealing with?

You can't wear wild clothes and have blue hair if you're attempting to make a career in banking. However, certain public speakers could do that because it might fit their style. Remember how goofy Richard Simmons looked in those shorts? He's still wearing the same shorts today. Same hair. Same silliness. But that is the brand that he developed.

Have you noticed how distinctive famous chef, TV host and entrepreneur Guy Fieri is? He has the blonde hair, the multi-colored goatee, the un-tucked shirts. He stands out from thousands of chefs with brown hair and white kitchen coats. He built a brand. Without that brand, he'd probably be just another chef. However, it has taken him to culinary stardom and to being a TV game show host, which has nothing to do with food. 

So, taking stock of yourself is the first place to start. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses, personality traits, likes, dislikes, personal beliefs, morals, ethics, anything that is YOU.

Set mental boundaries. You don't want to go too far out on a limb, unless it is perfectly acceptable in your work. In the eastern part of the country, people tend to be more conservative in attire and expect more serious personalities. Out west, people are more colorful in their attire and can even be outrageous in prominent positions and that is perfectly acceptable.

If your business has an Internet presence, then you want to read my piece: How To Build Your Brand On The Internet And Social Networks.

Each person has unique assets. The ones the get a clear picture of what those assets are and put them to their maximum use are the ones that capitalize the most in the long run. And isn't that what it's all about? And that is why it is important to craft and build your personal brand. Differentiate yourself from the herd. In a competitive world, you don't want to be just another head of cattle. You want to be the bull, leading the charge.

Related article:
How To Build Your Brand On The Internet And Social Networks

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