Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon
One of the best ways to understand how the principles of community branding work, is to try and brand yourself. It is important to appreciate self-branding is not a new concept. In fact, there are consultants who make a very good living teaching executives how to accelerate professional success through effective self-branding. You can read the general reference material I’ve collected on this subject.
Creating a personal brand is hard work and requires you to be both objective and introspective. But, the branding journey is the real source of greatest learning. And these learnings are directly applicable to your community branding efforts.
There are a lot of definitions for what a brand is. Many of them are confusing or include words that are jargon based. Over the years, I have come to define a brand as a promise. In my mind, this simple concept captures the real essence of branding. We’ve all been taught that promises made must be kept and not broken. We’ve also been taught that our personal integrity is tied to our ability to be trusted to mean what we say and to always keep our promises. Fundamentally, it is what being trustworthy is all about.
To be effective, your promise must be relevant, competitive and authentic. That means you 1) must have skills/knowledge people want and will pay money for, 2) your skills/knowledge must be current and your mastery better than others making the same promise, and 3) you need to be able to consistently deliver what you say you can in a high quality manner.
You need to define your unique promise and write it down. This will be your North Star and should guide your actions moving forward. This is where your objectivity and introspection are critically important. Getting your promise definition wrong is simply not an option.
5 TIPS (not a comprehensive list)
The concept of “Fake it until You make it” is fundamentally flawed. You need to ensure that the way you articulate your core promise is consistent with both your personality and value system. I have had a number of occasions when people I have interviewed (either for employment or to provide a service) have strived to make me see them in the light they think is most flattering, suppressing their personality in the process. This works for a couple of superficial conversations, but quickly falls apart when discussing something of substance or when working with the person under pressure. It honestly doesn’t take too long for somebody to determine if you are genuine or simply playing a role. Most people feel burned when they realize you’d been attempting to dupe them. In my experience, the negative emotion associated with knowing you’ve been “played” doesn’t ever result in a positive outcome. In business it is a reputation destroyer. If you have to pretend to fit in, then your assignment or workplace is a bad fit.
Don’t Be Negative.
Most people can see that something is wrong when things aren’t going according to plan. Being constantly reminded is never welcomed. In fact, you may find yourself labeled as “Captain Obvious” and quickly marginalized by the people you work with. People like to work with effective problem-solvers, not the “Town Cryer”. That doesn’t mean to be “Pollyannaish”. It simply means when things need fixing, objectively describe the problem and offer a solution. You want to create the equity of somebody who is focused on making your economic development organization and everybody around you more successful.
Ask For What You Want.
Remember Karnak The Magnificent? Psssst, it was just a skit. People really can’t read minds, so nobody is going to know what you want or need if you do not tell them. In my experience, the amazing thing is if you are asking for something reasonable there is a high probability people will give it to you. Ultimately people you work with tend to want you to be successful, particularly if your success helps them be successful. Failing because you did not ask for what you needed makes no sense. The key is to know what you need. This is sometimes easier said than done. But with some research, it isn’t overly difficult to define. What you need often falls under one of these four buckets: resources, knowledge, direction or skills. Define it and then ask for help.
Serve, Don’t Just Sell.
People fail when they are perceived to be “in it for themselves”. If you are seen as a user of people, you will soon find that your personal brand is in serious trouble. Remember, user rhymes with loser and that is the path you’ll be on. I learned a long time ago that if you genuinely care for the other person’s success more than your own (not pretend to care but genuinely care) you will be far more successful than you can imagine. People want to help people who help them achieve their goals. This means that if your promise isn’t the best solution then you admit it, and ideally recommend a better solution. Don’t tarnish your personal brand with failure because your ego got the best of you. Over promising and under delivering is a certain recipe for failure. So stop selling yourself and start serving others (especially capital investors) by presenting solutions to their problems.
Listen and Act on What You Hear.
I always get a chuckle out of the wisdom in the statement – “You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion.” The problem is most people simply don’t listen. They are too quick with a rebuttal or blind to their faults. Listen to the feedback you get on how to improve your performance. Hear what is being said, and what the unsaid implications to your personal brand are if you don’t take action. Don’t let your mouth get in the way of your success. And remember, information plus action equals knowledge. Knowing what is wrong, but not taking action keeps you ignorant and less successful than your potential.
Have you ever thought of yourself as a brand? Could you articulate what your promise looks like? One exercise you might find helpful is to write down the things you believe and are willing to lead your life by. I wrote a document titled “12 Things I Believe”. When I share it with people, it has a huge impact on how they view and deal with me. Give it a try and see if you have the same experience.
Leave a comment with your thoughts.
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