Personal Branding Is Very Personal

The latest rage in professional circles is the concept of personal branding.  It is touted as the way to maximize your career performance.  

Wikipedia defines personal branding as “The practice of marketing people and their careers as brands.”  

The Brand Yourself team describes it as “Establishing and promoting what you stand for.  Your personal brand is the unique combination of skills and experiences that make you you.”  

At Influencer Marketing Hub it is described as “How you promote yourself.“

I did a Google search on the term “personal branding” and found 312,000,000 results.  Clearly this is a topic of great interest to people.  I reviewed some (not all) of the results and found that despite the volume the information available tends to be confusing and intended to leave the reader with an impression it is simply a matter of creating a personal unique selling proposition for yourself.  Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

One book I read years ago is Tom Peters “The Brand You 50”.  It was published in 1999, and I think was among the first to explore the proactive application of branding principles to guide personal and professional development.  I would recommend the book today as a good starting point foe anybody interested in starting a personal branding journey. 

I like Tom’s book because it draws a connection between your personal identity and your personal image.  To be clear, identity refers to who you really are and image to what others think you are.  For most of us, there is a dissonance between the two.  This point is critical because it highlights the need for real introspection as a starting point for any personal branding exercise.  You need to come to grips with how you see yourself today, how others see you, and how you want to be seen in the future.

This is a very challenging exercise.  Most of the online references gloss over the importance of spending time getting this first step right.  But, it is the foundation for any personal branding effort.  Done poorly and the rest of the process is a waste of time.  There is no question every one of us is unique.  Unfortunately, many of us are not unique in areas that help us stand out in a crowd.  

One typical output of this exercise is often a personal work and development plan.  In future posts I will provide insights in how to create one that will get you from where you are to where you want to be.  For now, simply think of it as a guide that describes the skill mastery and emotional development necessary for maximizing your personal potential.

Another output is a document that describes the principles that underpin your beliefs.  I was tasked by a mentor years ago to write one.  It took me the better part of a year to complete the task.  I titled it “12 Things I Believe”, and I share it with anybody interested in knowing what makes me tick.  Knowing what you believe and then synching it up with your desired identity ensures your professional path forward is aligned with your personal journey.  Disharmony here is a major red flag for failure.  You simply will not be your best if you are in conflict with your driving principles.

The process to complete this foundational phase will take roughly six months to a year if made a priority exercise and done correctly.  But, without this critical step the rest of the journey is rudderless.

As you contemplate personal branding, the concept I want to be sure you do not buy into is that it is about “how you market yourself”.  This concept is faulty because it implicitly assumes all you have to do is communicate your skill set in a convincing way and your personal image will be reshaped.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  For nearly 100% of us, we need to work on continual improvement of the core product offering (ourselves) to ensure our brand promise is authentic, relevant and competitive over time.  When you really get into a dispassionate assessment of you as a product, don’t be surprised to learn you have way more points of parity (competitive neutral traits) and negative points of difference (competitive disadvantages) than you have positive points of difference (competitive advantages). It is critically important you have a plan to neutralize the negative points of difference and build both more and stronger positive points of difference.  To determine where you stand, it is important you conduct comparative personal brand equity research on attributes that are core to your personal and professional success.  These data will guide your thinking in how to improve both your identity and ultimately your image.

In future posts, I am going to dive deeper and try to provide practical insight into HOW to get the process done so you end up with a winning path forward.  If you want to learn how to maximize your personal and professional success, you can subscribe to the website or visit the website periodically.  The information provided on the website is totally FREE.  In the meantime, check out Tom Peters Brand You 50 book.  It is an easy read and available on Amazon.

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