Think about the various audiences you have in your life: family, friends, co-workers, employees, customers, partners, investors, advisers. If they had to list 3-5 words to describe you, what would they say? And, would their answers align with the words you would use to describe yourself? Perception is everything, especially in business.
A compelling personal brand in the business world all boils down to one question, which will drive all decisions that others will make about you: Can I trust you? This is the essence of the importance of the personal brand. Are you someone that others can rely on to show up, act with integrity, have their best interests, and honor their reputations in the market place?
The integration of personal and company branding shows up in 4 different ways. Jennifer Dalton, who is the author of The Intentional Entrepreneur and CEO of BrandMirror, identified these intersections:
- Low Company Brand, Low Personal Brand. This strategy is good for companies that want to be under the radar which may include firms in the intelligence or investment space, or this may apply to companies that have not yet clearly defined their brands.
- High Company Brand, Low Personal Brand. This strategy is perfect for a CEO looking to build a company beyond themselves. Their outreach strategy, which may include white papers, blogging, and videos, should include multiple company voices. For companies seeking to be acquired, a company brand that eclipses the leader's personal brand conveys that the company doesn't revolve around the founder.
- Low Company Brand, High Personal Brand. This strategy is good for individuals that want to build a strong personal legacy. It's well-known that their companies revolve around their personal brands.
Solopreneurs often start in this place and then must be deliberate in evolving their company brand as they grow. This is a disadvantage of naming a company after yourself if you plan to grow beyond solopreneurship. I work with several owners of professional services firms that struggle to delegate their clients to their team members because new clients want personal attention from the owner.
- High Company Brand, High Personal Brand. This is the best of both worlds. Both the leader/founder and the business are seen as highly credible and trustworthy. The market sees an alignment between how the CEO shows up and the brand promises that the company makes.
Regardless of which bucket applies to you, there are 5 key functions of your personal brand:
- Providing leadership and clarity to your employees/partners
- Leading the business forward by establishing confidence with your people
- Building relationships with key stakeholders
- Giving a face to the company
- Establishing thought leadership and building new business which is essential for growth
Deciding Your Conversations
When thinking about your personal brand, ask yourself:
- What are the conversations that are happening that I want to be a part of?
- How do I show up today regarding that conversation? Am I invited to that conversation? How do I want to show up?
As you are thinking about the impressions you want to leave, think about the words you use in your conversations. Your voice and language drives how others see you.
Define Your Brand (Or Others Will)
Dalton recommends these thought prompts to define your personal brand and create your Leadership Promise Statement:
- I am a [adjective describing your leadership] leader
- Committed to [statement of your purpose]
- By [the action you take]
- and by leveraging these core skills: [your unique differentiators].
Branding is Not Marketing
Many confuse a brand strategy with a marketing strategy.
Branding is the why. It is a promise and a feeling. When we hear the name of a person or a company, it evokes a physical reaction.
Marketing is the what and the how. It is a tactic to communicate the brand,
Ultimately people buy the brand. They do not buy the marketing.
What do all of your brand elements say about you? How are you influencing what others think of you? Every business person you meet will check you out in some way before they engage with you.
Seize the opportunities to build a strong personal brand at every touchpoint, from your Linked in profile to your email signature.You never know who is looking and forming an opinion of you.