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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Personal Branding

Management guru Tom Peters is said to have first used the term personal branding in a 1997 issue of Fast Company Magazine:”To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” Since that time, the topic personal branding has gained increasing attention in our economically strained and fiercely competitive business environment. For a definition, I turn to branding expert Dan Schawbel. He describes personal branding as “the process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition and then leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. This way, individuals can enhance their recognition as experts in their field, establish reputation and credibility, advance their careers, and build self-confidence.”

Two weeks ago I coincidentally attended three different personal branding sessions within 5 days. It just happened to be scheduled this way and I thought it wouldn’t hurt to look at the topic from different perspectives. So let me start by giving credit to the experts that spoke at these lecture and networking events: Actor, speaker, and trainer David Mann, consultant Chuck Bolton, and connection consultant and branding expert Kathleen Crandall shared their thoughts and wisdom and triggered me to look at personal branding from multiple perspectives. They provided their audiences with engaging and lively presentations containing questions and exercises to help formulate your personal brand.
I will share what I took away from these sessions in the form of questions for you to consider. Some of the questions overlap, but stating a question in a different way can trigger different thoughts and ideas. The answers to these questions can lead to your specific personal branding statement, starting with a twitter-size opening statement.  To this opening statement you add about two minutes including a story and your promise. The two minutes is a guideline, of course, but remember that people lose their focus quicker than any of us want to admit, and during speed-networking sessions or large gatherings, two minutes is probably all you have to leave the best possible impression, reflecting your expertise, your values, how you stand out, and what you deliver and promise.

The questions:
1.    Which are your five most important values that you live and work by?
-      What do you stand for?

2.    Why are you in this role?
- Convey who you are, clear and swift

3.    What happens because of you?
-      Referring to results, changes, growth and the like

4.    What is a good story that puts it all together and brings to live what you accomplish with your products/services?
-      Stories elicit emotions, speak to the imagination, draw attention, and thereby make it easier for people to remember you.

5.    In addition to the use of stories, how can you best grab attention?

6.    What do you want your clients to experience?
-      How can you move from what you do to what your client will see and experience?

7.    Whereto do you lead and how do you lead?

8.    What results and behaviors do your stakeholders need from you?

9.    How well do you walk your talk and how can you improve this?

10. Are your head (beliefs and strategy), heart (values and emotions), and hands (delivery, execution) collaborating towards the same purpose?

Your Personal Branding Text will be based on the answers to above questions and contain:
-      A brief, twitter–size opening statement that communicates the core and catches attention.
-      The desired experience: “I want you / your organization to benefit from … in such and such a way.”
-      The brief story
-      Your brand promise: “The promise (in terms of results and service) I deliver upon is … and I accomplish this through …”

You can cross check your statement by confirming that the three elements that Schawbel describes are present:

1.    Value Proposition: What do you stand for?

2.    Differentiation: What makes you stand out?

3.    Marketability: What makes you compelling?

Some last reminders:
Speak plainly, make it personal, know that images speak louder than facts, know that it is your body that’s really telling your story, know that voice says more than words, and practice, rehearse, and revise this statement and let people who know you provide you with feedback.

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