TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT
“This is who I am, take it or leave it.” Does this attitude sound familiar? Although it may not reflect you, there are some persons who live by it, even taking it as far as “my way or the highway”. Whether we do or do not live by the “take it or leave it” posture, it has relevance in the context of personal branding. Whether we are conscious of it or not, each of us has a personal brand. Have you ever considered what is yours?
Our personal brand is really the sum of our appearance, speech, and behaviour. According to Leslie Friedman, an image consultant and branding specialist:
“Your personal brand is the set of characteristics you are known for and exhibit through your actions, words, and appearance.”
When we say “this is who I am”, we are really saying, “this is my personal brand”. When we go on to say “take it or leave it”, we are telling others that they have a choice to accept or reject our brand. WARNING: We can suffer serious consequences when others reject our personal brand.
If our words, actions, and behaviours frequently spark negative responses from other persons, we may need to work on enhancing our personal brand. When our brand does not appeal to a family member, a friend, an employer, a colleague, an employee, a love interest or potential love connection, or any other person with whom we interact, they will most likely limit their interaction with us or reject us outright. Partial or complete rejection can lead to many negative consequences including interpersonal conflict, loss of relationship, loss of reputation, power, and influence, and denied opportunities for growth and career advancement.
HOW TO BUILD A WINNING PERSONAL BRAND
There is no better time for us to showcase our uniqueness than now. But…can we say with certainty that our existing brand can do this or is doing this? Can we say that our brand is inviting, engaging, and compelling? What kind of self portrait are we painting through our brand? Do we like what we see?
Questions, questions…questions! If we do not like what we see, we must change it. You see, if we do not brand ourselves, others will, and probably already have, maybe even in a way we may not like. Personal branding is about managing our name and reputation, whether we are or are not in business. For some of us, now might be the time for us to build a winning personal brand. Let’s begin.
Do a systematic self-evaluation in order to establish a baseline:
- Use a combination of tools such as a written self-assessment questionnaire, a personality test, performance appraisals, positive or negative peer or supervisor feedback, interviews with significant persons in your life, and records of past successes and failures.
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses so that you can recognize who you are, what you value, what you stand for, what you do well, and what you want to do.
Having completed this exercise, you are now in an ideal position to define some key aspects of your personal brand.
Identify the qualities, attitudes, and values that you want to represent your persona or public image. A winning persona will give you authenticity and enable you to showcase your brand quality and distinctiveness, connect with people, and reach the target audience that you want to influence.
Describe the role or part you want to play in the lives of the persons you serve. For example, as a professional counsellor, you may want your role in the counselling relationship to be that of a coach, a trusted supporter, an encourager, or an enabler. Your role will highlight your unique value.
Have a specific message and state it clearly and concisely by identifying the problem you desire to solve and your areas of focus. For example, “I partner with my clients to resolve their financial security issues, by teaching them best practices for saving, investing, and spending wisely.”
Standards: Set specific quality standards that will outline your communication style, modes of operation, performance, actions, and behaviours. The right standards will enable you to be consistent in your delivery and do what you do so well that people will begin to rave about you.
RESEARCH, NETWORKING, AND SELF-DEVELOPMENT
To build your winning brand, you will also need to fuel your self-development, especially through systematic research and learning. Here are some must do’s:
- Do research into your desired field and find out who are the experts and leaders.
- Discover industry quality standards, operating procedures, and best practices.
- Find out about professional or trade organizations that can help you build a professional network and advance in your field.
- Follow trends in your field.
- Prepare an elevator pitch so that you can introduce yourself effectively.
- Become actively involved in relevant professional or trade organizations.
- Request interviews with leaders and experts to get insights from them and discover how you can break into your field.
- Interact with them virtually via social media.
- Adopt them as mentors or guides.
- Learn from the leaders and experts in your field by following them through social media, written publications, and seminars.
- Go beyond following them to imitating them.
- Increase your value through learning and remaining professionally up-to-date.
- Continuously improve your performance and develop your expertise so that you become a master at what you do.
- Differentiate yourself by doing something that customers want but others are not doing, or by doing what others are doing but doing it better.