Most people understand how critical strong branding is for big companies like Apple, Coca Cola and Virgin. What many don’t realise, however, is that they could be far more successful at work if they think of themselves in terms of a brand – ‘brand you’.
This can be especially useful for senior women who are looking to get ahead or gain a promotion but find themselves being held back. It can be particularly useful for female executives in traditionally male-dominated sectors, including IT, logistics, engineering and finance.
Building the right brand image can help women to feel more confident, present a more professional image and be more comfortable demonstrating their knowledge and experience.
What is ‘brand you’ and why does it matter?
The first step towards creating a personal brand is to think about how you wish to be presented to the world, and the identity and image you want to project. It’s about your promise to stakeholders – letting them know what they can expect from you. It’s also about standing out from the crowd, and what makes you different to other people in your organisation.
A personal brand is what you want to be known for and how you want people to perceive you. It’s what people will say about you when you have left the room. It’s about reputation – and people, just like products, have to work hard to make sure they come across to work colleagues, customers and other stakeholders in the best possible way.
A strong brand image is critical if you want to climb the corporate ladder. If you don’t cultivate your own brand, others will do it for you and their perception can become reality. In the workplace, it is essential that colleagues and clients understand what is being offered and that they trust you to deliver it. In the race for promotion, presentation and perception can be as important as your track record.
Successful people often have an aura of confidence and work hard to develop their own brand, although they may not necessarily recognise it in brand-building terms. Nevertheless, thinking about self-image in terms of ‘brand you’ can be a useful way to shine in the workplace.
Steps to creating your brand ‘you’
Creating ‘brand you’ takes some thought to ensure it has the desired impact.
Here are some simple steps to follow:
- Be real
A common mistake is that people fail to be authentic in their brands. Authenticity is the key. The most important things to remember are:
- Always be honest about your values and ideas
- Promote causes that align with your values
- Be consistent and reinforce your words with actions. Stick to your core messages
- Protect the integrity of ‘brand you’ at all times
- Do an honest assessment
An honest assessment of your situation is crucial to understand what you have to offer and the areas that need improvement. Identify the following:
- Strengths – Internal characteristics that give you a competitive advantage
- Weaknesses – Internal weaknesses that must be improved
- Opportunities – External chances that can be exploited in the marketplace.
- Threats – External challenges that cannot be controlled, but may be addressed through opportunities
- What are your values and your passions?
This is about knowing what really matters to you and what lights you up. Ask yourself the following questions to understand where your values and passions lie:
- What really matters to you?
- What makes you angry?
- What drives you forward?
- Defining Brand You: Your brand mantra
This is the heart and soul of your brand. You should create a quick and memorable statement describing who you are, what you have to offer and what makes you unique. Keep it snappy. Between three and five words is enough. Think about what words others might use to describe you. It is always an interesting exercise to ask a few other people to describe you in three words. You may be surprised by what people already see and it could help form the basis of your brand mantra.
Committing to your brand
Once you have developed your brand and established a clear brand identity, it’s important to maintain it and be consistent. Trust can only be built by staying close to your brand identity. It is important that you present yourself in the same light each time people touch your brand and that your behaviour is consistent with your values, making that visible through all work, activities and actions.
You must commit to your own brand and not doubt it or keep changing it too frequently, as this can confuse people, and may erode your reputation, trust and brand image.
Developing a unique brand and committing to it can be a really positive step in anyone’s career, whatever level, but it is crucial at a senior executive level. Those that take the time to do this will reap the rewards, be more empowered and be more confident in achieving their career goals.