At a recent session with ESPN professionals in New York, I asked them to write down three words to describe themselves. Then I asked the same group of friends and co-workers to describe one another. In our controlled setting, all of the descriptive words were positive, but none were perfect matches. The lesson is that the world probably doesn't view you exactly the way you view yourself. Your personal brand isn't how you perceive yourself, or what you want people to think of you, it's what others think of when they think of you. Your personal brand is how you have packaged and presented yourself to the world.
Try it yourself. Write down between three and five words and phrases that you believe define your personal brand. Now go ask friends and co-workers to share their top of mind words describing you. If people describe you accurately, you're projecting your brand well. But chances are, the words they use are complimentary, but not the ones you'd choose to define yourself.
Building your personal brand involves words, actions and images. Repetition of your personal themes and consistency of messaging across all platforms (in person, work, social, family, social media and traditional media) is critical. Being cool isn't the same as having an effective personal brand. The subtleties and nuances of personality may not translate in your brand image. Your sense of humor, for example, may strike others as arrogance or insecurity. Your cute and clever tag lines may project anger, rudeness or dis-respectfulness to others. In other words, it's not nearly as important how you perceive your brand as how others perceive you.
Building your personal brand isn't easy. If I asked you to write down every word that describes you, your answer might fill pages. It might be difficult to limit your entire brand outline to five or fewer words or phrases, but effective brands are easily defined, described and remembered. Don't try to be everybody's everything. Keep your brand simple and direct. Building your brand is a disciplined process that involves honing your most desirable attributes into a relatively compact message and then consistently communicating that message through your words, actions and images.
For some, brand building is intuitive. For others, it's counter-intuitive because they're so focused on themselves (selfies) that they can't see the picture through the lens of another person. Selfishness, ego, pride and ignorance destroy personal brands every day. Asked why they did stupid things like posing for a picture wearing a gas mask and smoking a bong, or shooting BB guns in a dorm room, student athletes reply, "I guess I just didn't think about it." It's time to think about it!
Building Your Personal Brand is a critical step in finding and keeping a good job, earning the respect of others, and ultimately achieving your goals. Building Your Personal Brand training is available through DaveOakesSeminars.com.
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