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Developing your personal brand

LATELY I have been thinking a lot about the idea of developing one’s personal brand.

Robert Mandeya
People management issueS

Firstly, what is meant by your personal brand? Usually, when the wrong brand is mentioned, we think about products or services and their brands. What normally sets organisations apart is the uniqueness of their brand. Even though in essence most organisations do the same thing in terms of providing services and products, there is always that aspect of differentiation so as to create that competitive edge over others.

It is that differentiation that influences a particular perception with the clients. For instance, some organisations are identified as more exclusive, more professional, American or expensive.

In fact, it is through their brand that businesses or corporations distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack. In a competitive environment, people make decisions about purchases or loyalty to organisations based on brand.

Personal brand

Individuals have a personal brand, too. Though many might speak of it as reputation, it means the same thing. Your brand is how others perceive you, how they would define what you stand for. It is representative of your values, strengths and character. And in the business world, your brand can become your greatest ally, or your biggest hurdle to overcome

Safeguarding your personal brand

Actions define brand

Lance Armstrong is another example of how one’s action can influence their brand. Once put on a pedestal, representative of strength of character, athletic excellence and altruism, Armstrong’s acknowledgement of using performance-enhancing drugs over the course of his career caused him to fall hard and fast.

His brand and the brand of his company were forever damaged through actions that were incongruous with his brand. If we agree that we all have a professional brand, then you need to be intentional about your brand’s creation and maintenance.

Identify your brand

Do you know how you are viewed by others in your business world? Are you the “go-to person”, the “drill sergeant”, the one who knows how to get things done, the “social convener”? Are your values demonstrated through your actions? If you really don’t have a sense of how you show up at work, ask people you trust to give you some feedback. How would they describe you?

Sometimes it is helpful to think about the brands of those around you, and then you can see yourself in how you show up in relation to them. Once you have a sense of what your brand is, decide if that is in fact how you want to be perceived.

Act accordingly

If you agree with your brand as it currently stands, you are set! Be intentional in your actions, ensuring that you consistently show up as you’d like to be seen. But what if you identify that your brand is not in alignment with your values? If you want to change how others see you, spend time thinking about the actions you can take, behaviours you can adopt that will get you in line with the way you want to show up. Then repeat and repeat. Over time your brand will shift to be in line with your actions.

If you have had a falling out with a colleague, or been let down by them, it is up to you to decide if and when you might trust them again. And how you decide to handle incidents such as this will influence your own brand.

I heard a quote once that said, “Having a personal brand in business isn’t an option, but managing that brand is”
Ultimately, brand is the image built by your choices. Your good choices will build a trustworthy personal brand that supports your good work.

A brand is also a kind of promise. It is a set of fundamental principles as understood by anyone who comes into contact with you. Just as with organisations or business, a personal brand must be your reason for existing. It is how that reason is expressed through the various communications to your key audiences, including family members, friends and other associates in your circles.

A brand should also represent your desired image and aspiration and could be your card to establishing any business initiative. Many people try but fail to create a successful brand.

Mandeya is an executive coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of the Leadership Institute for Research and Development (LiRD). — robert@lird.co.zw, info@lird.co.zw or +263 772 466 925.

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