Brand or bland?
Personal brand is something too many people get very wrong.
On one hand, some people are mortified about the thought of raising their own profile, believing they will appear arrogant or overly self-confident. On the other, if someone is described as a ‘great self-promoter’ it conjures up images of some media obsessed megalomaniac or – worse – a glorified ‘rent a mouth’ for the press.
Personal brand is worth so much more than that.
Your brand encompasses your values, your ethos, your beliefs and the things that make you unique.
But it’s more than thinking about questions like ‘if you were a bar of chocolate, what kind would you be?’ If you answer ‘Mars’– does that mean you have no nuts? If you answer ‘Galaxy’ are you branding yourself as someone who carries out performance reviews in the tub with too much bubble bath and water pouring all over your office floor? If you answer ‘Flake’ are you flaky? If you answer ‘Yorkie’ are you a misogynist?
My advice to you: Don’t ever answer ‘Twisted’, ‘Drifter’ or ‘Animal’… The mind boggles.
Some years ago, the idea of the ‘cult of the leader’ played heavily to the zeitgeist of management thought. Too many corporate disasters had led experts in the academic field ask if this was the fault of poor leadership and, as a result, there was a wave of leaders raising their profiles and showing the world they had the grit and charisma to be the next Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Arianna Huffington or Sheryl Sandberg.
But, while these leaders are certainly role models to millions, they’re not obsessed with self-promotion. In fact, Zuckerberg and the late Steve Jobs shied away from the limelight.
What in fact they do all have in common is authenticity. They’re not afraid to be themselves.
I recently read an interesting column by business leader and author of Flawed But Willing, Khurshed Dehnugara.
He writes: “When I worked for a large corporate, blending in used to be a strange charade in which I took part every Monday morning. The colleagues I aspired to be like had played or watched rugby over the weekend. For the years I bent myself every which way to fit in…
“I realised things had to change. I had to be proud of who I was and not shy away from being different… I had convinced myself that the organisation wanted my energy and commitment but not me as I am.
“I wanted to celebrate my difference, not hide it. It took a while but I became more successful and the promotions followed more quickly until, eventually, I ran the place.”
After reading Dehnugara’s piece I couldn’t help but wonder how many amazingly talented (but secretly weird) people are denying themselves as well, trying to mutate their personal brand into something they want to be; but something they’re not.
My amazingly talented (and fabulously weird) business partner Emily Perry, shared an interesting article with me earlier this week, from the hallowed pages of Forbes magazine, which revealed that while successful leaders understand that the true definition of personal branding is a leadership requirement rather than a self-promotion exercise less than 15% of leaders have defined their personal brand and only 5% are living it every day.
The piece argues that while many leaders talk about personal branding, but few hold themselves accountable to take action. It concludes by saying that while defining your own personal brand – and living it every day – is challenging, this self-awareness genuinely adds value to the business bottom line.
Think about it in terms of USP – what’s your unique selling point? What can you bring to the board table or to your business that makes you valuable or interesting? If you deny yourself your authenticity and model yourself on another person’s brand, you run the risk of being a corporate clone. And I wouldn’t wish this on anyone – in fact if that’s what your employer expects of you, then you’re in the wrong job.
Dehnugara suggests we should all step back and think about where we fit in; but also where we stand out.
What do you stand for and what do you reject? What do you and your difference represent? How can you make your difference useful to yourself and the organisation?
I hate the term ‘soul searching’, but sometimes, taking the opportunity to consider questions like this, can pay dividends in defining what you want to do with your life and the message you want to project to your colleagues and the world.
Personal brand couldn’t be further from a ‘PR’ tactic, nor is it soft, fluffy or cheesy. It’s the basis of success and something we should all be more comfortable to invest in, talk about and finesse.