The term personal brand is one that always makes me quiver. The concept has now been around quite a long time, and ultimately is not rocket science, but amazingly enough it is still a concept that many people are challenged by. Whether it is just the term itself that makes you quiver as it does me, accepting the concept of personal branding and how to make it work for you is imperative in the current job market.
What is a brand?
From a business perspective, the brand is their product or service. What they are known for and what people recognise them for. Brands are what we develop a relationship with, something that is a lot of time a sub-conscious engagement with that brand that entices us to it time and time again. Think about the food we eat, what we drink, where we shop and products we buy. Each of these are a brand and it is our relationship with that brand that has us going to it time and time again.
What is a personal brand?
The personal brand is what we are putting out there to allow others to build a relationship with us. What is our unique identifier that allows others to recognise who we are, what we bring and where our expertise is? It is the bits that make people remember us; both good and bad. It is in how we present, how we communicate, how we define what we want to do and how we have become capable individuals in a role or in our field. It may be a brand developed through volunteer work, it may be a brand that drives our professional careers. Whatever the focus is for you, it is about being unique and authentic to our brand.
Where can branding go wrong?
I use an example here of 2 consumer brands that wanted to try something different.
Let’s start with good old Australian vegemite. Vegemite launched a new product that they named iSnack 2.0. Relationship to the brand; none. Relationship to the product; none. Relationship with consumers; none. Outcome, back to the drawing board.
More recently, another Australian brand Gladwrap thought a simple change to the design of its product, a design that consumers had been purchasing for years, would breathe new life in to the product and increase engagement with the consumers. This simple branding change was an overnight disaster. Immediately, consumers stopped purchasing the brand as they could no longer relate to it and it no longer represented the relationship that they had with the product that drove them to buy it time and time again.
There are dozens of stories of where branding has gone drastically wrong for businesses. And this also can have an impact on individuals when developing their own personal brand. For individuals looking to transition their career, moving away from what people understand about your brand and what you now want them to see in your brand is challenging. Done without proper reflection, you can end up with a disastrous outcome just as the brands above had. You need to truly understand what it is you need from your brand to put in place something that will help with building that brand.
How do I build my personal brand?
Your brand needs to be strategic, it needs to allow people to build a relationship with you and with what you bring as part of your brand. When developing this, it needs to be slow and strategic. If your brand doesn’t exist, it needs to start with you developing your own understanding of what your brand is to deliver. This needs to happen before you even take your brand to the market. Once you understand this, you need to look at what is it about your brand that can reflect your purpose; how do you present yourself, what experiences do you need to demonstrate, who do you need to connect with.
Working slowly is important in building your brand as it will allow you to redirect your brand if necessary without going through a whole reinvention process. Reinvention can be challenging and is not something that can occur overnight so it is best to avoid this sort of thing if possible.
Why is personal brand so important to candidates?
In the current market, where roles are sourced predominantly through the hidden job market or “under the radar”, your candidate’s brand is what will provide them with access to these roles. Building relationships using their brand and having a clear brand purpose will assist them in aligning these opportunities to them. Eventually their brand can become a calling card; one where people feel comfortable approaching your candidate as they know what their brand delivers and the value that comes with it.
Your candidate’s brand is something that needs to be developed and managed consistently. Online and offline, no one can ever do enough to manage their brand even when it seems overly time consuming. The best approach to brand management is to ensure that they look at this on a regular basis and reflect on where your brand is at. Does their brand as it sits still align with their direction or are small tweaks required? Do they need to review their brand strategy to assist in achieving their long term goals? Is this something they may need to consider in the future? These sorts of questions drive the link between your candidate’s brand and their career and this is the reason it is so important. What their brand represents needs to be effective in demonstrating what they can deliver in their career.
Whether or not they are starting out in their career, or you are looking at transitioning out of their career, their brand is important and the concept is here to stay. If it makes you quiver as it does me, get over this and ask yourself what value will my candidate’s brand bring to me?