“Brand” is the trigger that can transcend words in conveying an impression. In the case of companies, it can be an image, color, sound, tune or catch phrase whose message goes far beyond the few words it contains. On a personal level, your brand should be the immediate impression that comes to mind when your name is mentioned.
It seems to me that when most people hear the term “personal branding,” it’s in the context of how to package themselves, specifically, how their online presence is crafted with an eye towards being seen, often in a way that highlights certain skills and accomplishments. The danger is that self-branding from a strictly accomplishment point of view can slip into self-commodification that’s more about self-promotion than self-expression. Instead of being perceived as an accomplished human being, self-branding can make you seem like a product.
It’s that personal level of “brand” that has had me thinking lately. Among the people I work with both inside and outside of my company, just what are the aspects of their individual brands that have left an impression? If someone were to ask me about developing a personal brand, what would I tell him or her?
There are numerous sources that can advise you on developing your personal brand. The suggestions may vary a bit, but they almost all boil down to advice that includes thinking of yourself as a brand, cultivating an online presence through a website and social media, associating with other strong brands, demonstrating that you create something of value and being strategic in what you share with your network.
But before you take any of those steps, I think the foundation for building any sort of brand, from corporate to personal, is engagement. Engagement is the cornerstone of brand and an important interlude during which two parties decide if an ongoing relationship seems like a good idea. Ideally, engagement will lead to a connection, ongoing commitment and emotional intelligence. Before someone is going to become interested, he or she must become engaged. Celebrating your accomplishments without demonstrating their positive impact is providing information; showing how your participation in a project lead to insight on the part of a client or customer and solved a problem, is an invitation to engage. In other words, don’t just tell people what you’ve done, tell people how what you’ve done has worked and the impact it had.
Take Away: Building a personal brand is a good idea as long as it’s built on a foundation of professional engagement rather than self-promotion.