6 min read

What is a Personal Brand and Why Does it Matter?

Oct 15, 2020 8:31:46 AM

What is a personal brand?

A personal brand is the unique combination of skills and experiences that make you who you are. Put simply, it’s how you present yourself to the world. Jeff Bezos had it in a nutshell when he said “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Why does managing your Personal Brand Matter?

Gone are the days when the all the effort you had to put into your executive personal brand was what was presented on your business card, and a resume (if you were looking for your next role). In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that career coaches were regularly asked about how to attract headhunters. Although the question hasn’t changed, the answer certainly has! So failing to understand - like it or not - that you do have a personal brand will hold you back, and like any brand it has to be actively managed.

We all bump into big brands every day. Coke, McDonald’s, Pepsi. But let’s be clear about what a brand is not: it is not a logo; it is not product; it is not an identity. No, a brand is in the mind of an individual - a perception about a product or organisation or service. So, let’s apply the same principles to a personal brand. It is is simply that: the perception people have of you - a gut feeling about who you are.

Why now?

Although the concept of personal branding was actually first introduced in 1937 in the book “Think and Grow Rich”, the modern idea was first coined by Tom Peters in his 1997 article “The Brand Called You” which presented branding yourself in the new age of the individual.

Fast forward twenty or so years and the “branding” that used to be reserved for businesses, now with the advent of social sites and search engines, has extended to include individuals - "personal branding" has become fundamental to pretty much everyone, especially if your career depends on it. For that reason, it is now necessary to actively manage your online identity, principally because this has the power to affect the real world. This applies whether you are wishing to deepen your reputation in your current role, as an entrepreneur, or as part of a career progression. 

Managing your Personal Brand

Why does your personal brand matter so much?

The hard reality is that you are more likely to form an impression online than in person.

It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you’re employed, in a job search, or right at the beginning of your career, it’s important to think and project yourself like a business leader. Social media means that you now need to manage your own reputation not just in real life, but also online. In fact it’s even more important online, because people will form impressions about you before you’ve even met. Whether you have a date or a job interview, chances are someone is going to Google you to learn more about who you are. You need to be in control of how that image is formed. Why would you leave your professional reputation to chance when you can manage the narrative to the best effect?

For executives, your personal brand is all about who you are, how you do things and what you say. And at the centre of all of that, as the brand guru Simon Sinek says is the why? Your purpose, core ideas and beliefs?

Where Executives should start with managing their Personal Brand?

But where to start? How do you manage your reputation online and what tools can you use to demonstrate who and what you are? For some, there’s maybe a little cleaning up to do, but as a starting point for most there are three main elements which you need to get absolutely right:

  • your optimised linkedin profile
  • a well-crafted resume 
  • an elevator pitch which clearly communicates the value you add

Good vibes from your personal brand

Your LinkedIn profile

Think of it as a lead magnet. The better your LinkedIn profile is, the more likely that it will attract recruiters and impress hiring managers who look you up when you reach out to them. Research has shown [2018 Jobvite Recruiter Nation Study] that vast the majority of recruiters look at LinkedIn profiles to assess a candidate’s worth. So if you’re not using the opportunity to showcase your value, you are almost certainly doing yourself damage, at least being disregarded without even realising it.

The Well-crafted Resume

There is simply shed loads of advice about how to present yourself and what you can do on a resume. Everything from the size and stye of font, the layout, and the information that you present in quantifiable results, not just the chronological responsibilities that you’ve had in each role (reverse order of course!). All of this is very important, but it’s always worth remembering that the the end goal of your resume is simply this: to get you on the phone or in the door to talk to the hiring manager. You have to honest, but this is no place for shrinking violets, and once crafted a well written ‘base’ resume will have to be tailored to the job you’re applying for. 

A Perfected Elevator Pitch

You've just bumped into a well-networked former colleague at a conference. After exchanging pleasantries, she asks you what you’re up to these days. You open your mouth, and then pause. Where on earth do you start?Then, as you try to organize your thoughts, dinner is called, and she's on her way. If you'd been better prepared, you're sure that she'd have stayed long enough to ask more questions, or suggest where you might add value.

This is one situation where it helps to have an "elevator pitch." This is a short, pre-prepared speech that explains what you do and how you add value clearly and succinctly.

One of the things that hard-working professional people wrestle with is understanding the need to manage their personal brand. Surely it will look calculating to think too hard about reputation and less about task. Isn’t it enough to just focus on doing good work?

We’ve all met executives who have an uncanny ability to let you know exactly how well educated, how well-connected and how successful they are within seconds of meeting you. Worse still when you meet them again you get exactly the same spiel!

No one is suggesting that you should puff up your profile or resume to present yourself as something you’re not, nor should you shout out your achievements continually to tell people how great you are. It’s not about spin either; just taking control of your life and how you intend to live it. Who do you want to be and what do you need to do to get there? Once you’ve decided on that, you can work on making people notice what you do and how you do it.

And realise this, talent isn’t in short supply - there’s plenty of qualified, talented people out there, so competition is tough. That’s why it’s just not enough to get noticed for your hard work and past achievements. Sure you can take the chance that perhaps you’ll be noticed and all that personal toil will be worth it, but why not take the time to think about how you’d like to be recognised then work systematically to accomplish it, rather than waiting for life and your career to happen to you?

Philip Browne accelerates successful executives by coaching them to find and pitch for top roles.

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Philip Browne

Written by Philip Browne