You don’t have to be an expert on personal brand equity to recognize people who have a strong brand.
Take Richard Branson, a self-proclaimed tie-loathing adventurer, philanthropist and troublemaker who believes in turning ideas into reality. The glass-half-full leader of Virgin Group, Branson is – according to his Twitter bio – “otherwise known as Dr. Yes.”
- Sheryl Sandberg is an iron leader with a soft heart.
- Warren Buffet makes money by doing the right thing.
- Elon Musk uses technology to move us forward.
- Oprah Winfrey understands people, embraces them, and empathizes with them.
- Steve Jobs embodied the mantra Think Different.
Personal branding is what sets you apart from the competition. The key is to discover and express authentically who you are, and to own it.
How do you build your personal brand equity? Here are a few thoughts:
A friend of mine was a vice president of marketing and sales at IBM. She paused her career to stay home with her children, and when she wanted to return to work years later, she struggled with how to position herself. I encouraged her to think about what she brings to the marketplace, what separates her from her peers.
Early in my own career, I was fortunate to have a boss who challenged me to think about what differentiated me from others in the office. He told me, “You can do what they do, but they can’t do what you do.” His question launched a journey to discover my unique brand. I learned that I am a change agent and work well with others – that’s my unique personal brand. When I was assigned choice projects, colleagues would ask why; the answer was my brand.
Questions for you to consider:
- Why are you doing what you are doing?
- What do you do better than anyone else?
- What are your top values, your operating principles?
- What do people frequently compliment you on? What do colleagues, friends, and clients come to you for?
- What are your core strengths – technically and interpersonally?
- What adjectives do people consistently use to describe you when they introduce you to others?
- What energizes and ignites you?
- What are your true passions?
Figure out who your stakeholders are – current employer, prospective employers or employees, clients – and determine what’s important to them. What do they talk about? What are they looking for? Understand what you offer that will address these urgent needs.
Craft a personal brand position statement.
Similar to an elevator pitch, a personal brand statement encompasses who you are and what you stand for. It’s clear, concise and should make people who hear it feel something about you. Be intentional when creating your brand: to be effective, it needs to resonate with your audience.
William Arruda, author of Ditch, Dare, Do: 3D Personal Branding for Executives, recommends asking yourself: “What am I passionate about? What are my values? What makes me great? We all have super powers – things we do better than anyone else.” He suggests asking someone else what your talents are: “These things often feel natural to us, but it’s important to see them as being special.”
When you’re ready to write, Arruda offers a template that links together three elements: “The value you create + who you’re creating it for + the expected outcome. For example: I use my passion and expertise in technology to inspire researchers to create drugs to cure rare diseases.”
Each piece is helpful to create the complete puzzle, but Arruda says the most important is first, your value. “This is your core DNA – your operating principles,” he says. “These are the things that inspire and energize you.”
Other questions to consider when crafting your statement:
- What is your niche?
- What changes are happening in your niche that you can use to your advantage or need to be aware of?
- Who already has a personal brand in your niche?
- Who needs to know about you? Who can share your personal brand with others?
- How do your influencers currently perceive you?
- What is your brand voice? Think about your persona.
Building brand equity is a lifelong endeavor that requires commitment and consistency. Think of any iconic brand: a history of actions taken by that brand built your perception. The same is true with personal branding.
It’s important to make career choices that are in line with your values and strengthen your brand. For example, choose jobs at companies you respect, rather than settling for a subpar company. You need to be passionate about your role – and you will if you make career moves that are in line with your brand equity.
Richard Branson has stayed true to his core values of adventure, excitement, and risk-taking. Brand clarity and consistency is a choice, and you need to embed the things that make you unique into specific behaviors. Branson’s trademark playful wit is a great example of a brand behavior that is consistently part of every brand performance.
Sometimes I meet good candidates, but I don’t get a real feel for who they are; they don’t sell themselves. It’s clear they have never considered their own personal brand equity. I encourage them to think about what sets them apart.
Your resume should be accomplishment-focused. It should differentiate you: what do you bring to the table? Before you interview, prepare your elevator speech – your brand equity statement. In three to four sentences, who are you and how do you want to be perceived? Also think about supporting statements.
Edith Cooper, Global Head of Human Capital Management for Goldman Sachs, advocates telling your story during the interview. As she explained to Business Insider, “Your resume was strong enough to get you to the interview – now it’s time to bring it to life. Avoid walking through every bullet point, but instead, turn your experiences into a compelling story that reflects who you are, what you have done and how you have made an impact. Craft a clear and concise message that demonstrates you have the skills, judgment and drive to do the job. Interviewers are looking for a pattern of behavior … to support your narrative, provide specific examples from your past. Share an experience that demonstrates how you’ve overcome adversity or a challenge and what you learned from the process.”
From your interview story to your LinkedIn profile to your email signature, I recommend tying together and reinforcing your accomplishments. Be sure to include your personal brand statement and sell yourself consistently in every medium, such as
- Corporate bio
- Social media profiles you use professionally (and any of your personal social media profiles that accessible to the general public)
- Personal web site or blog
- Email signature
- Business card
As Tom Peters wrote in Fast Company, “All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”