Everybody’s talking about “personal branding” these days! I had the privilege of working with In Search of Excellence author Tom Peters, who invented the idea a quarter-century ago. Here’s his quote from a 1997 Fast Company magazine article, “A Brand Called You.”
Regardless of age, regardless of position, and regardless of the business we happen to be in, 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.
Your personal brand is how people perceive you. And perception is reality.
Most importantly, your brand affects people’s emotional response to you, for better or worse. As Scott Bedbury, former executive at Nike and Starbucks, says:
A great brand taps into emotions… Emotions drive most, if not all, of our decisions. A brand reaches out with a powerful connecting experience. It’s an emotional connecting point that transcends the product.
If you think of yourself as a ”product” you’re marketing, you can understand why it’s vital to be aware of your personal brand. The way people perceive you will affect their decision to hire you and what projects to assign you to.
You have a brand whether you’re aware of it or not!
People already have their impressions and opinions of you. Many may have concluded, for example, that you are reliable or unreliable about keeping your word, open or closed to new ideas, easy or difficult to work with.
How can you discover your default brand? Try this exercise:
- Ask 4 people who know you to describe you in 4 words.
- Make sure you include a peer at work, a supervisor, a family member, and a friend.
- Write down the 16 words and any feedback you’ve received from recent performance reviews, report cards, and evaluations.
- Are people giving you the same words or different words? Is there a pattern emerging?
- Is there anything that anyone said that surprises you?
- How would you change your default brand if you could?
When my friend did this exercise, the 4 people she interviewed all used the word “late.” She was horrified—but at the same time grateful to learn how people perceived her. She immediately went to work on correcting their perceptions and made sure she got to meetings and events on time.
This simple but powerful exercise can change your life!
—Ilene Fischer, Partner, Mark Kamin and Associates