Archive for August, 2009

Yes, You Are a Brand

August 13, 2009

Brands are no longer restricted to cars, clothing, and breakfast cereals.  Whether you like it or not, you have a brand, starting with the obvious – your digital presence.  When was the last time you Googled yourself or checked out your LinkedIn profile as if you were seeing it for the first time?  Pardon me while I quote from Wikipedia.  “Brands have become increasingly important components of culture and the economy, now being described as ‘cultural accessories and personal philosophies.’”  It goes on to say that those who focus on branding endeavor to form the “expectations behind the brand experience, creating the impression that a brand associated with a product or service has certain qualities or characteristics that make it special or unique.”

If the point of a brand is to break through the noise and differentiate while portraying value and significance, then it behooves you to develop, cultivate, and refine the positioning of your brand on an ongoing basis.  This is vitally important for candidates and hiring managers alike.  As we all know, hiring managers investigate candidates’ online persona as well as back-channel references while candidates check out hiring managers’ and CEOs’ career pedigree and contact base.

Let’s look at some of the components behind your brand.  As it is part of the human condition to categorize, people need to understand in concise terms what you specialize in and what you are passionate about – ideally one in the same.  This can be summed up in your accomplishments (not merely responsibilities), thought leadership activities (e.g. articles, speeches, association participation, and interviews), and testimonials.  There ought to be consistency in your branding as well.  For example, an MBA who has risen in the ranks as a Director of Product Management should not have a LinkedIn profile riddled with typos, plagued with antiquated terminology, or sporting a recommendation that states, “I love Jim, put that boy in a dress and a set of heels and in low light he’s passable.”  And no, I didn’t make that up.

Specialization is important, no matter the field or discipline.  After all, if you required spinal cord surgery, would you seek out a general practitioner or a neurosurgeon?  Thus, trying to be all things to all people dilutes your brand.  Effective specialization positioning comes in the form of expertise, based primarily on past achievements, and thought leadership that denotes current focus combined with forward looking insight.  Do people understand your area of specialization?  Try asking a few trusted business contacts to give you their elevator pitch on you.  I promise it will be eye-opening.

Finally, there is the venue to consider.  Far too many times, I see people mixing business and personal goings-on in their LinkedIn and Twitter identities.  True, it is helpful for people to see the human side to an individual.  Yet, there is a time and place for that, such as Facebook, business lunches, the beginning and end of an interview, and social gatherings.  For your career life, a useful acid test could be what first impression do you want others to have of you?  Therein lies the power of effective personal brand management.

Action Items:

*  Drive self-awareness of your brand, both online and in-person.  How do you want people to think of you and how can you differentiate yourself?

*  Do you have an area of focus, expertise, and associated thought leadership?  Paint a picture of how you are specialized and try finding out what others think of you in this regard?

*  Try to identify those who exude thought leadership qualities.  What are they doing to effectively position themselves as such?  A great example to consider and learn from is Mauro Cardarelli: