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YOU the brand

Everyone knows Michael Jackson's famous song 'Man in the Mirror' where he advocates looking at yourself to make the world a better place. Michael was not singing about how your colleagues, customers and suppliers perceive you, but he might as well have been because managing your own personal brand is fundamental to how others see you in a professional capacity and is the ultimate determinant of career success.
A good personal brand will certainly help make your world a better place. People don't even realise that they are a brand and that everything they do leaves an imprint on people they interact with on a professional level.

People aren't selling cars, houses or pasta or even the company they work for a living; they are selling themselves. And the essence of understanding how to be a great brand is, is about taking control and managing yourself and people around you in a clever way.
If you're adding value, people must know that you're adding value to them.

These then are the people who will become your best marketing campaign. It's what they say about you - in the right places - that will ultimately determine whether your employer sees you as someone who adds or erodes value.

Newton says that personal branding is therefore an essential technique that people need to learn - especially in the world of work as it is continuously changing and that employees need to be very different today to even twenty years ago.

There is no longer lifetime employment, and the idea that the company will look after you no longer exists. There are increasing numbers of highly skilled people with great education and ambition so the need for an individual to stand out is paramount.

It's a lot like a car- there are hundreds of excellent cars to choose from and yet why do some car brands remain best sellers year after year? It's quite simple: because of that ethereal quality that their brands portray that sets them apart from an otherwise homogenous offering.

A brand is all the things people think about when they see a logo, hear a name or use a product. And it's exactly the same for a person. Just think of Richard Branson - no-one has made better use of clever personal branding to build his business empire and create a brand of a fun, highly innovative maverick for whom nothing is impossible. I doubt whether he would have been so successful an entrepreneur and admired leader without such savvy personal brand management.

Newton quotes Tom Peters' advice that people should have the mindset that they are the CEO of their own lives and are therefore in control and should be proactive.

"A good CEO is always looking ahead and constantly promotes his or her brand
to clients."

The first thing to do to manage your personal brand is to take stock of who you are; of what's clever and special about you, and what you offer as a person.

Think of five words that you believe best define who you are. For instance: caring, funny, bright, efficient and diligent. These are your brand characteristics and you need to ensure your words and deeds are consistent with what you want to portray.

Then ask friends, colleagues or relatives to give feedback on your words. This is a great exercise because it could surprise you just how others see you and help point you to areas that you need to work on.

And then make sure you manage all your communication channels to unswervingly deliver your five words to your 'target market' so that get what they expect from you.

The most important part of your brand management strategy, however, is to make sure you're managing your relationships well. The success of any brand depends on how people feel about themselves when they interact with the brand.

People brands are no different. Make sure the people around you feel comfortable about themselves when they're with you. There can be no brand statement more powerful than that.

About the author

Julie Newton is Managing Director of innovate interpersonal communication consultancy Avocado Vision which trains the staff of many of South Africa's top companies.
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