By Catherine Kaputa
May 7, 2009
To be wildly successful in business, you need to have a distinct brand, or career identity. Self-branding means being able to articulate a simple, clear expression of who you are, doing it consistently, and delivering on it again and again, so that when people think of X, they think of you. Or when people think of you, they think of X.
To find out if you need to work on creating a stronger Brand You, answer these questions.
-¢ Can you explain your big idea clearly in a couple of sentences, so that people know what’s different, relevant, and special about you?
-¢ If people were to Google your name, would they find you and discover high-quality information about you and your accomplishments?
-¢ Can you clearly define your key target markets and the best way to market yourself to them?
-¢ Do you have a visual identity that is appealing to your target markets, consistent with what you stand for as a brand, and different from others?
-¢ Do you have a personality and a leadership style that are assets and engage others?
If you answered “No” to any of the above questions, you have more work to do to perfect your brand image. Here are eight tips for creating a stronger self-brand.
Keep your brand focused. The more specifically you define who you are, the better your chance of selling yourself. If you come across as a Jill of All Trades, people will wonder how good you are at any one thing.
Make your brand different. Being like everyone else will stunt your success. Ask yourself: “What’s different, relevant, and special about me?” Use analogy, as in “a cross between X and Y” or “X on steroids.” Look at who you are, and then accentuate your difference.
When others zig, you should zag. Non-conformity and non-traditionalism will help you stand out from the pack. Think Obama. When everyone else was emphasizing experience, he made “change” his brand. Finding the “white space” between popular ideas sets you apart as a creative thinker.
Create a verbal identity. From a branding perspective, your first and most important decision after you nail down your brand idea is your name, or verbal identity. The best names are easy to spell, different and short. An unusual first name is always a plus.
Create a powerful visual identity. In many ways, women have an advantage here; they have many more “imaging tools” to work with, including hair, makeup, clothes, shoes, accessories, jewelry and colors. Like it or not, you are a package - just like a product on a shelf. Spend time thinking about how to make your image more powerful and distinct, whether it’s by working on your posture, or by updating your hairstyle.
Establish powerful alliances. You will be defined by the people, projects, causes and organizations with whom you are allied. Obviously, an Ivy League brand is an edge. But you can earn the same cachet through alliances you create. Smart networking creates branding firepower.
Take charge of your brand. You don’t neglect your car, do you? Your personal brand needs periodic upkeep and maintenance, too. Try to remember that everything you do at your job reinforces your reputation and your image. If your actions or accomplishments seem out of step with your brand - especially over time - it may be time to revisit, reinvent and update your brand.
Define and prioritize your target market. If you work in a company, your boss is your key target market, followed by other senior executives. These are the people who have the most power over your brand, so let’s designate them your primary target market. Your secondary target market will likely include colleagues, clients, your network and your staff. Their thoughts about you will also play an important role in your success. Focus only on your target markets, and don’t try to appeal to everyone.
When you start thinking of yourself as a brand, you discover how powerful it can be. Rather than being viewed generically as one of the worker bees, you’ll be someone who stands for something distinct and desirable - a brand. In today’s over-communicated society, the brands that stand for something relevant and build positive perceptions are the ones that succeed.
Catherine Kaputa is a writer, speaker, and the founder of SelfBrand LLC, a NYC-based personal branding firm. Her newest book is The Female Brand: Using the Female Mindset to Succeed in Business.