Your brand refers to the specific perception that your peers have of you. This is created by your presence, both in person and that which is communicated by others, or your actions.
When someone mentions the word 'brand', the first thing that comes to mind is well-known company names, such as Nike, or Gucci. However, you do not consider what truly makes up a brand. The main contributors to a brand are its:
The main goal of a brand is to distinguish one organisation from another, by portraying themselves in a distinct and unique way. This is especially important in the modern technological age, where a huge factor in the success of an organisation is its presence on television, social media, and in general communications. Over time, the intention is that the public begins to associate brands with success, credibility, quality and satisfaction.
These brands are intended to be designed in a way that reflects the culture, values, and goals of the organisation. However, it is not always so. The way brands are portrayed is reliant entirely on the actions of the organisation and its staff, and all must be aware that their every public move reflects upon others' perceptions of the company.
In the exact same way that organisations possess a specific brand, individuals do too, whether they intend to develop one or not. A personal brand evolves from how individuals around you perceive you and your actions, and is influenced by a number of factors. This is obvious when we consider celebrities, or individuals in the public limelight - a quick Google search gives a fairly good impression of their personal brands.
This applies to leaders in any organisation. Their influence depends largely upon how they are perceived by team members, colleagues and employees. Therefore, it is important that modern leaders pay conscious attention to their public perceptions, and take steps to cultivate their own brand as they see fit.
Your own brand can be an asset to you, or it can also be a hindrance. It is your unique identity and is sculpted over time as you establish your own image in the minds of others. This can refer to friends, colleagues, team members, or employees. If you
correctly manage your brand, it can lead to numerous successes for both you and your organisation. Some of the advantages of this conscious action include:
- Establishing personal credibility
- Helps in building contacts and networks
- Establishes you as a trustworthy, authentic, person of authority
- Allows others a clear view of what you stand for
- Facilitates change of your brand to match your career or personal development
Developing and maintaining a brand is a difficult process. Along with both time and energy, it also requires a significant level of self-awareness. However, it requires this effort to maintain a level of consistency in your brand, without which your authenticity can be lost.
If you do not put effort into maintaining your brand, you allow others to take control of their perceptions of you. Instead, you should look to develop your brand to reflect who you are, who you want to be, and how you want others to see you. This depends entirely on the audience that you are pitching to, and the specific goals you have for that audience. It is possible to have a different brand for both personal and professional life. Often, for a professional, it is important that their brand reflects that of their organisation, especially if they are in a public position. Subsequently, this can help shift the brands of your team members or employees to that of the organisation, in turn.
Once you have identified that others perceive you in a way that you would like, you can look to consolidate this and reinforce this by matching your actions and communications to your personal brand.
Clive Maloney (2013) described 5 specific stages through which you can build and evolve your personal brand:
- Identify or decide on your target market. Consider what you can contribute to that market, and the reasons behind that. Are your contributions something that will motivate you?
- Define what makes you unique. Firstly, list all of your strengths, skills or possible areas of expertise. Then, consider the values that are dear to you - for example, honesty, integrity, fairness. Consider how these different strengths and values could coalesce to form a motivating and unique personal brand
- Gain an understanding of others' perceptions of you. Perhaps, share your list of strength and values, and ask for honest feedback from your peers. Do friends and colleagues' perceptions of you align with your own? How do they differ? Why do they differ?
- Take actions to develop your brand. Make sure to display yourself in a way that highlights your expertise and values. Network beyond just your immediate group - perhaps use social media, or make sure that emails or other digital communications reflect your personal brand.
- Regularly review your brand. This helps you retain your focus - you can see whether your brand is contributing to you achieving your goals. Consider, has your brand changed at all? Does it need to change to match any shift in circumstance or values?
Credibility is an invaluable trait, which allows others to gain trust in you, your actions and your words. This is why it is an invaluable trait for any leader to develop - if you are not credible, no-one will follow you. This is closely linked to your reputation, which in turn is linked to your personal brand and the actions you have taken to create and maintain it.
Here are some actions you can take to make sure you, and your brand, are credible:
- Be honest. If it is a subject you cannot disclose for personal or professional reasons, tell your team members just that.
- Be consistent. No-one can be considered credible or reputable if their actions swing erratically. Make sure your words, actions and behaviours towards others remain the same.
- Be trustworthy. If you have said you will do something, make sure you do. Without this, any faith in you as a credible leader can be lost.
- Be fair. Treat everyone as if you have their best interests at heart - and make sure they know that.
- Be the expert. As a leader, it is crucial that you have a strong understanding of your role, your field, and any subject you are discussing. Get to know your position like the back of your hand.
- Be responsive. Always stay in contact with each of your team members - ensure that they know you are in touch with the team and the situation at hand.