Process of Building a Personal Brand

You already have a personal brand. What do people feel when you walk into the room? And what do you want them to feel? With successful branding, your key audiences think about you the way you want them to think.

The branding process has four steps.

Consider the corporate brand

The more senior the executive, the closer the fit needs to be between corporate brand and personal brand. CEOs should consider themselves an extension or an embodiment of the corporate brand. What does your corporate brand stand for? How does your CEO’s brand fit within it? If the branding does not fit, the CEO’s tenure will likely be short. Successful branding does not mean that the CEO needs to layer another persona over his or her own. Nor does it mean that the CEO needs to be conventionally charismatic. The branding of many CEOs is modest, low key, and but their personal brand stands for something that key constituents relate to.

Some CEOs have star power and are extremely media-genie. In this case, the challenge is to ensure that the CEO’s personal brand contributes to the corporate brand rather than distracts from it. The spotlight is put on the mission of the company, rather than on the personality of the CEO.

Articulate your personal brand

How do you identify and articulate your personal brand? Consider using archetypes-themes that tell a story. All business communication involves the telling of stories. An annual report is a story. A press release is a story. Archetypes tell the maximum story with minimum effort. We have all certain archetypes within us. In personal branding, focus on one or two major archetypes that explain your core motivation and strategies. For example, President George W. Bush is most effective when he takes on the Regular Guy persona. Al Gore is a Sage brand. The ability to make each person feel heard is the hallmark of a Lover brand and Bill Clinton personifies this. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is a true Ruler brand-fully in control.

In business, Apple Computer is an Outlaw brand (” Think Different“), and its CEO Steve Jobs is a Creator/Outlaw brand. The close alignment between the company and its leader works well. Another Outlaw brand with a flavor of Warrior is Hong Kong entrepreneur Richard Li, whose career was built on taking risks and turning away from convention. Oracle Software is a Warrior brand, as is its CEO, Larry Ellison. Executives who work in healthcare often exemplify the Caregiver brand.

What archetype is dominant for you and your company? When coaching executives, we use assessments and questions to uncover an executive’s dominant archetype, the basis of his or her personal brand. To discover your archetype, ask yourself: What do I value above all else? What do I represent? What is unique about me? What is my call to action? What is my greatest fear? What story am I living?

Adjust your brand

Once you have articulated your brand, check for congruence. Ask others, “Does this brand evoke me?” You should get agreement from your audiences. Is your brand aligned with your actions and words? Are your actions aligned with your desired branding? Are there conflicts within your archetypes? For example, if you have a strong Regular Guy streak, you probably fear standing out. Does this prevent you from stepping into a Ruler role when your leadership calls for it? Or does the Lover aspect of your personality conflict with the Wnniors need to achieve? Finally, ask yourself: Is this really who I want to be? How can I aim even higher? What quirks of mine can I incorporate into my branding? Most of us spend our lives trying to conform. This is a chance to celebrate our uniqueness.

Live your brand

As you implement your brand, you will find that you have some clear strengths and liabilities. Your brand will alienate some people, and that’s okay. Strong brands don’t try to be all things to all people. Each archetype presents both opportunities and traps. A Warrior leader can be powerful, but may not create a nurturing work environment.

A Creator leader can be invigorating to follow, but may not be a structured thinker. Your strategy should be to mitigate your liabilities by flexing your behavior to meet the needs of the people and groups who are important to your business. For example, if you deal frequently with Ruler archetypes but are not a Ruler brand yourself, you will need to learn certain strategies and skills. By noticing your impact on your key audiences, and by stretching your skill set, you become a stronger, more flexible brand. Successful leaders who live their personal branding exercise a paradox. They are both deeply steeped in their own personal identities and deeply flexible toward their key audiences. Leaders who are good at both elements are authentic (true to themselves) and influential (powerful with others).

A Brand is A Promise

Remember: a brand is a promise, one that you make and fulfill, over and over. What promises are you and your company fulfilling? Fulfilling the business promise through effective communication yields a high Return on Communication.

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