Lisa McGill is a South Florida commercial banker who mixes and mingles in community organizations and charities. But even while she passes out a business card with her company logo, she is not entirely sure how to position her own personal brand.
Today, in the new world of work, our community service and superb skills are not enough. We all need to treat ourselves like a brand that needs to be marketed. One of the best ways to succeed is to craft a compelling image that lets the world know just how good you are at what you do.
"I don't know how anyone can afford not to do it," said Kellie Kuecha, president of Women that Win. She believes personal branding is the only form of job security, whether you work for an employer or yourself. "You must have a personal brand and market it."
The good news is that in this age of Web sites and social networking, everyone has a chance to stand out and be brandworthy.
Brand Cindy. I like the sound of it. Now, how do I figure out what Brand Cindy should stand for?
Jerry Wilson, senior vice president of Coca-Cola and author of Managing Brand You, asks, "What's your image now, and what do you want it to be? What niche do you want to own?"
Experts tell me that when I develop Brand Cindy, I need to be specific — not just soda, not just Diet Coke, but Diet Coke with lemon. I need to find my competitive edge that cannot be duplicated by anyone else.
Tom Peters of Fast Company writes: "You've got to become relentlessly focused on what you do that adds value, that you're proud of — and most important, that you can shamelessly take credit for."
Only 25, Dan Schawbel has branded himself as the expert in personal branding. Even more, he's found a competitive edge: He's the expert in Gen-Y personal branding. Schawbel writes an online personal branding magazine. He has a personal branding Web site. In April, he releases Me 2.0, about personal branding for millennials. He says personal branding will help college students land jobs, entrepreneurs get financing, even managers earn promotions.
"Every one right now at every business is charged with marketing," Schawbel said. "There's an opportunity cost of not doing it when your competitors are. When your brand is not there and someone else's is, you lose."
Develop a plan that will position Brand You
Wilson of Coca-Cola says there are many opportunities each day to position your brand, regardless of whether you are a stay-at-home mom, business owner or college student. Figure out your target audience and what benefit you bring them, he says. Then, make your plan to get in front of that audience.
Wilson says making your plan could include taking classes to learn skills to become more of an expert. It might also include withdrawing from activities that detract from your brand or take you off course.
Get the word out, market your brand and be the expert
Kuecha believes you do this by becoming visible at places where people you want to get in front of are hanging out. "They have to see your face connected with your logo or brand, and remember you," she said.
Other ways to gain recognition for Brand You are by going to networking events, writing articles for Web sites or local newspapers and getting on panels.
Of course, you can also build your personal brand online through a blog, Web site, Facebook or Twitter account and LinkedIn profile. Schawbel says consistency across these platforms is important to managing your reputation and brand online. Do it right, he says, and anyone can become a Web celebrity.
The key to any personal branding campaign is using and nurturing your network. Kuecha advises keeping databases with personal contacts and work contacts. Through her 750 Facebook friends, Kuecha says she can send out e-mail blasts, publicize events, even build mini-communities.
The time management aspect of personal branding
Schawbel suggests only doing what you can handle. For example, he says, a senior executive who already has little time for his family might consider creating a blog and only posting two paragraphs twice a week.
Wilson says rather than join 15 organizations for visibility, put more energy into three target groups.
Reinvent yourself to become the CEO of Brand You
Jennifer Valoppi rebranded herself seven years ago when she went from being a television news journalist to being an advocate/mentor for women and teens as founder of Women of Tomorrow. Recently, she created a brand for herself as author of Certain Cure, a medical religious thriller. Valoppi is writing two more books, one a sequel to Certain Cure. "It takes lot of work and lot of effort. You have to put your all into it."
Meanwhile, Lisa McGill of Fifth Third Bank in Sunrise plans to make time to come up with a brand statement for herself. "It's an investment in myself."