NOTE: This POST is not just a POST. It’s a personal (and real) letter that I wrote yesterday to a friend, following a request made to me while we were having lunch together a few days ago.
On Wednesday you asked me about something that I had never been directly discussing with any good friend: You wanted my advice about creating, improving and enhancing your personal brand.
In many conversations with close friends, we shared different views on very personal topics: job, couple or family crisis (quite common), sports, health, family, future, etc.. But never on a factor that, by the nature of my activity, I had to deal with increasing rigor in my daily life: personal branding. And in the end, I see this is an equally or more important factor than the others, because in reality, it covers all them, linking everything in a more conscious, coherent and effective way.
No one has to create a personal brand. We all have a brand in one way or another, and this is how others perceive us both personally and professionally. The problem is that many people are devoted only to working hard, to interact or change projects, regardless that above all, there is a brand (our brand), which should be built up, evolving and caring it, and if we want, also enhancing or expanding it.
You have invested a lot of time working in a particular area, with an excellent track record, collecting many successes and some failures, having a clear personal recognition, and striving every day to give good service, be efficient and get a return to your activity. And now comes the time for you to ask some of those questions: "should have my own website?", "Do I need to be active on social networks?", "How can I have more visibility in order to be more competitive and have more opportunities in those moments of such complex market?
Already in the Wednesday’s conversation, we concluded that websites, social networks or other communications, are only tools to serve one purpose: To consolidate and enhance your personal brand.
How many professionals spend a titanic effort to produce (goods or services), and almost no effort in working their personal brand? And this is very dangerous. Our personal brand is the biggest asset we have in our professional life, and perhaps also in our personal life. This brand picks for our reputation, our image, our experience, our values, our energy and entrepreneurship, and our willingness to be solid and serious in everything we do, because we assume the challenge of having and defend our brand. I think that if anyone fails to create a good personal brand, he’s assuming the risk of going through life becoming a "commodity"; a product that has no value, and only can trade on the market according to the law of supply and demand at that time, very unfair, crazy and even cruel.
In the world we are nowadays, and above all, in the world to which we go in the near future, there will be so much complexity, uncertainty, rate of change, and so unpredictable needs, that developing personal branding will be absolutely essential. So I invite you, and I urge you to fully activate your personal/professional branding strategy, dedicating a portion of your energy to this key subject.
And you should take very seriously, because when you work with your own brand, you put your name in risk. It’s not like when you work under the umbrella of a commercial trademark (the company we work for, or our own company), if there is a crap, which smells bad is the brand "X". Here the value or bun is always permeated to your name.
You’ll have to work on some key issues such as:
– POSITIONING: How I want to be perceived. Which of my assets do I want to highlight and make more visible. In which concept can I be a benchmark.
– VALUES: What values will be associated with my brand. How will I be consistent with my brand values when doing any action. Which are the ethical limits in my activity and communication.
– CONCEPTS: What do I have to communicate. How I can/want to communicate it. In which topics will focus on.
– COMMUNICATION: Which channels of communication will I move to expand my brand: Web/Blog, Social Media, Traditional Media, Lectures, Books, Articles or collaboration with some media, Public Relations, Networking, etc..
– DEFINITION OF CHARACTER: One thing is your person, which is 100% of yourself, and another is your character that is publicly visible. The character must always be part of yourself (it has to be true), but it has to preserve the areas of privacy or concepts that you do not want to transfer.
You also need to understand that:
– You need to be GENEROUS: Communicating and expanding as a brand does not mean doing "Advertisement" of oneself, but gaining value. And the best way to gain value is to be generous with others, worrying about what they care about what you can offer them, sharing concepts; being useful ultimately. Like this you will be read, you will be considered as a valuable person, you will be trusted, and maybe, you will be offered opportunities or recommended.
– You have to WORK HARD: A brand is not built up and does not grow easily. It takes time, perseverance and a lot tough work. Here you have to consider if you really want an outcome only short-term (daily work), or if this aspect is important to you in the short, medium and long term.
– You have to ENJOY: Precisely because the effort, consistency and duration in time (forever, actually) required for managing personal branding is so demanding, there is only one way of being able to cope: It should be really interesting, enjoyable and entertaining for yourself. Just like you cannot practise any sport without enjoying it, or you cannot study under compulsion, the process of developing a personal brand needs constant excitement and passion.
Well, I just wanted to talk to you about all this after our meal last Wednesday. I do not like giving advice to a friend if I haven’t been asked, but this has been, precisely, the case. I know you very well, and I have very clear all your values, built after many years of serious and committed struggle. Also the people who knows you in your immediate personal and professional environment, can appreciate your assets. It is therefore important that you incorporate them more forcefully in your personal brand, and that this has greater visibility, because if you expand the circle who appreciate and value what you are, career opportunities will multiply. And it will happen that in our tremendously changing and uncertain world, there will be one important thing that will become solid and certain for you: Your own Brand