Introduction – Personal Branding

The purpose of this book is to explain the concept of personal branding and what is required to create a personal brand success strategy, how to develop a strategy to suit your individual needs and how to maintain it successfully for life.

I want to share with you at the outset that by just reading this book alone you will not suddenly become a personal brand magnet. ‘Personal Branding’ is a process, not an end result. An end result for you may be confidence, public recognition, professional respect, a positive reputation, to be liked, attract like-minded people into your life, to secure a job, get promoted, successfully integrate yourself within a business or achieve a life goal. Whatever your desired result, a personal brand strategy will help get you there.

This book will lead you step-by-step through the personal branding process and show you how to implement the strategy. You will get to look behind the curtain and see the personal branding mechanism with all its complex simplicity. You will then have the tools to manage this process for the rest of your professional and personal life.

There are three main steps to a successful personal brand strategy:

  1. Planning – which involves assessment of who you are and what you want.
  2. Implementation – taking the steps required to positively express who and what you are.
  3. Maintenance – (a key part) making sure your image and reputation continues to communicate in a positive way and develops further in line with changing needs and influences over time.

Life is about change. There is a process and progress to life that requires the utilisation of personal and professional strategies in order to adapt to changing circumstances. In life we are not created and then stay the same forever, there is a natural flow as we progress through life’s journey.

Personal Branding draws on information from many fields of study including psychology, sociology and education and personal branding strategies are influenced by physical, personality, intellectual and social elements.

The material presented in this book has been divided into the seven aspects that interrelate and form my Personal Brand Success Strategy model which I developed for use in my practice. It’s introduced in Chapter 1 as the ‘Lens Model.’

As mentioned, personal branding involves managing change, rather than in reaching a single end result.Importantly, a personal branding strategy helps to prevent us from getting stuck being or doing the same thing over and over when our circumstances or goals change.

Keep in mind that whilst the end result of this process is a successful personal brand expression, your brand will not be static or set for the rest of your life. Your development and maintenance strategy will mature just as you do.

By reading this book alone, you will not suddenly acquire personal branding expert status straight away. The journey to success is progressive. However, by learning the system and processes outlined in this book, it is hoped that your journey will be much more enjoyable as well as successful.

What is Personal Branding?

Let us start the journey by explaining what personal branding actually is. Personal Branding, as a term, was first used professionally in the 1990s.  It is believed to have been coined by Tom Peters, an author on business management practices, but since 2000 it has been used by a wider business audience and not just for estimating the value of media celebrities. Over the past decade a number of publications have explored the subject.

I define personal branding as: “The process of developing a consistent image that authentically communicates who you are and what you stand for, and delivers it in a way that people trust and that positively contributes to your goals and reputation.” In essence, it’s the process of managing the visual, non-verbal and verbal communication of who and what we are.

The key to making ourselves interesting to others and to attracting others to us, is to ‘own who we are.’ The challenge is that it takes time and effort to find ‘who’ and ‘what’ we are and this ‘who’ and ‘what’ changes over time.  Undoubtedly, people who live their lives with great passion or have a huge mission in life are perceived as far more interesting to others. Communicate this passion and it’s fairly easy to find 15 minutes of fame. What is far more challenging and important is to understand how to be famous in a positive way and be remembered in the long term.

If 15 minutes of fame is all you seek, then stop reading right now but if longer term relationships and influence is your goal, then this book is for you. Now I won’t guarantee that your journey will be easy, it will take some thought and self-assessment, but this book will help you to create an authentic and consistent image in addition to building a positive reputation for the right reasons.

Life is not about creating perfection. It is the flaws, or combination of characteristics, that makes us interesting, special and unique. As the poet Leonard Cohen wisely states “Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in.”

My Own Personal Branding Journey

I have always been interested in looking at how things and people work and finding patterns that allow a more effective navigation through life. This is partly why I started out my professional life as a Medical Scientist, diagnosing and monitoring illnesses in hospital pathology laboratories but I felt compelled to find a more creative way to help people outside of the medical field.

In 1998 I came across Image Consulting, virtually unknown in Australia by most people at that time, despite having developed in the USA since the 1980s. The concept ‘clicked’ with me and I immersed myself in all facets of this new industry to become a Professional Image Advisor.

For many years it was difficult for me to concisely answer the question, “So what do you do?” Few people understood the concept of a Professional Image Advisor at that time. I was also now a businesswoman with a keen interest in science and human communication who had areas of expertise that spanned many different disciplines.

Usually my short answer to that question was, “It depends on what the client needs”.  Because the reality was I had a broad range of services included personality and style analysis, colour psychology and colour analysis, wardrobe and grooming assessment, teaching business social and dining etiquette,  consulting in decor and business brand expression, project management, career development and transition coaching incorporating resume preparation, interview practice and networking activity support amongst other things.

Today, more people have some awareness of what Image Consulting or a Professional Image Advisor is, thanks to the advent of makeover TV shows like ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’, ‘Trinny and Suzanne’ and other makeover reality shows. However, there is still some confusion because these shows tend to be done by Stylists and focus on immediate and entertaining visual changes.

Experienced Image Consultants integrate the internal and external representation of a person for authentic and consistent long term confidence. Styling, or changing only the outside, is widely acknowledged as not being able to facilitate lasting long term change, even though there can be short term benefits. In certain circumstances, this is of value. Like any profession, there are great Stylists and great Image Consultants. The lines are a little blurred these days but at this point in our professional evolution, I see Stylists as working with clothing and grooming exclusively, whereas Image Consultants are more likely to be trained in the other modes of communication too, such as body language and written and verbal communication management.

During my years of teaching business groups and individuals, helping them to be more aware of their personal image management for greater success, to protect and grow their reputation and provide tools and strategies for those wanting to communicate with more confidence, I discovered that most of the aspects of personal branding need to be considered in combination. However, I had never before seen a process or model that captured and integrated all of the aspects into a complete whole, which is when I developed my Personal Branding ‘lens model’ that shows how they all integrate.

And this book is the result; a comprehensive and holistic summary of my personal branding strategy, one that will provide you with the most direct map to guide you on your very own personal branding journey.

Why Create A Personal Brand?

Personal branding is now considered a crucial link to career success. In an online issue of the Harvard Business Review, CEO and consultant Dorie Clark (2011) says, “Taking control of your personal brand may mean the difference between an unfulfilling job and a rewarding career.”

Although some people are critical of branding as commoditising the self, Peter Montoya (2002), author of The Personal Branding Phenomenon and one of the most famous of the self-branding gurus, says, “A personal brand (is) built on a person’s true character, values, strengths and flaws.” In other words, personal branding should be authentic.  Montoya understands the commercial implications of personal branding. He says, “Personal branding is about taking control of the processes that affects how others perceive you and managing those processes strategically to help you achieve your goals.”

Branding is important because people buy things often for irrational and usually very emotional reasons. A brand enhances the sales process by creating an emotional bond with the consumer making them more willing or likely to buy. So too, your personal brand creates an emotional bond with those around you. They can then ‘buy’ into your brand which helps you to move closer to the goals you desire. But the speed at which you ‘sell’ yourself or achieve your goals all depends on how well you brand yourself (in terms of your recognition and message) and how attractive that brand is to your market (who you want to influence).

Many experts say that the increasing tendency towards hiring consultants and contract workers makes personal branding all the more important in today’s economy. Many professionals are becoming aware of this, especially those who are suddenly told that their role has been made redundant. There is no such thing as job security any more. Each individual needs to think of themselves as a business and a brand. It’s what personal branding expert, Tom Peters (1997), called The Brand Called You.

Far from being phoney or false, a person who is branding themselves is simply an entrepreneur who can achieve success through genuine qualities of their character. Stephen Hicks (2009), in The Journal of Private Enterprise, explains the process that can apply here too.  The entrepreneur has an idea, takes initiative to develop that idea and with perseverance produces something of value. Then, by taking on a leadership role, the entrepreneur trades the end product with employees and customers creating a win-win result, allowing the entrepreneur to enjoy the fruits of their accomplishment.

Entrepreneurship requires creativity, good judgment and discernment, ambition, initiative, guts, a willingness to take calculated risks, perseverance, and courage.   Personal branding means making sure that clients and customers know that you have certain qualities in your character so they can associate them with you as your ‘brand.’

A commonly held definition of insanity is doing the same things and expecting a different result. So you will need to give yourself permission to experiment, have a curious attitude, take some risks and try new things. Call it ‘research.’ Even if every aspect of your life is working well for you, consider this process as a maintenance strategy to protect what you already have. Following a personal branding strategy is your risk management plan – it’s your insurance policy.

“Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen

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