Personal Brand: Know It, Own It, Use It
By: Shelly Orr Priebe (Priebe & Associates)
16 October 2012
Executive coach Shelly Orr Priebe discusses strategies for developing a personal brand and how that can enhance your company's brand.
What is your brand.....Not your company’s brand, but YOUR brand? Everyone has one, but few professionals are intentional with the development, ownership, and constructive use of their individual brand. A strategic approach to personal brand leverages the hard work that successful and ambitious “HIPOs” (High Potentials) put into charting their career paths. Your brand should also create results for your company. Whether to clients or suppliers, you represent your organization and your brand matters.
We already know that in an industry threatened by commoditization, the impact of a company brand is more important than ever. What savvy LSP would operate, communicate, market, and sell without careful consideration of brand identity? Branding may have begun as a way to tell one’s cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp, but today the ‘stamp’ that a company designs and wears can be the differentiator that results in sales and marketplace success. The same applies to you, the individual.
As an executive coach I have never had a potential client contact me with a request to evaluate and work on personal brand. And yet that is where I always start. In hundreds of assignments including career advancement, executive advising, conflict management, productivity enhancement, life balance, exit strategies, leadership transitions, public speaking, interviewing, and on-boarding, there is invariably one common denominator: knowing, honing, and owning personal brand gets results.
Just as an organization has a story, so does an individual. What is yours? What do you want your audience to know about you? This does not mean that your life needs to be an open book. Be thoughtful and selective about what defining characteristics you want people to think of and attach to their image of you. The only “right answer” is that your brand needs to be based on truth. Your brand will be strong, long-lasting, and beneficial only if it is an accurate reflection of who you are. As American theorist, inventor, and futurist Richard Buckminster Fuller once advocated, “Integrity is the essence of everything successful”.
What defines you and what works for you? I often work with clients on their “executive demeanor,” but that can take a variety of forms depending on their individual strengths. Think about the range of leaders who inspire you. Some leaders I respect are pensively reserved and keenly observant. When they speak you can hear a pin drop and no one wants to miss a word. That person is “the sage.” Others I respect exude a palpable energy and build enthusiasm with motivational calls to action: “the inspired.” Still others draw from an infinite supply of historical or literal references to illustrate their points: “the academic.” The list of possibilities is long.
“The problem solver” is an excellent brand for the LSP business development professional. As is the “the compassionate friend” for the professional nurturing long relationships on the client or supply side. Like in any industry, there are visible CEOs in the localization industry who have honed their personal brands—they are easily identifiable. The visionary......the innovator.....the zany but business savvy marketing genius.....the integrator.....the social activist.....even the king of controversy. The point not to be missed is how executive personal brand is intertwined with company brand. This is true of any business, large or small (think Apple). Organizations that invest in building and leveraging the brand of their company should also cultivate the brand of their executive(s) for a more robust and memorable storyboard.
Brand ownership applies to the organization and the individual, and it goes hand in hand with integrity. When the brand is based on true strengths and differentiators, then the brand is part of company DNA. That means that it is not only the foundation of carefully prepared and reviewed marketing communications, but that it is the essence of any client or contractor’s experience with an organization. The challenge is making sure that brand is understood and supported throughout the organization.
The ownership challenge is different when working with individuals on personal brand. Recall that in each case, brand is based on strengths that are relevant to the audience. A term that is thrown about in coaching circles quite frequently is “blind spots.” The misconception is that “blind spot” refers uniquely to unidentified character or behavior flaws. I approach ‘blind spots’ as opportunities. In many cases I am presented with the opportunity to create “transformation” by leading a client to see a particular strength that he or she possesses in a new light and to understand its power. I encourage them to celebrate an aptitude or gift that at best they take for granted, or at worst they do not realize that they possess. And as we work together over time my mantra is “own it!”
For example, you may not be the social butterfly who lights up the room, but your pragmatic and systematic approach leads others to always seek your advice. “Own it!” Don’t try to be the life of the party and the star on stage. Play to your strengths instead and choose venues where you can provide your guidance to an attentive audience. Be strategic in using your strengths to advance your career and your company.
Owning your brand is knowing and believing it, never lacking the confidence to be yourself. Using it is the next step. It is acting on your brand every day in every way. If your brand is warm and personable this will set the tone for your communications. It can also create specific actions that support your brand. Using the example of warm and personal, you could be the atypical executive or business development VP who pens personal notes and keeps a birthday calendar.
Here is specific personal example. I recently decided to execute a promotion for Priebe & Associates to update my network on exactly what I do, realizing that “coaching” is a bit ambiguous and murky. Should I endeavor to become a social media queen and blast my message that way? That would not be a poor choice, but it is not directly aligned with my brand. Instead I created an elaborate and creative print promotion that I distributed to my network. My brand is highly creative and personal. I leveraged that to create a memorable Priebe & Associates print piece that is not like any usual print promotion. Because it matches my brand and because this went to my network I am confident that it will be opened and noticed with a high conversion rate on the call to action.
PERSONAL BRAND CHECKLIST:
- Reality: Is it a true depiction of who you are?
- Relevance: Is it a good choice for your role, your company, the language industry? (for example, Richard Branson’s edgy brand may not suit in a conservative industry.)
- Resonance: Does it matter to the target audience? Can it help your career and add value to your company?
- Remarkability: Is it interesting and memorable?
You may never have thought about personal brand before, but I challenge you to define yours and consider whether you are using it to its full potential. This isn’t fuzzy psycho-babble. It is good business.
Shelly Orr Priebe is the founder of Executive Coaching and Consulting Firm Priebe & Associates. She spent 22 years in the L10N industry, starting in sales and marketing and spending a decade as the President of an LSP that did crowd and cloud before they were mainstream. She keeps her world view fresh and her passion for the industry alive via her role as GALA Board member. Out of L10N network friends and acquaintances often assume that she works in a creative field.