Yes, you read correctly, it is all about how you are branded and how you manage that brand called "You". I read an article that was originally published in Fast Company in 1997 titled "The Brand Called You" and while some of the names mentioned have since fallen from their lofty perches, the basic premise (as well as many of the arguments in the article) remain as valid today as they were almost a decade ago.
The concept of personal branding is not new and yet it is increasingly important as we find people moving more and more away from traditional employment to a far more fluid marketplace where people and ideas flow where needed and find themselves constantly working to create new opportunities and build on old ones.
The Fast Company article talks a little about the importance of cultivating personal power in your dealings with people as well as differentiating yourself from other people in your industry. The concept, at its simplest, is to regard yourself as a company working to develop its brand in the marketplace using those characteristics of your products and/or services that truly make you special and remarkable. What struck me as I read the article is how much difference a decade makes in how these ideas can be implemented. Blogs were pretty much unknown in 1997 and yet when you look around the blogosphere now you see examples of personal branding everywhere you look. An excellent example of where personal branding and blogging intersected is Robert Scoble, former Microsoft evangelist and now media guy at Podtech.net. While at Microsoft (and arguably before he arrived), Scoble came across as a fair critic and fan of what Microsoft was doing. He criticised Microsoft (always constructively) when he felt it started down the wrong path and praised them when they did right by him and Microsoft’s users. What he was doing, in part, was developing his personal brand. Bloggers know Scoble and know a bit about what he is about because of his personal brand. In many ways, Scoble is a Nike or the Coke of the blogosphere.
So how do you develop a personal brand? Christopher Knight has a list of 7 ways you can develop your personal brand:
- First step is to realize that YOU are a "Brand Name" whether you like it or not. Recognizing this is the first step.
- Is your name easily remembered? A brand must be EASY for anyone to remember its name. If your name is not easy to remember, you might want to consider legally changing it…. I did.
- Next, register your brand name’s DOMAIN name, in either of these formats: firstnamelastname.com or firstname-lastname.com
- Have a logo created or make one yourself, for your name. Remember to keep it simple.
- Recognize that you are more than who you work for at any given point. You should have business cards created with your name and your personal logo on it.
- Choose a theme or focus for your life. Build a USP (unique selling proposition) or a statement which narrowly defines what value you bring or deliver to other humans on Earth.
- BE CONSISTENT. Your public messages must be consistent, and each must build on your end goals for how you want your defined public to perceive you. Also, remember that anything you say in a Email forum on the Internet, is archived for life somewhere.
Perhaps one simple piece of advice is to express your brand through everything you do. If part of your brand is excellent service then express that ideal through everything you do in all areas of your life. Noble aspirations like providing excellent service easily translate into better living habits and develop your personal brand even more. A big part of personal branding is making it authentic. It is the brand called "You", not some fictional character.