Oprah, Donald Trump and Jane Smith all have successful personal brands. Oprah is the empathetic advocate for entrepreneurism, women, overcoming challenge and education, epitomized in her “Live your best life” motto. Donald Trump is the often-disliked titan of real estate who has built a brand of luxury, ruthlessness and savvy business strategy.
And Jane Smith? She’s a well respected and valued professional in her company and industry who we’ll discuss in a minute.
Personal brands are not just for famous people. Celebrity status works for Oprah and Donald Trump because it provides them the platform to promote their passion. For professionals and entrepreneurs, targeted personal branding builds a sustainable relationship with customers, clients and stakeholders.
Let’s go back to Jane Smith. Jane is a professional in a growing financial company. During a recent performance review, Jane received surprising feedback from her supervisor: Her staff perceives her as hard to work with and pushy. Jane has a personal branding crisis. The way she thought she was perceived is not how her staff sees her.
Knowing that her reputation directly impacts her career success, Jane took action. She saved her career and grew her value to the company by following the four basics of successful personal brands.
1. Start with a strategy. Jane realized there was a disconnect between how she thought she was communicating and how her staff perceived her. She set out to identify her blind spots and the behavior which created the perception. Jane asked herself: What perception have I created with my staff? What do they believe to be true about me?
The answers helped Jane evaluate her current brand. The most important part of building any personal brand is to be authentic (genuine). Jane knew that to be the manager she aspired to be, she needed to be herself but better. Her strategy included excitement for her passions and representing her authenticity.
2. Credibility necessitates authentic values. Successful personal brands earn and build credibility. Credibility starts with articulating the values unique to that individual, then demonstrating that the individual walks the talk. Jane realized that to be credible as a manager and team builder, she had to articulate her values and act consistent with those values.
3. Focus on the target audience. Building a personal brand necessitates identifying a target audience. For Jane, the target audience is her staff.
Jane saw that people are typically good at understanding what their target audience needs functionally. An audience’s functional needs are often spelled out in job descriptions and RFPs. Not as easily identified are the audience’s emotional needs. Sometimes, her staff couldn’t tell her what they needed to feel that would make her relatable. But, as human beings, Jane knew that emotions drove feelings and therefore perception.
4. Maintain an online reputation. Jane admits she’d neglected her online personal brand. She learned that individuals with successful personal brands take control to ensure that who they are online matches who they are in person because clients, vendors and staff often look online to see who they are.
She set out to build her online personal brand, remembering that nothing she posts online (regardless of privacy settings) is permanently private. Her goal was to must project a positive and consistent image.
When cultivating your online reputation, keep in mind that recommendations and connections matter. Online platforms are searchable, so make your profiles more findable to prospects, colleagues and partners by carefully selecting key words in your summary, title and experience descriptions.
Social networking is networking. Instead of sending and receiving thoughtless social connections, Jane set out to build online relationships and engage with her connections. She was able to correct her personal brand crisis by taking control of her behavior and how she marketed herself, in person and online.
Your personal brand is your reputation, your legacy. Others assign you value based on how they perceive your value to them. When you take control, develop and promote your authentic personal brand, you are directing the legacy you will leave behind and the reputation you can enjoy today.