I am going to come out swinging on this one because I can sense your consternation already:
The tragic irony about Building Your Brand is that if you don’t consciously Build Your Brand, it will be built for you by others without your control.
. . . I know, right?
And yes, I realize I am making some assumptions there. For example, can we safely assume that “Building Your Brand” is even a thing in the first place? Objectively, there are some valid arguments against this. What if you’re a regular Joe/Jane who just wants to pull down a paycheck and you have other priorities in life?
Well, to put it bluntly, it means Your Brand is that you are just a regular Joe/Jane who wants to pull down a paycheck and you have other priorities in life. BUT! I humbly request that you read on, because Building Your Brand does not need to be the eye-rolling marketing-speak you hear at motivational speeches or at corporate-sponsored Happy Hours everywhere.
And, I want to be clear here, Building Your Brand isn’t about lying, or shady propaganda techniques, or changing who you are. Quite the contrary. To humbly make the case here, my recommended approach to Building Your Brand does not take much effort: it’s simply being a good person in the first place, focusing on who you are, and executing your Brand on the world stage.
It boils down to finding all of the best parts about you and putting an exclamation mark on those things. You just need to deliver.
My disclaimer here is that I did not get any degrees in Marketing. This is all 100% experience.
Building Your Brand: Some General Guidelines
- Do some soul searching and figure out who you are. I have my list of qualities. Make yours. It doesn’t even have to be “business related.” This is probably something you can’t do overnight if you’ve never done it before. But the main word here is “focus”. You would be surprised at how many things you take for granted about yourself that others find valuable. Also, simply ask other people for honest feedback about how they perceive you. I actually did this, because part of my Brand is being bold enough to literally ask things like, “I am building my Brand, what do you think my Brand is right now?”
- Some help on starting your list – generally being a good and considerate person will set you apart from others in a world full of busy people. You can call this one, “showing them you care”. My wife taught me this one. I’m not sure how it happened along the way (my overly-tuned sense of cold-hearted logic, maybe?), but for a long time I treated other people’s suffering as a, “you problem”. I cared and empathized, but I was a problem-solver, not a nurse: Have a headache? Tylenol’s in the medicine cabinet. Sore knee? Ice it, I guess.
But my wife has turned me into a better person. If someone calls out sick (or “calls in sick,” depending on your locale), or has something bad happen to them, I always check in on them as best I can. I am not just doing it for a Brand, I really do care. It doesn’t have to be sappy, just a general, “How are you doing?” Offer up things you can do. I usually implore them to get their rest and we got their back on all the work things. It costs you nothing. Going the extra mile is doing something – sending someone a book if they are laid up and so on. Either way, people will remember it. It’s a small human connection that matters.
Now if I could just remember people’s Birthdays!
- Execute on your list. Once you have the list of qualities down, it’s time to execute. You want to maintain a Brand that you “get stuff done”? Then get stuff done. You want to maintain a Brand that you solve things that others can’t? Then put yourself into positions where you solve things that others can’t and solve them. These are only two short examples, but spell these out. Write them down and remind yourself of your Brand constantly.
- Always remember that building your Brand is a long game. Whatever you decide your Brand is, it’s a long game. Public perception (read: the people you interact with) is about consistency over the long run. Stay focused but also stay balanced. Don’t be annoying about it. Don’t draw attention to a mistake unnecessarily. You will always have a chance to address it later on.
You may also do something that goes against your Brand. It’s OK – it’s an easy fix by doing better next time and making sure you acknowledge the mistake, rectifying it, and doing better the next time. Always deliver on your Brand.
- Get the receipts. Document your Brand. This one can be tough if you are not the social type, but there are many ways to do this. Start a blog. Start doing talks. Start a podcast. Get involved with groups. Curate your social media presence and interact positively. Build your reputation through your network of people who will vouch for your accomplishments. Get some certs.
If you stay true to Your Brand, people will notice that trend and they will spread the word.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about your Brand. This one was tough for me because no one likes a braggart, but I have come to learn, even before getting into sales, that talking about your accomplishments or strengths, especially if there is good context for it, is not bragging. It’s advertising. And by the way, getting the receipts, aforementioned, gave me the confidence and the ability to back up my Brand, so I felt more comfortable talking about it.
- Play it safe by watching what you do/say on social media. There will be some who disagree with me on this one, I will admit. I will also admit that this one is in a state of flux for me. But as it stands right now, I mostly stay away from Politics and Religion on social media. More recently, I may have had a few curated posts that come right up to the line, but I make sure my posts are “not incendiary,” whatever that means in the year 2022. I know people who do express their opinions and they are very successful, but I am still trying to figure this one out.
If you feel the need for that level of catharsis and want to
engageargue with people on the internet, then at the very least do it on a separate, anonymized account. I realize that times are changing and those types of exchanges are more and more common, and therefore more and more accepted, so I get it. I am always worried that in some future interview or interaction it will bite me where it counts.
- Your Brand should persist through job/career changes. There may be some parts of your brand that are specific to your job and that’s OK. One might argue that a specific thing you can do that is unique to your role is a skillset, not a brand, but that’s another rabbit hole I will not embellish. But the long game is that your true brand is permanent and lasting.
I am not sure you picked up on it, but the mind trick I am playing on you here is that, outside of “getting the receipts” you are doing nothing more than consistently “you doing you.”
I will leave you with one last thought: a simple template Brand that anyone can start with is to just be a decent human being in the first place.
It’s a brand that should last generations.