10 Dec How well do you know your personal brand?
The essence of a brand is how it makes you feel and think, and how it shapes what you say about it when it’s not there, you’re not using it, you’re not in it, wearing it, eating it, drinking it, travelling in it, etc.
For example, if you shop in Waitrose, aside from possibly being in a convenient location for you, there’s a reason you shop there and it will be to do with how Waitrose makes you feel.
Some of the things that influence you won’t be immediately obvious such as the layout, the lighting, the height of the shelves, the width of the aisles, the style of the checkouts and so on. Whilst the obvious ones are likely to be the variety & quality of food, the staff, the free coffee, the café – in fact everything about the store that you really can’t explain, yet there’s something Waitrose has created that makes you go back and spend your money there instead of with a competitor – crucially, even when the competitor is cheaper.
Everything you think and feel about it [Waitrose], good or bad, is their brand at work and they spend millions doing their best to make sure it’s all good.
Your personal brand is exactly the same – it’s what you leave people with. It’s how they think about you, what they say about you and it’s why they do business with you time and time again.
Of course, in normal everyday life our brand is really just our personality but, when you run or represent a business, its impact runs deeper because the impression we create and the feeling we leave behind can mean the difference between engaging or losing a customer.
If you’re in business and you begin to think of your personality as your brand, it will very likely alter how you act, especially at networking events where the fashionable way of ‘doing business’ is to build relationships. To some, this relationship-building sounds a bit tree-huggy and slow-burn but, taking the time to build a relationship, means people get to know, like and trust you before doing business with you. It’s what golf-playing business people have been doing for decades and with enormous success (building relationships, not hugging trees). It seemed natural to golfers to get to know like-minded people through a common interest, and the business relationships naturally followed-on.
Not everyone plays golf so networking events were probably the brain-child of a savvy business owner who didn’t play golf! They create an environment where people expect you to talk about your business and provide the opportunity to get to know people.
Networking flourished and now there are events for all type of people, all types of businesses and at all times of the day and night. Unfortunately, as the number of networking events has increased, especially since 2010, they naturally attract those who want only to sell, sell, sell and are not really interested in what others do. They’re easy to spot as they’re often heard saying “Yes, I went to ABC Networking but I got nothing from it so it was a waste of time”. We probably all know people like that and they all have a reputation that precedes them as being ones to avoid as they suck all the energy out of you. It doesn’t make them bad people, it just means their brand is working against them.
Nowadays most networking events cultivate the getting-to-know-people concept rather than pitching at each other. This way you get to find common ground, get to know, like and trust each other and create an impression of a business owner the other person might just want to do business with. When you go your separate ways and they tell others about you, what you do and how professional, personable and helpful you are; that’s your brand working for you in a very positive way.
Social Media is excellent for propagating your personal brand as it’s really just online networking. With its many facets and multiple styles there really is a channel for everyone but you do need to exercise a modicum of caution and think about what you post before you post it. Why? Because people will re-tweet/re-post/like/share your content, and why they do this is largely a reflection of what they think of you, how much they respect you and because they want to be associated with you, even in a small way. The association is key because it’s implied by the very nature of sharing, so the better your reputation the more influence you have and the more people will interact with your posts.
This is exactly how big brands work. They want you to continue to engage with them whether or not you’re actually there or using them at any given moment.
How do you feel when you think about global brands such as Amazon, Coca Cola, Marks & Spencer, McDonalds, Disney, John Lewis, Lidl, British Airways, Children in Need, Nike, the RSPCA and so-on? They each evoke a feeling or emotional response and, in some cases, a positive action.
When we hear really negative stories of someone’s experience of a shop or service we’ve previously had nothing but praise for, our view of the shop or service may be changed. However, if the brand is strong enough and they’ve made a big enough impression, our view doesn’t change because we want to believe that our view of the brand, the way we’ve bought into it, is the ‘right’ one and the story we’ve heard is just a one-off, unfortunate occurrence.
Think of the heavy-hitters who impact our lives in one way or another; Alan Sugar, Gaddafi, George W Bush, Coco The Clown (I didn’t mean to put those two together, honest), David Cameron, Diana Spencer, Hitler, Justin Bieber, Winston Churchill, David Beckham, Nick Griffin and so on. They each create an emotional response in us because we like or dislike; agree or disagree with, relate to or disassociate ourselves from each of them. They each have, or are, a brand and the more popular ones have a more consistent and generally accepted brand, good or bad.
In case you haven’t realised it yet, the very same applies to you. You create an emotional and sometimes physical response in the people you come into contact with. It’s even possible to create a response in someone who doesn’t know you and has never met you, just because of your reputation. That’s your brand at work and, if you’re in business, you need to pay close attention to it constantly.
Remember though, it’s still not all about you, you, you. How your brand develops will be determined by how you engage with others, what you ‘like’ or ‘share’ or ‘re-tweet’ or comment on; the people you include in your ‘circles’ or ‘tag’ in pictures; the people you connect with; the people you support and promote. So, the very next time you go to do something that directly interacts with someone else, think… will this help my personal brand to work for me or against me?