Marketing Your Own Personal Brand
Understanding Your Personal Brand
An organisation’s brand is supposed to encapsulate its core values. And the same is true of your personal brand. This doesn’t mean you have to spend all day every day marketing yourself, but it does mean that it’s a good idea to know how you appear to the world around. Understanding your personal brand can help you influence your professional journey and your reputation. You have a brand whether you like it or not. So why not take control of it…
David Pickton has described a brand as the accumulative expression of all the collated activities undertaken by the owner of the brand and the experiences of the person using the brand. So as well as a company’s actual activities (marketing, finance, advertising, procurement, promotion), this definition also includes what the world thinks of you / your company. In other words, it’s not necessarily in your power to dictate your brand, however thoughtfully you try to mould it.
But that doesn’t stop us trying our best! And if we’re imagining how individual people (like you) might see themselves as brands, then of course the most vivid examples are celebrities. Here, we see abstract ideals – like strength, generosity, good humour and burning ambition – played out through an individual’s actions. Yes, these people have extraordinarily wealth and resources for making their own brands visible, but the basic principle is the same for you or me – our actions and attitudes become our brands.
Big businesses, as well all know, have full-time teams of marketing experts who manage and direct all the intricate components of a brand. But that’s not the only way. (This leading agency, for example, actually specialise in providing part-time marketing consultancy.) Taking a step back and reflecting on your core values can be a hugely effective – and very cheap! – branding exercise.
The Value of Values
If a brand is supposed to embody and express a set of values, it’s worth dwelling a little on the question of what we even mean when we refer to a value. Marketing expert Michael Solomon offers a useful distinction between attitudes (which are specific to a situation) and values, which transcend a given time or place. For example, I might take a dim view of the casual misogynist in the office (attitude), while I fundamentally believe in the need for progressive sexual politics (value). In business terms, a value can’t just be the fact that you offer friendly customer service – it needs to run deeper than that.
To help work out what these values might be, we can turn to another useful distinction – this time provided by pioneering social psychologist Milton Rokeach. Rokeach famously proposed that our values can be divided between two categories: terminal and instrumental. Terminal values describe where we want to be (a ‘desired end state’), and instrumental values refer to how we might get there. This table gives you some idea of the relationship between the two – and as you’ll see, some of the connections are less obvious than others.
Sketching out a Journey
One of the things this model provides for us is a reminder than values (and branding) are not just empty concepts, but are actual signposts on our career path. So when thinking about what your terminal values might be, you may want to envision yourself in around five years’ time. Perhaps you’d like to be well paid, in a successful and challenging job, and still in contact with childhood friends. Translated into terminal values, these could be described as a comfortable life, social recognition and wisdom. And ‘working backwards’, to support and achieve these, the instrumental values you embrace would be intellectual endeavour, independence and ambition.
The ‘means-end chain model’, more informally known as laddering, can help you understand how your instrumental values in a business context can effectively develop – and achieve – your terminal values. Furthermore, it may help you depict what sets you apart from a competing brand (such as another potential employee). Here’s another diagram to see how that looks, this time illustrating a consultant’s career path:
Into the Job Market
Potential employers and clients, like shoppers in a supermarket, weigh up their options and choose from a set of alternatives. Now you’ve got a better idea of which values will guide your personal brand, the next challenge is how to help that brand stand out as the most appealing (and perhaps the most distinctive) option. An excellent CV is still a crucial asset, but we all need to be more creative these days with the channels we use.
Part of this involves staying active (and responsible!) on social media. What’s even better than a great Linked In account? A great, and continuously updated, Linked In account. Don’t undersell yourself by missing out key achievements or impressive contacts. And in the constant effort to stay visible and appealing online, don’t ignore more traditional methods; if you’re branding yourself as a confident communicator, why not prove it with a follow-up phone call?
Back to the supermarket: shoppers are attracted to low-risk prospects. And so are employers. So can you draw attention to the fact that you’re a safe pair of hands? If you’re healthy, well turned out, efficient and personable, these qualities matter to employers as evidence that you’re not a risk. Draw attention to them. Make them part of your brand.
These days, it’s easy to be cynical about the idea of branding having anything to do with a value system. But if you ask your friends and family to describe your brand, they’ll probably use words that chime very closely with your values as a person. When it comes to creating a professional brand, that’s what you have to build on. Be yourself – but be savvy about being yourself.
Lauren Dickson is Digital Marketing Executive for GWS Media – a UK, Bristol based agency. Lauren works on SEO, Social Media Marketing for a variety of B2B clients.