You are your own brand
Everyone has a brand
People are brand aware, you and me are no exception. We are aware of the brands we use, the brands our friends and family use. We follow brands, stand by brands and even stand-up for brands. However, there is one brand that we often overlook – our Personal Brand. Yes, you do have a brand, in fact you are your own brand whether you like it or not. Some people may be more familiar with the term reputation; however, reputation is only a part of our personal brand.
We have carried our own personal brand since our birth, we may have been known as ‘the smart one’, ‘the hyperactive kid’, these brands were given to us by our parents, siblings, relatives and we were unaware that we were being ‘branded’ based on our behavior and personality by others. We Xennials were a bit more fortunate as our personal brand was limited to our social circles and this means that the need to manage our brands when we were in school all that much easier, all we had to do was to watch our behavior, speech, physical appearance and the friends we associate with. The modern day kid faces a different challenge in managing their personal brands with the availability of the Internet and social networks, all the digital foot prints we leave on the Internet today will inadvertently determine our personal brand in the very near future if not immediately. I will get into managing our brands in a future article, for now I would like to touch on the importance of being aware of and understanding why we need to manage it.
Why is your brand important?
Now that we are aware that each of us has a personal brand, you may be asking why would it be important for us to manage it? It depends what you want out of life, if you do not care how the world sees you, then you can stop reading and be about doing something more beneficial of your time. This would also mean that you do not care about your career growth or if you are running your own business, do not care about growing your business. Why you ask? How is my career related to my brand? The fact is everything is related to your personal brand, did you know that people form opinions of us in the first 30 seconds of meeting us.
“The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to sppear.” – Socrates
Think of it this way, would you go to a job interview in a tshirt and shorts with slip-ons? Of course, you wouldn’t, as this would project us in a very unprofessional manner. Another example is how we usually dress when we go out with friends, how we dress will lead people to recognize us as a certain kind of character such as a professional, casual fun loving person or a sporty individual. In short, we determine what others think of us, as such it is much better for us to be purposeful in presenting ourselves in the way that we want others to perceive us rather than leaving it to chance.
This applies to all ages and stages in our lives, if someone is known as a liar, it is because he is used to lying. If you want people to know you as a helpful person, then it would be in your best interest to extend help whenever and wherever possible. Whether we represent an organization, university, school or even our most basic representation, family, we carry with us a responsibility not only to ourselves but to the body we represent. If it is for this reason only, then we should be aware of our personal brand and how it affects not only us, but the people around us.
The risks of brand mismanagement
Living in the information age currently puts us at an even bigger risk of damaging our personal brand, even if it was unintentional. We may post photos of ourselves having fun at a pub with friends, it may seem harmless to us. However if the photo showed us in a drunken state, what do you think people will think of us. People will look us up before meeting us, what more if we were going for an interview or important business meeting and our client or hiring manager decides to ‘check us out’ prior to the meeting. They may stumble upon the unflattering photo of us on social media and immediately form an impression of us before even meeting us. This may seem unfair, but the truth of the fact is we all do this, we see a guy surrounded by female friends and we instantly form the impression that this guy must be a playboy. Research shows that 52 percent of decision makers spend their time researching the person whom they will be doing business with and 48 percent on the company.
Prior to the Internet age, we could easily influence people based on our speech and behavior. Now our reputation is very much influenced by the past, present and future as our digital footprints are easy to upload but very difficult to remove. As such, do not be surprised if someone you are meeting already knows more about you before even your self-introduction. This is a true representation of the saying “Your reputation (brand) precedes you”.
As you may realize now, the stakes are high with our personal brands. However, it can also be an opportunity for us if we manage and build our brand properly. We need to tell others what to think about us, doing so will open opportunities for us which we might not even anticipate. Have you ever had someone you are meeting for the first time tell you that they’ve heard about how good you are at doing something. That’s your brand at work, your brand agents (friends, family, peers) would be ‘promoting’ you without your knowledge. As such you may find that sometimes, despite our best efforts to control how others think about us, there may still be unintended consequences. We can only influence how others see us but we can’t control their opinions of us.
Avoid misunderstandings and misguided advice
When things don’t turn out the way we expected it to, we may hear people advising us to ‘Just be yourself’. Instead of just being ourselves, may I suggest that we should be our best self and always remember our brand.
Lastly, I’d like to bring your attention to what Personal Branding isn’t. It is not:
- Just for celebrities and important people – we common folk too have an image to preserve.
- A sign of self-absorption and selfishness – we want our personal brands to be goal-serving and not self-serving. Our personal brand may lead us to career success or closing more business deals, or even help us find the love of our lives.
- Meant to manipulate others – we should strive to represent ourselves the best we can and putting our best foot forward is not manipulative at all!
- A form of lying – we should not lie about ourselves, instead show the world your best self with clarity and purpose.
I hope this article has opened your eyes and raised your awareness of the brand that we carry with us daily. I will be talking more about defining your own brand in the next post, do stay tuned to learn more about branding yourself with a purpose.
Until then, do leave your thoughts on personal brands and what are your experiences you have had in managing your reputation and techniques you have used to give others the best impression of yourself.