5 Steps to Building Your Personal Leadership Brand

By Karen Morton, speaker and trainer on Personal Branding.

Do you know what your reputation is? Do you know what the reply to the frequently asked question ‘Do you know this person? What’s he/she like?’ is? As humans we have an innate desire to know the answer to this question. But do we take action to find out the answer? I want to share with you the top 5 steps I recommend you take to understand, define, own and manage your Personal Brand, steps that will add significant value to you as a leader.

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Personal Branding, a current buzz word, is essentially your reputation. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and currently the 2nd richest man in the world coined it perfectly when he said: ‘A Brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room’.

Wouldn’t we like to be a fly on the wall in that room? That may not happen but we can definitely take steps to understand, define, own and manage our Personal Brand. Nobody else is going to do this for us, don’t we owe it to ourselves to put our best foot forward? As Tom Peters, management guru said: ‘Our most important job is to be head marketer for the Brand called YOU’.

In the digital era we live in, our Personal Brand is easily accessible to Shareholders, Customers, Staff, Recruiters…the list goes on. A Personal Brand is the unique combination of skills and experiences that make you who you are. Understanding your Personal Brand helps you take control of ‘Brand You’ and achieve your goals. Understanding, owning and managing your Personal Brand is hard work, takes time and requires a huge amount of self-awareness, consistency and perseverance.

Follow these 5 Steps to manage ‘Brand You’.

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Step 1: Conduct an Audit of your Personal Brand

As leaders we are very familiar with auditing all aspects of the businesses we run but have we taken time to audit ourselves? You will undoubtedly already have several pieces of the puzzle that makes up your Personal Brand – personality tests like Myers Briggs, 360 degree feedback, staff surveys, customer surveys and more. It’s time to dust these down, piece them together and formulate a plan to fill in the gaps.

A simple exercise I have done and recommend to my Personal Branding clients is to ask 10 stakeholders to list the 5 words that come to mind when they think of you. The 10 stakeholders can be made up of staff, superiors, family, friends, customers etc. The more varied the stakeholder list the better. It’s a fascinating exercise as it highlights consistencies in your Brand and, in my experience, can enhance your Personal Brand. It can also uncover blind spots.

The audit should include a review of what content exists on Google about you as this is the first impression people will have of you.

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Step 2: Define your Personal Brand

Lay out all the pieces of the puzzle you have uncovered from your Personal Brand audit and start to do some soul searching. Is ‘Brand You’ the brand you want to have? Are there gaps? Do you want to be known for something else in order to achieve your future career goals? A great starting point is to think about your mission for your future career and ask yourself if your current reputation can achieve your future career goals.

If you’re unsure what your future career goals are, reflecting on your Top 3 most satisfying accomplishments in your life to date and when you were happiest and most passionate can help to uncover where your true peak performance lies. Your Personal Brand will shine through naturally when you are engaged in something you are passionate about.

During this step also reflect on your core values and what you are really good at. Analyse your desired identity versus your current brand identity, the real work is in taking the necessary actions to develop your Personal Brand to achieve the desired you.  

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Step 3: Inject some heart and soul

Once you have audited and defined your brand it’s time to craft a great Personal Brand Statement. Your Personal Brand Statement is your sales pitch. You will use it on your LinkedIn summary, in opening remarks when speaking, for introductions to new colleagues, when you meet customers and at networking events. It’s needs to be unique – it should crisply and clearly outline how you are different to anyone else and be memorable. According to Marc Schaeffer:

“You need to find a voice, an angle, an approach that’s different from others”

Keep your Personal Brand Statement simple and deliver it consistently. Repetition drives recognition – the more often you deliver your Personal Brand Statement consistently the more likely it will ultimately become your reputation.

As leaders we are guilty of hiding behind a title and portraying a corporate veneer to our Personal Brand. In order to be memorable and to drive an emotional connection we need to be authentic, step out from behind the veneer and reveal aspects of our vulnerable side. Telling personal stories is a great way of doing this. Stories delivered with an emotional connection and passion are memorable and your Personal Brand will live on in the minds of your audience.

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Step 4: Look outside

A Personal Brand and a company brand are deeply intertwined. When you say you work for a particular company an immediate impression of ‘Brand You’ is formed. Many companies have realised the benefit of employees acting as brand ambassadors and advocate staff using social media channels to enhance the company brand particularly on LinkedIn.

The larger the company we work for, the less time we spend interacting with external stakeholders, due to the complexity of internal stakeholder management our time is absorbed in networking internally. This is not beneficial for our Personal Brand. People who do personal branding well invest time in nurturing their external brand.

There are significant benefits to the company of looking outside, including enhanced shareholder value, deeper customer understanding and improved marketplace awareness. Take steps to regularly attend networking events, accept invitations to speak at external events, meet customers regularly or even publish articles in industry press or on LinkedIn, it will benefit ‘Brand You’.

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Step 5: Put your Personal Brand to work

Having completed Steps 1-4 you will now feel renewed confidence and excited to develop an action plan to increase visibility of ‘Brand You’. It’s important that your Personal Brand action plan is achievable so if you only have 1 hour a week to dedicate to it then tailor your plan accordingly. The plan is personal to you and can include elements like:

  • Update LinkedIn Summary and profile
  • Spend 5 minutes a day on LinkedIn – liking, commenting, posting
  • Speak at an external event
  • Attend a networking event quarterly
  • Visit one customer a month
  • Write a Blog for internal/external use to showcase thought leadership
  • Get involved in a charity you feel passionately about

Schedule regular time in your calendar to track your progress on your Personal Brand. You’ll be amazed once you give ‘Brand You’ some time and attention what you can achieve. Remember if you don’t define your Personal Brand, others will.

If you would like to read more about owning your Personal Brand, check out this Irish Times article, where Arklow native Audrey Hendley speaks about her experience in the US, owning what’s different about you and making that part of your personal brand.

About the author

Karen Morton is a speaker and trainer on Personal Branding, an independent Strategic Marketing consultant and Mentor and Non-Executive Director.

Karen is passionate about helping people and organisations to achieve their full potential and has experience working across Multinationals, Start-ups and the Public Service.

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