“Why focus on building your personal brand?”
This was the first question that Elana Anderson, Chief Marketing Officer at Veracode, asked during her presentation Plotting the Course for Your Personal Brand at the recent Executive Women’s Forum (EWF). Anderson, a lifelong student of marketing, and a former analyst at Forrester Research, has a deep understanding of the importance of both corporate and personal brands and the steps necessary to both build and maintain a brand.
To help the viewers grasp the impact that a brand can have on your image, Anderson used a series of words or phrases and asked the audience to guess the well-known women she described. Starting with “humble, holy, self-less, and devoted,” do you think you know who that is? The audience guessed Mother Teresa almost instantaneously. The next one was a bit more challenging: “Powerful, ultra-competitive, willing to take a stand, bold style.” Most guessed the correct answer, Serena Williams.
Anderson described the last woman using two very different sets of adjectives: “Disney, tween idol, sunshine and rainbows, wholesome” and “rebellious, provocative, radical transformation, happy hippie.” The answer – of course – is Miley Cyrus. It’s quite amazing that two seemingly opposite brand descriptions describe one person. Anderson pointed out that, while there were certainly some excesses of youth along the way, Miley’s brand transformation also illustrates a bit of purposeful genius. And, it is also a great illustration of how important it is to take control of your own narrative. Whatever you might think about Miley, there is no question that she has transformed her brand from Disney tween idol to independent woman and musician who cannot be taken for granted.
Ready to build out your personal brand? There are steps you can take, starting with defining your purpose:
- Purpose: Before you can start defining the actions of your personal brand, you need to figure out the end goal for your brand. As Elana stated, “What is it that you’re trying to achieve? Are you trying to seek growth and upward mobility at your job? Are you seeking to drive momentum for your own business? Maybe you’re trying to develop your personal persona and network and become a market influencer.”
- Core values: Think about what really matters to you. What do you stand for as an individual?
- Strengths: What are the core strengths that set you apart from your peers? Try to think outside the box about what makes you unique.
- Skills: Your skills should be broader than your strengths. Consider both the hard (writing, public speaking) and soft skills (good listener, timely) that you have to support your brand purpose. Looking at past performance reviews can be very helpful in determining your skills. You’ll be able to see what others define as your top hard and soft skills.
- Proof points: Your value, strengths, and skills shouldn’t just be “perceived,” you should have evidence to support these attributes.
- Core brand artifacts: Not everyone has artifacts when they’re in the early stage of establishing a brand, but think about any articles or academic papers you have written, any videos or webinars that you have participated in, or a blog or website, that can support your brand.
- Brand personality and tone: This all ties back to your purpose. How do you want your brand to be perceived? If you’re trying to become an influencer, you might want a more playful and fun tone. If you’re looking for career advancement, you might opt for a more formal, thought-leader tone.
Anderson then explained that work doesn’t end after you build out your brand. You have to establish a plan to introduce your new brand. Google yourself to see what your current brand looks like, then start working on establishing your brand via social media, speaking engagements, articles, etc.
Once you start integrating your new brand, continuously measure your outcomes and solicit feedback from trusted colleagues. Is your brand coming across how you envisioned? “Be patient. It does take work and it does take time [to build a brand], but it can be well worth it for building your career,” Elana concluded.
These steps not only work for a personal brand but can also be modified to help define your corporate brand. Instead of thinking about yourself and your purpose, think about your organization and its intended mission. From there, list out the benefits of your brand, reasons to believe in your brand, proof points, the core buyer, growth potential, and the tone that best aligns with your goals. Like a personal brand, you should solicit feedback on your brand perception and lean into social platforms or events.