When I use the phrase “Self-Branding” many people give me a confused, but intrigued look. Self or personal branding isn’t actually a new idea in marketing, but I feel a dying art especially with the ease of access to information about people. This subject comes up so early in my blog timeline because I truly believe great impact starts with oneself. Everything starts with YOU and the brand you have established. Whether someone is a business owner, employee, student, or unemployed, Self-Branding is essential. The initial impact you have on others will dictate interactions, judgments, and essentially whether someone wants to work with you or not. It is a nice idea that we could all live in a world where people don’t judge us based on our appearances. Decades of social psychological research has looked at to what degree these judgments are nature vs. nurture and the debate continues. What we do know, however; is that people will judge us based on our physical appearance, actions in public, confidence level, communication style, etc.
I cannot tell individuals what their overall identity should be, but I will tell them time and time again to figure it out. Once people establish their desired identity, I can help them figure out the elements that would help establish that identity as their Self-Brand. Pick a role you’d like to be in in your future, or focus on the one that you are already in, and act accordingly. It helps me to choose someone further along in their career to use as an example. True leaders lead by example and can provide great guidance. A little over a year and half ago now, when I had very little to my name, I wanted to be an executive and/or a respected business owner. I started to dress, act, and associate with the types of people I wanted to be. In my experience, highly successful people love sharing their stories and want to help others become successful as well (being ready to listen at all times is also important). Every time I left the house I thought strategically about how I wanted to market myself that day. After a first introduction (which may just be walking in the door of a crowded room), I am most likely to remember what someone is wearing, whether they have shaved/brushed their hair that day, and how they are communicating. If all these things check out for the given context and they had a significant presence, I will make a point of meeting them and remembering their name. These things have an impact!
Self-Branding isn’t just about how you look, it is also about where you go, who you associate with, and how you act in public. Do not forget, social media is a very PUBLIC endeavor as well. I regularly google myself to make sure my brand is transferring well to online sources. I AM NOT saying people should give up who they are entirely, but I am suggesting considering your appearance and actions very strongly. I am an incredibly goofy person who has an incredibly strong sense of humor fueled by sarcasm and a myriad of life experiences. I will never give that up, but I have been successful at making it work for my brand.
Here are examples of the elements of the image I work to convey via my Self-Brand:
Business Owner/Marketing Professional
Classic style with modern flair (I am known for my heels & dresses, but rarely wear make-up)
My life revolves around being healthy and active
Educated, world traveler, a thinker, and well spoken
Confident & Charming - After a lot of feedback, charming is not the right word (and has elements of manipulation for many which is not at all part of my identity), it shall be replaced with Genuine
Preferred Petaluma social spots: La Dolce Vita Wine Lounge, Seared, Pub Republic, Cucina Paradiso (to name a few – I think you get the picture and if you are not from the area, google these places to get the picture!)
Government agency administrator & active volunteer/donor
Positive Impact & #ExcessivelyHappy
A squeaky clean record
My grandpa always says that somehow success just comes to you when you simply think and act like a successful person. This was his experience and has also been mine. People, for whatever reason, have more respect and pay closer attention to someone who is well put together and has established a cohesive Self-Brand. Once your brand is established you must also put it out there. I hear constantly from my peers that local groups/organizations are cliquey or hard to get into to. My response will always be, welcome to adult life. If you want people to know who you are or if you want to make friends, you must put yourself out there. For heaven's sake PUT YOUR CELL PHONE DOWN. What is the point of going out if you sit on your cell phone the whole time? Why would anyone want to come talk to you if you are so engrossed in what is going on in that little box as apposed to what is going on all around you? If you want to talk to the person you are texting all night so bad, then go hang out with them! When I feel anti-social (which isn't often), I don't leave the house and I cut off communication because I would hate to alienate someone based on my momentary bad attitude!
When speaking with various entrepreneurs, executives, and other highly successful people of all ages, they all allude, in some way, to a time when they had to “fake it till they made it,” “Pay it forward,” or “dress for success.” Think, act, and dress like a winner and you will become a winner (with a healthy amount of work and discipline). It does not matter what your career aspirations are, but having a Self-Brand that is marketable in your field can help optimize success. Politicians, successful sales people, and celebrities understand this concept well as they know they are under scrutiny at all times. I will suggest that social media and the ease of access to information has created a world where we are all under scrutiny at all times. Your self-branding does not stop when you leave the office! I realize people know all that I have said here, but even I need a reminder sometimes to pay closer attention to my Self-Brand.
Always aim high