Personal branding. What exactly does that mean and how can individuals and the organizations they represent benefit from have a strong personal brand?
To get some answers, I recently spoke to Jennifer Holloway who makes a living out of encouraging people in business to blow their own trumpet.
Why is personal branding beneficial to organizations?
"A lot of organizations shy away from letting their staff have their own brands and be individuals, and I think that's a rather short-sighted because actually, if you can allow your staff to have a brand, to get known in the market, to have connections, have networks that they can really work, that's going to enable them to do their job better. If a problem comes up or they need an answer to something, having got themselves out there, raised their profile and made this network, they're much more resourceful than they might be if they just have to sit at their desk and nobody knows who they are.
And it doesn't even have to be a network outside of an organization. Using your brand to raise your profile within an organization, and people getting to know each other better, knowing exactly what your strengths are, thinking, "Oh, great. I'll go to you the next time I need X, Y, and Z." For an organization, that has to be beneficial."
Could strong personal brands be dangerous for companies?
"Well, if someone is out for themselves, they're out for themselves. Organizations can sometimes be scared of people with strong brands, thinking, "We don't want anyone to really stand out. We don't want anyone to have their own personality." In fact, actually, years ago, someone said to me about one of the main consulting companies - I won't name them, but they worked over there for over 20 years - and they said, "You're not allowed to be individual. You have to be a clone that represents that organization in the outside world."
So that's fine, and if you're that sort of person, if that doesn't bother you, you'll love working for that organization. But I think they're missing a trick because actually, organizations can benefit from someone with a strong brand, with a high profile, with a good network, because they're the people who have eyes on them. The business can flow in through them. So there's a plus and there's a minus to it, though, because if they leave, you could end up high and dry."
What are the steps to implementing personal branding?
"Whether I'm working with people on their brand within an organization - sometimes it's at graduate levels, sometimes it's at, as you say, talent levels, sometimes at exec level - the steps that I take people through are exactly the same.
The first step is defining the brand because - getting that clarity, really understanding in-depth the who and the what that you're putting in the package needs to be the first part. So that's very important - I've actually had the feedback from people, saying, "Wow, they came out with a lot more confidence", so just understanding yourself is quite a nice thing.
The second thing I do is I get people to check their brand - by which I mean to get some feedback and find out if how they've perceived themselves in step one is how other people are seeing them. And I find this can be a real 'wake up and smell the coffee' moment, particularly when I work with people one-to-one and that rapport is very in-depth. Often where organizations have benefited is maybe they've had someone who hasn't realized the negative impact they've been creating, and the real payback for the company is that person has suddenly gone, "Oh, okay. Now I see it," which is very important. On the whole, though, people actually get complete confidence based from the feedback because people are reiterating that yes, what you think is good is what we think is good.
And then the third step is always how do people promote their brands. Now, depending on what my clients are telling me about the audience in front of me, that will be tailored to maybe at graduate level, the real basics of how you look - things like timekeeping, things like the language in your emails. At the talent level, it's a bit more about getting out there as leaders, getting more buy-in. And then at an executive level, it's very much understanding impact, how they come across, and how to improve that."