Developing a Professional Brand
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What is a Personal Brand?
If you are familiar with marketing, you know that Brand is a cornerstone concept.
The American Marketing Association defines a brand as, “
[A] name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's goods or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”
Obviously, this definition is relevant to a business, but it lends itself well to understanding what is a personal brand.
Your brand identifies you from others. That is, it is how others view you.
Some ways to think of your brand include:
- If asked to identify one thing about you, what would other people say.
- How would you describe this person?
You personal brand might include your characteristics such as: disposition, attitude, personality, intellect, sense of humor, ethics, work ethic, sensitivity, confidence, etc.
What is Your Professional Brand?
A professional brand is how others perceive you within your career field.
Your professional brand can be distinct from or a subset of your personal brand.
Your professional brand takes on many of your personal characteristics, including those that are relevant to how you comport yourself, interact with others, knowledge or acuity, and work activities/product in the business environment.
What Builds or Creates a Brand?
Building a brand starts with making a common impression among others. It is a combination of exposure and consistency.
Your impression with others is a result of exposure. The nature and extent of your exposure may vary considerably.
Exposure may take the following forms:
- Physical Interaction
- Third-Party Communications
- Second-Hand Information
- Actions/Efforts and Results
The next element of establishing your personal brand is consistency.
The level or consistency of your exposure might include the similarity between instances of exposure.
Notably, your personal brand begins with your first impression on others.
We tend to form an impression of a person’s characteristics (thus contributing a foundation to their brand) upon first meeting them.
Research shows that this foundation is very difficult to change once established.
This is true whether the first impression is positive or negative.
Each time we have physical interaction with someone, that interaction contributes to our understanding of their characteristics and reinforces our interpretation of their brand.
When we communicate with or receive communications from others about a person, those third-party impressions help to reinforce the brand we attribute to that person.
All second-hand information is indirect information that we receive about someone. That is, it’s information that does not come directly to use from a third party. It is passive in nature.
When we read information or hear things about another person (even if that information is only secondary in nature or indirect), we attribute that information to the person’s brand.
For example, a politician may give speeches, create advertisements, and arrange photo opportunities - all with the purpose of influencing our recognition of their brands.
The regularity with which we are exposed to this third-party information will affect our interpretation of the person’s brand.
Lastly, the consistency with which a person acts or the result or outcome of their efforts will affect how we see them and their personal and professional brand.
How Can You Establish a Professional Brand?
As discussed above, you will need to control what personal and professional characteristics are exposed to others.
Further, you will have to manage the consistency with which those characteristics are exposed.
Of course, there are concerted ways of managing the consistency of exposure. That is, you can take any number of actions to make certain that the interactions and information that others receive about you are consistent.
This may mean doing the following:
Setting standards and practicing how you interact with others. Standards might include: tone, genuineness (openness), level of engagement/interest, demonstration of empathy, etc.
Limiting the information or type of content you convey to others. This might include actively managing the information you put out and the information others put out about you. For more on this, take a look at our material on managing your social media profiles professionally.
Lastly, you can set standards for the activities you undertake and the quality/effect of the results of your activities. That is, how hard you work, the types of work you do, the quality of that work, and the effect of that work on others is a strong component of developing your personal brand.
What are Some Daily Activities that Contribute to Your Brand?
Take a look at our articles on the specific activities that work to establish your brand:
- Communication and Body Language
- Personal Conversations
- Starting Your Day
- Dress & Office Appearance
- In-Person Meetings
- Email and Telephone Etiquette
- Personal Space and Common Areas
- Office Visitors
- Business Meals