Building a High Impact Personal Brand

Personal Brand_Images.jpg

Intro by Jessica Hill, Article by Dr. Michael R. Burcham 

The other day, Michael Burcham asked me to work on a new design. The task was to create an ad for the EC that would run next to an article about "Personal Branding". I am always up for a good challenge, but this topic seemed intangible to me. In other words, I couldn't get a clear visual image in my head of what a "Personal Brand" would look like in a design. 

Michael's quote I used in my final design.

I emailed Michael and told him that I was struggling with the concept a bit. He wrote back "Here's a copy of my article. You might glean something from it."

Images taken by Johnathan Jones here at the EC. This is what I see each day around me... people who are finding their

After I read it, the visual elements appeared in my head. As I looked around, I saw that our "personal brand" was reflected in all the people around me. Everyone in the building seems to be finding their "authentic self". There aren't a lot of places that truly encourage that. Quite the opposite, really. Long ago, I worked at a corporate office as an in-house designer. I was required to wear shoes with heels and dress slacks 5 days a week. Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I was not comfortable. I didn't feel like myself at all and my work wasn't as as great as it should have been. 

I think that being in this environment at the EC has really helped me develop my personal brand, even when I wasn't aware of it. I feel like I can be myself here, which really allows me to focus on the work. I can ask questions, wear clothes I am comfortable in, work hours that are best for me, and get support and feedback from an amazing team of colleagues. Because of that, I have grown leaps and bounds as a designer in a short amount of time. And each day, I can't wait to learn more.   

I asked Michael if I could share his article because it really helped me clearly define "Personal Brand", and what that meant to me. I think it might help a lot of other folks, too.  Read on and maybe it will have the same impact on you that it had on me. 

Building a High Impact Personal Brand, Dr. Michael R. Burcham

One of the most important things you can work on today is figuring out who you (really) are, what you are passionate about, and how this should influence (and build) your personal brand and reputation. You should constantly build and nurture your personal brand – it is the one think that will allow you to make the jump from one pursuit to the next. Today, you’re not really judged by your resume – but by what you’ve done and the individuals you know. Your personal brand encapsulates both of these. 

Whether you realize it or not, you already have your own individual brand. This brand is the combination of your physical appearance, your digital and online presence, your conversations, relationships and behaviors. The mixture of these elements leads to a uniquely distinguishable (and hopefully memorable) impression or brand. 

Your personal brand is what you stand for – the values, abilities and actions that others associate with you. It impacts how you are perceived before anyone ever meets you. It solidifies the “first impression” others have of you. Your personal brand tells others what they can expect when they deal with you. Already, others recognize your name, the work you do and what you’re all about. Their “read” on you may not be the brand you desire – but it’s likely an honest reflection of the brand you actually have.

Now let’s get to the point – are you creating your personal brand or are you simply being “branded” by your behaviors?

Individuals who thoughtfully consider how they wish to be seen are quite capable of intentionally creating and living their personal brands. Others seem to simply become “branded” by their behaviors. 

“Be yourself because everyone else is already taken” - Oscar Widle

Building Your Personal Brand

All strong brands are based in what is true and authentic. Your personal brand will disintegrate if it is not build on characteristics that are authenticity you. Moreover, you’ll also be worn out – it’s exhausting to be inauthentic. If you’re wearing a mask and trying to be something you’re not, you’re also quite likely to be viewed as shallow or even worse – a fraud.

New employers will “Google” you before they even invite you to an interview. Your current employer probably has an eye on what you’re doing too. When you interact with people, both online and offline, they build and image of who you are and what you stand for over time. You have the ability to control your brand – but you have to actively chose to manage your brand. It doesn’t just happen.

Now lets work though a few simple steps to help you think about yourself as a brand.

Step 1: Take Inventory of Your Current Brand

The first step in creating a memorable personal brand is to reflect on the elements that make YOU authentic. In taking some personal inventory, take a long look in the mirror and consider these questions:

• What are your strengths; what do you do better than anyone else?
• What are your core values; the principles by which you choose to live your
• What are others frequently praising you or complimenting you for?
• What type of advice do others come to you for?
• What makes the way you achieve results unique?
• What are your passions; what gives you energy?

Now that you’ve answered these questions for yourself – it’s time for a bit of truth serum. Go ask 10 people (colleagues, customers, friends) how they see you. Ask each of them the same questions. Compare how you thought of yourself to how others actually see you (their perception is your reality). 

Step 2: Decide How You Wish to be Known

The key to a powerful brand is become single minded. Instead of trying to be all things to all people, determine what is the one key personal attribute that - if you were known for it industry wide - would be a game changer for you and your career. It may be your reliability or your perseverance, your attention to detail or your strategic thinking skills. 

Think broadly about your personality and how it affects the experience someone will have with you. Are you incredibly organized? Do people love your sense of humor? As you think about these, make a list of the words that best describe some of these key personal attributes – then narrow your choice to the one or two that leverages an authentic strength.

Try to focus on one key trait to get started. This alone will put you way ahead of most everyone else.

Step 3: Choose to Become World Class at One Thing

Write down what it would take to be the best in the world at one thing (hopefully choosing something your already considered “good” at doing). Consider these questions as you work thought this trait:

• How would you need to behave?
• What additional things do you need to learn?
• How do you dress for the part?
• How would you need to change your routine (or develop new habits) to become the living embodiment of that trait? 

Spend time developing your answer in detail. The more thoroughly you address these questions, the more likely you are to develop a truly memorable, authentic personal brand.

Once you choose, remember that true masterly of any field – to be truly world class – will take 1,000’s of hours. Every hour you spend becoming better at that one thing, the closer to “world class” you become. 

Step 4: Build Your Transformation Map

After you’ve done steps 1, 2 and 3 – you will have a list of personal brand to do’s. Now work on executing that list by setting yourself weekly and monthly tasks to help you manifest your key personal attribute and the one thing you wish to be world class at doing. Personal brands can be quickly developed if you are systematic in developing yourself. 

Develop your “brand mantra” – the foundation of your personal brand efforts. This is the heart and soul of your brand; a simple, memorable statement describing who you are and what you have to offer. 

Develop a memorable “elevator speech” – the one minute story you tell about yourself and your work that will create a lasting impression to those that hear the story. Reinforce this message with an updated resume, your LinkedIn profile, and your Facebook page. Build your own “tag line” for all your social media.

Look for brand role models in your industry and other industries. Identify individuals who have developed the type of personal brand you aspire to create. Study them. Meet them. Engage them. 

Step 5: Execute Your Plan 

People with strong brands are clear about who they are. They know and maximize their strengths. They get feedback from others to validate how others experience them.

Once you have your personal brand strategy plan developed, be consistent. Incorporate your brand into your psyche. The best way to build your personal brand is to propagate it consistently, protecting the integrity of your brand message (your mantra). Reflect your brand message every time you tweet, post, pitch, interact, lead or speak publically. Just like a magnifying glass intensifies an image, a well-managed personal brand elevates your impact.

Some of the ways you have the ability to maximize your brand’s impact is to think about these three dimensions of engagement – 1) the brand message you send before someone meets you, 2) the brand message you send when interacting with others, and 3) the brand message you send after an interaction.

1. Your Brand Message Before Someone Meets You. Think about how people learn about you before they meet you. Most likely, they ask their friends. When the friend describes you, they’ll share what’s unique about you and fascinating about you – if they know it. They will seek you out online. They look for photos and images. They read social media posts. They review your blog. They look at your website. They judge you by the professionalism of your emails. From their own point of view they may judge them as concise, responsive, professional, and insightful, or wordy, insensitive, and unintelligent. Your image is impacted by your choice of words. Knowing this, evaluate all these opportunities to establish your brand identity prior to a meeting.

2. Your Brand Message During an Interaction. Your parents were correct, it does matter what you wear. The first thing others notice is your face and what you are wearing. Your face is your trademark. Is your trademark scowling or inviting? Intimidating or welcoming? Dress, is the one area that we have the most control when affecting perceptions. What kind of suit do you wear? Or, do you wear flip-flops and kakis? There is no right answer, but the choice of your clothing defines your brand. Also think about your curb appeal: your pen, your phone and your voice. Everything matters. 

3. The Brand Message You Send After an Interaction. In building your personal brand, it is essential to follow-up when you say you will. This keeps the brand value at an even playing field. To increase your brand value, you might even consider strategies; such as beating deadlines and doing something more than what is expected. People notice when you remember the “little things” – birthdays, anniversaries, important personal milestones. Consider writing personal thank you notes to the VIPs in your personal brand space.

Summary: Your personal brand is communicated every time you interact with another individual. Every conversation, tweet, email, and Facebook post communicates important information about who we are and what we value. Our appearance, punctuality, grammar and courteousness are signals of how we wish to be viewed. Our brand is the collective what we do, what we wear, what we say and how we behave. It is our consistent self – and we communicate our personal brand every day, all the time.