Personal Branding – Why is it So Important?

Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a group of people from a large accounting and tax consultancy firm. They were reading The 10Ks of Personal Branding: (K)reate a Better You, authored by Kaplan Mobray. They sent me a copy before the meeting and wanted me to talk about the book and personal branding in general.

Personal Branding is one of those topics that I really love to both delve into, discuss and teach. So many people are talking about social networking or the buzz of Twitter and Facebook, but to me those are just the communication and relationship-building methods. Maybe that’s why Kaplan only devoted a couple of pages of his nearly 200-page book to social media.

What lies underneath and what must come before is figuring out who you are – as an individual or small business owner – before you put yourself out there. So many people want to market themselves before figuring out how to articulate their strengths and what they want to be best known for. What they’re all about. Who they serve. Why they do what they do. What’s their mission in life. What legacy do they want to live, and leave for others.

I was listening to business advisor and author, Brett Harward, last week who had studied about both universal laws as well as probability statistics prior to writing his book, The 5 Laws That Determine All of Life’s Outcomes. He said that the average business spends just two hours in planning mode each year, while the average family spends eight hours each year planning their vacation.

I don’t know what the stats are about how much time the average person spends focusing on developing their personal brand but I’m guessing it isn’t much. Even the group I spoke to last week had a difficult time even reading the book – a couple of people cited that when Kaplan asked them to answer questions about themselves in the book, they stopped reading. Another person stopped reading when they found out there was going to be a speaker. It’s amazing how we humans let ourselves off the hook so easily.

There are three groups of people who I feel should find personal branding extremely valuable:

1. Those already in a fairly comfortable job working for an employer

In his book, Mobray focused heavily on this group, even going so far as to watch for opportunities with senior management in the elevator in the early morning or before/after the peak 2-hour lunch times. And he describes in detail the different personalities in meetings and for you to be careful about which one you are, making sure you have a meeting strategy and that you don’t show up as the dreaded “Question Mark.”

This is also the group that is most oblivious to the fact that they should be building their personal brand and using social networks to make connections while they have a job – because with the job market the way it is, that investment will come in handy if their employer decided to lay them off suddenly. Tons of really great people have been laid off recently but if you’re prepared, you’ll sleep a little easier at night.

We don’t always know what we’re going to be doing in the next five years but if we have a roadmap of where we want to be, then we help create our future rather than let “whatever happen happen” to us. Unfortunately, those people who are working for someone else tend to allow themselves to be identified by their title and the company – true, they do make up their company’s brand – but if they were to find themselves unemployed today, they’d more than likely experience a bit of a wake up call. There are no walls to hide behind when you don’t have the safety of an employer. It’s just you and the rest of the world.

2. Those in Career Transition

These are the many folks right now who are out of work for one reason or another and who are looking for job. Rather than spending so much time with other job seekers in weekly networking meetings, they should be considering it their full-time job to build their personal brand and make it public through social networking. And even be fully considering whether starting their own business would be a viable career option, rather than going for six months or longer without having any income coming in as some people are doing right now.

3. Small Business Owners

Small businesses, whether a one-person shop or several employees, almost always can’t be separated from the owner. The owner is the face in the community, for their customers and he or she often defines the company’s brand. Just like I said in the beginning that the average business owner spends about 2 hours a year planning – I bet he/she spends even less time working on defining their own personal strengths, especially because they (we) tend to wear so many hats.

But just as important as defining a company’s brand, the owner needs to define their own. Sometimes people are so engrossed in the business’s daily operations that they don’t think through an exit strategy or what they’ll do next if they ever want to sell the business. In addition, having the owner define their own brand provides options and opportunities to the business that may not have been achieved any other way. For example, many business owners get speaking gigs but don’t have a strategy for that effort. While it’s nice to get the experience and exposure speaking in front of groups, does the time invested net out opportunities? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

To me, this is all part of that business’s brand. What are the topics that business owner is uniquely qualified to speak about? What are the topics that are most likely to get that combined brand (the business and the business owner) in front of the right people who will be able to provide the most or best leads? A personal brand strategy is often a sales strategy, but the brand definition has to come first.

So what about your brand? Do you fit in one of the categories above? Have you been consistently working on BRAND YOU? Or are you going to stop reading the book when Kaplan poses the first probing question you’ll have to answer about yourself?

A few of you will take the next step – perhaps buy Kaplan’s book or start a personal development journal and/or a blog. And a few of you will go so far as to put together your personal brand team which might consist of someone like myself, a life or business/career coach, an image consultant, a speech and/or voice coach, and others as needed depending on your goals.

If you’d like help in taking the next step, putting your personal brand team together – or if you would like us to speak at your next event, please call our office at 804.777.9940. We’ll be glad to help.

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