If I say think of a brand you might reply: Coca Cola, Rolex or Google.
Each has a meaning beyond their product; we know instinctively what they stand for; and they provide an insight into the values of the people who use them:
● Coca Cola is shorthand for having fun with friends and chilling out
● Rolex is a symbol of wealth and superior craftsmanship
● Google says geek power
That’s powerful, right?
But did you know people can be brands too? And with the increasing importance of social media it’s something relevant to us all – especially in relation to our career aspirations.
Take, for example, Britain’s biggest power couple Victoria and David Beckham – aka Brand Beckham.
David’s Personal Brand is, perhaps, more straight forward than his wife’s.
Say David Beckham and you might think: football, style, tattoos, family man, dedicated, friendly
Think Victoria Beckham and you might say: Ex Spice Girl, WAG, mother, fashion, pouty, diet
Even though Victoria has been creating award winning clothes since 2009 it has proved difficult for her to be taken seriously as a fashion designer.
Collaborating with Skype, Victoria released Five Years – The Victoria Beckham Story, as a way to distance herself from her pop star past and WAG tag.
Showcasing her fashion career in a way her target audience could connect with ‘Five Years’ explained how she first found inspiration watching her mum presenting in her professional studio.
We’re all used to Victoria Beckham fashionista but as Victoria Beckham CEO Zach Duane said:
“Once you know the story behind anything it’s more compelling to connect with.”
And that’s the power of the Personal Brand. It can make the difference between being taken seriously in your dream job or dismissed as a wannabe WAG without a second glance.
Here we take a look at how you can Brand it Like Beckham – well, kind of! – and create a Personal Brand your target employers will be keen to connect with.
Why Employers Hire
In the book Brand Thinking marketing guru Seth Godin is quoted as defining a brand as:
“ …[A] stand-in, a euphemism, a short-cut for a whole bunch of expectations, worldview connections, experiences, and promises that a product or service makes, and these allow us to work our way through a world that has 30,000 + brands that we have to make decisions about every day.”
While on the one hand we’re buying a product or service to fulfil a functional promise:
I.e., a car will take you from A to B in the comfort of your own space.
A branded product or service also fulfils an emotional promise:
If you’re looking for safety and reliability you might buy a Volvo, if you’re looking for speed and sex appeal you might go for a Ferrari.
The same goes for people.
Imagine, you’re an employer wading through a mountain of job applications. Once the CVs which don’t fit the job spec have been filtered there’s more probably a pile of CVs with much the same educational achievements, qualifications and skill sets as another.
How do you make an employer notice what you have to offer?
The answer is, of course: provide both the functional and emotional promise implied by a strong brand.
In the case of applying for a new position you would ensure your Personal Brand:
● fulfils its functional promise by addressing how your particular skills, talents and Unique Selling Points (USPs) meet the recruiters requirements
● presents you in an engaging and memorable way, appropriate to the role (encompassing everything you do, including: your dress and communication style)
Take a look at our post on presenting your CV ‘story’ in an inspiring way, unique to you.
For example, one brand-aware job-seeker, accompanied her regular CV with a Vine clip: proving her journalistic mettle; displaying her passion and innovation; evidencing her abilities; and showcasing her Personal Brand; all in one 6 second video.
So, go on, get brand inspired.
“Your reputation and your face is your brand. … Your network value is based on what people say about you when you are not there. You can only create value in your network if they trust you, understand you and know you can contribute a lot when someone they refer to you needs your help.”
Penny Power, Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me
In order for us to build credibility we need to be trustworthy and the internet provides the perfect platform to showcase your authenticity – or vice versa, of course!
Think about it. When an employer decides to hire you they’re taking a risk that you’ll be everything you say you are.
A recent survey from CareerBuilder.co.uk found 48 % of employers use social networking sites to scan candidates. But while some online profiles inspired a hire, 55% of those recruiters said they’d found content which prompted immediate rejection.
So make sure your online profiles and social media feeds represent the You your CV says you are.
Reasons recruiters gave for an instant elimination included: posts on drinking or drug habits, and criminal behaviour; bad-mouthing previous companies or fellow employees; lying; and inappropriate content.
So, set up an online profile that is inline with your Personal Brand:
● Ensure any photos, content or links to your profile are a positive reflection – ie, avoid a party animal image
● Establish networks with thought leaders, recruiters and other relevant industry professionals and get proactive – ie, create your own group or instigate discussions
● Demonstrate both your IQ and your EQ – or emotional intelligence – through considered posts which illustrate a well-rounded personality. Do share your museum visit, less on the trip down the pub
● Evidence any interests and hobbies listed on your CV via your profile – take a look at our CV post for more tips on this
Remember there’s no point positioning yourself as the next Mother Teresa if you’re more of a Margaret Thatcher – not only is someone bound to find out, but you won’t be playing to your strengths, which won’t benefit anyone.
The more authentic you are the more attractive you’ll be to the right employer.
A Clear Message
Creating a Personal Brand which represents the authentic you while attracting the right people requires clarity. The better you know yourself the clearer you’ll be.
Like a diamond a Personal Brand is a multifaceted project comprising many elements in a single image.
All your various aspects fit together to send a clear signal.
But as business coach Marie Forleo says:
“If you’re tawkin’ to everybody you’re tawkin’ to nobody!”
Even David Beckham doesn’t appeal to everyone. And when he’s endorsing a product, like H&M or Breitling, his celebrity won’t be targeting the same audience.
Let’s take a look at our Brand Model below.
Although there is no one way to go about developing your Personal Brand we recommend envisioning your plan like this:
This provides a simple plan from which to create you Personal Brand.
John Purkiss, author of Brand You, describes your Personal Brand essentials or Brand Identity as a building, comprising of:
Talents + Values + Purpose
Or, WHO you are (the packages of your personality, skills and experience) + WHAT you believe in (your personal traits) + WHY it’s beneficial (to a potential role)
Talents: are your bedrock and can be discovered but not changed
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the Big Four auditors, runs a graduate Personal Branding scheme and it’s workbook provides various exercises to help define your talents, values, passions and purpose.
Its talent section, is comprised of strengths and weaknesses.
As PwC say, even Superman had his kryptonite – and knowledge is power!
Strengths: list your top 5 – “from your perspective and the perspective of others who know you well”
You might be: creative; committed; able to make the complex simple; excellent at building confidence within teams
Weaknesses: Identify your weaknesses and then determine if they represent:
(a) a lack of interest:
(b) a lack of education
(c) a lack of capacity: “The job requires an 800 lb. gorilla and you are human”
(d) is an overused strength “Example: You pride yourself on being flexible, but it’s coming over as wishy washy and indecisive.”
You don’t want to broadcast your weaknesses, but in empowering yourself to deal with any issues head-on you’re best positioning yourself to play to your strengths.
Once you’ve identified your weaknesses take action to diminish them by following the 3 Ms:
Mitigate: minimise the impact of a weakness by choosing projects or roles which don’t include it; or where you can outsource weak areas
Manage: Only focus on weaknesses that may be holding you back from achieving your goals
Master: Take opportunities to build a weak skill – maybe with the help of a mentor
Values: are the foundation of your brand building, determining its size and shape
Put simply, values are the things you believe are important in the way you live and work. When what you do doesn’t match your values things usually feel wrong.
If you value teamwork, for example, you might not find freelance writing a fulfilling career.
So find a list of values – there are many on the internet, listing everything from accountability to humour and respect – and create a short list of about 5.
As PwC says these will act as a kind of compass for future decision-making.
Purpose: answers the questions:
● What is your building for?
● What will it do for people?
For example, if you’re a chef with a passion for organic produce, your building might be an innovative, eco-friendly restaurant which serves people who care about their health and the environment, but want to eat in style.
Purkiss emphasises that your purpose can be found in things you just can’t stop yourself doing – no not those things! – things that get you in the flow. Identify your purpose, says life coach Martha Beck, and you’ve found your personal North Star – something to constantly aim towards.
Now you’ve outlined your talents, values and purpose you’ll have a good idea of who you really are and your personal USPs.
Remember how Victoria Beckham told the story behind her fashion brand to connect with her audience?
Well now it’s your turn.
Armed with your brand core information or USPs you need to create a compelling story your target employers and other network influencers will connect with.
William Arruda and Deb Dib authors of Ditch, Dare, Do say you should essentially create a “3D brand bio”. Forget relying on the monochrome 2D CV, now you need to bring your talents, accomplishments and passions to life in a way which expresses you, both at work and in life.
Start by creating:
● A clearly defined and documented Personal Brand statement
● A well-honed message and point of view
Not sure what a Personal Brand statement should like like?
Well, it should be clear, concise and answer: WHAT you are best at (your talents), WHO you serve (your audience) and HOW you do it.
An example Brand statement might be: “I’m an experienced manufacturing executive who deploys new technologies for global companies seeking efficiency and revenue growth.”
Purkiss recommends ensuring your CV is aligned with your brand core and reflects your values and purpose through well chosen words.
And, communicate with your target audience, via social networking sites and in person, expressing well-informed views, building your reputation as an expert in your chosen field.
Remember, you don’t have to be the best, you just need to do it your way – with substance. And, that, says inspirational speaker and author Simon Sinek, means knowing your ‘why’.
His popular TED talk uses the Apple brand to illustrate. Yes, we know Apple creates beautifully designed computers but that alone doesn’t distinguish them from their competitors. But its ‘why’ does:
‘”Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”’
This, says Sinek, is how to inspire action:
“When we can communicate from the inside out, we’re talking directly to the part of the brain that controls behaviour, and then we allow people to rationalise it with the tangible things we say and do. This is where gut decisions come from.”
And as company branding becomes increasingly focused on the individual – where staff members build personal networks via their own social media sites – the importance of an employee’s ‘reach’ or influence on their target network is becoming an increasingly desirable element of the “3D brand bio” – which means being inspirational.
So know your ‘why’ and make your brand message compelling.
Take a look at David Beckham’s profile picture on his agent’s website and you’ll see a well groomed guy in a classic white T-shirt, arms emblazoned with tattoos.
Everything David does is carefully crafted, not least of all his image, and this says: everyday working man with style.
The outward expression of a brand – its name, trademark, communications, and visual appearance – is brand identity.
For the Personal Brand this means communicating your core brand fundamentals in a coherent and consistent manner: from your images, to your appearance, even your behaviour and the way you talk and write, to the way you present your blog, social media profiles and CV.
Think of it like packaging – while not fundamental to the function of your product we all know we do judge a book by its cover.
In their book, Style Statement, Danielle LaPorte and Carrie McCarthy they say, style is:
“[T]he way in which something is said, done, expressed, or performed. A quality of imagination and individuality expressed in one’s actions and tastes.”
Far from being superficial communicating your brand via your personal style in everything you do cements your authenticity.
Not sure what your style is?
Then style statement suggests you sum it up by asking yourself questions about your tastes and preferences in various areas of your life: from clothes, to music, to inspirational people, and dream travel destinations.
The multitudes of answers will reveal patterns and relationships. From these they suggest summing your Style Statement up in 2 words: one is your 80%, your profile word, while the other 20% is your creative edge.
It’s worth taking time on this, research by London-based monster.co.uk recently revealed interviewers take just 385 seconds to decide if the candidate is right for the role!