If there was ever a debate on whether performance is the only factor for success, I am sure it would be rather one sided. There are a number of factors that determine how quickly a person rises up the ladder including the very controversial ‘flattery’. One such important factor is having a distinct personal brand and indulging in self-promotion. I am aware that branding and self-promotion are concepts that make many people uncomfortable. Maybe this is why there are a strangely large number of professionals who still believe that if they keep their head down and do great work, recognition will follow. Unfortunately, that is not always true and when not coupled with branding can slow progress.
An alternate view is that every senior professional has a brand (reputation if you will) – they either create it or it is created for them. A better approach is to play the game intentionally and control the brand that you have vs it controlling you. It is for these two reasons that it is important to shed any inhibitions you have around personal branding and spend focused effort in creating one consciously.
However, building a brand takes intention, effort, and years of work. It isn’t something that you decide to work on today and is done tomorrow. Yet, now is a good time to start.
Where does one start when it comes to building a brand? The easy answer is ‘know thyself’. This is unfortunately the hardest part of the job. As tempting at it may be to pick the attribute or set of attributes that you are good at, the unbeatable truth is that once you pick a feature, it sticks to you. Changing a brand direction takes almost as much effort as creating a brand. Imagine if Disney today decided to change its brand and move from ‘magical’ to ‘informational’. It would take a large movement involving an entire army.
On the other hand, how does one just pick one feature or a set of associated features? What if I want to be both creative yet serious? Can I pick one trait or five? Brand dilution is real. My mother is an author who writes primarily fiction. Yet ‘fiction author’ is not brand enough these days. Her publishers need her to pick a niche. She can either be focused on history, Sci-Fi, murder or comedy. To do all is to create a mess. While she has written books across all these categories, would it have helped her brand if she’d focused on one? As much as we’d like to deny it, I have to agree with her publishers and say yes.
Being an HR professional is not brand enough. I personally am working on discovering what it is that I want my brand to represent. I have a bunch of adjectives that I am sifting through currently and I know that a lot relies on me picking the right direction for it will determine where I want to take my career. If you are in a position where I am, I would recommend picking the one you most resonate with and it doesn’t have to be just one thing but it has to form a story; there needs to be a common thread. I can be both an ace illustrator and a good accountant but add a musical instrument to the mix and I’d have successfully diluted the brand. Take a cue from organizations – there is just one true tagline. Everything else is peripheral.
My 31-day challenge to you is this – figure out what you want to be famous for? If you had to stand up on stage today and speak for 45 minutes, what topic would you choose? What are you most passionate about? I say 31 days because it takes time to find something we can live with for the next ten years at least.