What is your personal brand?

Everyone has one, whether you’re aware of it or not. It’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room and what you’re known for.

Organisations such as Warburtons have been talking about personal branding with their employees and it’s something to be aware of.

I’ve spent the past six months analysing the way I work and my personal brand.

In short? The real me. (I’m aware that’s ironic as I’m 5ft. So yes, all 5ft of me!).

A person as a brand? Yup. It’s been a heck of a journey!

It’s meant consciously examining the way I work, being honest and critical, drawing on strengths and communicating with clarity. Others may have a different interpretation about what personal branding is and that’s fine, it’s very much a personal experience, as the name suggests.

I Tweeted I was writing this article today. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Comments from my network when asked for a definition include:

I’m going to share some of my experience and tips and like the quote Martin referenced above.

I am simply doing what I’m passionate about.

The latest milestone is the launch of my new website. After eight years of having a website, it’s now home to the various areas of my business – consultancy, blog, masterclasses and jobs, which were all operating as separate sites.

I’ve done the hard work so you can have the latest information at your fingertips. There are 1000 articles packed with ideas, guidance and inspiration to help you do your job and impress your boss.

If I waited until it was perfect, the site would never go live.

So I’m viewing it as an iterative process. As I’ve reduced the number of pages and jigged things around, there may be some broken links for a while. There’s years worth of content to grapple with. I’m on it, but do please shout with any you spot.

I’ve got many ideas up my sleeve including exciting plans for my free stuff page, I’ll keep you posted.

Consciously examining personal brand

All Things IC consultancy is four-years-old and I regularly review what I do and how I do it. But it’s only now I’ve consciously examined my personal brand.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic and whether you’ve done some something similar or would consider doing so.

Let me explain.

What is personal brand?

Personal branding is who you are and what you’re known for. It’s odd to think of a person as a brand, but if you swap that word for core, coupled with what you’re known for, it makes more sense.

If you’re not sure what you’re known for, ask people closest to you at home or work.

Writing on her website, personal branding expert Jennifer Holloway states: “It can take as little as a tenth of a second for someone to form an impression of you. (Seriously, we’re talking blink of an eye.) It’ll be based on clues they instantly pick up from how you look, act and sound – not just in the first instance, but every time they come into contact with you. And thanks to technology, that’s happening when you’re not even there.

“What they’re sussing out is your personal brand – the thing that tells them not just what you’re all about, but who you’re all about. So what’s your personal brand saying about you?”

Paul Hickson, @paulhicksonuk, Engagement Manager at Warburtons (who I think make the best crumpets) told me today: “Jennifer spoke at our National HR meeting about personal branding and it was an eye-opening experience.

“There were three main themes I took away from it:

  1. Everybody has their own ‘reference library‘, which is built through their own personal experiences, and that influences how they see and what they think of others.
  2. Ultimately, your personal brand – how you want others to see you – has to be based on your own values and what’s important to you.
  3. And sometimes it’s ok when two people (brands) don’t get on – don’t change yourself or work outside of your values as you’ll just be unhappy. Just accept it and move on.”

Thanks Paul.

As part of my research, I read Jennifer’s book Personal Branding for Brits and listened to her podcast with Janet Murray. I recommend doing both.

Examining and then communicating 

I asked people I trust to share with me what I’m known for, and what All Things IC is known for. It was incredibly helpful and has shaped the way I talk about my business.

But to Paul’s (and Jennifer’s) point, it’s personal experience that has been the common thread in all of my investigations.

Nurturing people is a quality that kept cropping up. It made me proud to hear I’m known (and All Things IC is known) for looking after and encouraging others. I communicate that through actions, for example:

What’s your personal brand?

I challenged attendees at a recent Strategic IC Masterclass to tell me what their CEO would say about them if I asked. This is the same thing.

Questions to ask yourself include:

  • What do stakeholders think of you?
  • What three words do you use to describe yourself?
  • What three words would your stakeholders/boss/team/partner say?
  • What image are you projecting inside your organisation? Or at home?
  • What impact does that have? Is it accurate?
  • What are you known for?
  • Are you known for what you want to be known for?
  • How can you change perceptions?
  • How can you celebrate your personal brand and build on the strengths?
  • When will you check in and review what you’ve discovered?

So what’s at my core?

I gave a glimpse into the way I work when I spoke at EuroComm17 in March 2017 hosted by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).

My talk – The Power of One –  was about being an independent practitioner and what that means.

At the core of my business and the way I operate is the idea: You gain more when you give.

I live my life and have created my consultancy around that principle. I talked about it briefly a few years ago when David Sawyer of Zude PR interviewed me in 2015: How to get on in Communications: Be Nice.

I’m not the only person to do this, it may be the way you work too. John Stepper calls it ‘leading with generosity’ in his Working Out Loud #WOL book.

I revealed to IABC members and guests how I’ve adapted, invented and evolved my career and the lessons I’ve learnt. You can see my slides below:

The journey

Knowing that principle is at the core of my business, I started my explorations. Thank you to my peers, friends and clients who shared their thoughts with me.

That process included working with professionals including Impactologist Martin Brooks and values expert Jackie Le Feyre from Magma Effect.

Martin analysed the recording of a talk I gave at Google in 2014 and helped me understand insights about myself that went beyond body language. I’ve been trying out his techniques and am more conscious of how I present.

As a result of the work I’ve done with Jackie, I’ve crystallised and can articulate my values. I knew them, but now have clarity.

Visual storytelling
If you’ve looked around my site you’ll have spotted lots of new photographs.

These are thanks to the talents of the wonderful Becky Rui. Becky specialises in personal branding and visual storytelling. I was terrified of the idea of putting myself front and centre of All Things IC, not in spirit, but having photos taken.

But here’s the thing…

People hire people.

As professional communicators we know this. But when you’re an independent practitioner, it means it’s you in front of the lens.

Everyone who has asked me to work with them over the past four years has had a clear idea why they’re  approaching me and what I can bring to their business. I’d like that to continue, so have invested in creating a visual window into the way I work via photos.

Writing on her website, Becky states: “I work with entrepreneurs to explore their personal brand, get clear on their message, values, ideal clients and what they love to do. Together we design a photo-shoot that’s in alignment with that, creating striking and beautiful images for your website and more.

“Bringing your whole self to your business is exciting, liberating and soul-feeding. It’s really the most fun way and, I believe, the only sustainable way. I GET how much it matters to let your values flow through the work you do, and to be seen as who you really are. I also get how scary that can feel.”

It did feel scary, but as I’ve written before in my veritable rant about stock photography a few years ago, authenticity is essential in communication.

So it’s only right I’m true to myself.

That’s why my photographs show me as I am – which is usually with a cup of tea or phone in my hand, mind-mapping or doodling ideas, typing on my rose gold laptop (as I am right now) or teaching at Wallacespace, which is home to my Masterclasses.

Thank you Becky and to everyone who has got in touch today with kind comments about the site and structure, I’m delighted my investment will benefit you.

Thank you for stopping by, I’d love to hear about the conversations you’re having with employees along these lines.

If you’ve got a story to share about personal branding, do please get in touch.

Rachel

First published on the All Things IC blog 18 May 2017.