Companies live and die by its brand, if the buying community has a “bad taste in its mouth” for a certain brand, you can be assured down revenues will quickly follow. This is why so much time, effort and money is spent on creating a brand and why protecting the value of that brand is so vitally important. I have been part of several companies where millions of dollars have been spent on either re-creating a brand or creating a net new brand, the entire process is a labor of love and sometimes hate.
If brand is so important to companies, should it be important to individuals?
To Brand U
What is your brand? When someone hears your name, what is the first thing that should come to mind? If you do not have an answer, then do what most people do, search yourself on the internet. It is the best way to start revealing what your brand is all about. For example, I have been “David A. Chapa” my entire professional life, every business card, every name tag, every panel tent card, every email signature, everything has been branded, “David A. Chapa” and if you search that, you get pages of hits that point to me and the work I have done. So what is your brand? I believe you should have a brand, especially in this day and age of social media and connectedness. People want to know you, especially if you are in some type of customer facing role or executive role at your company. While your brand is about you, it is also about the company where you are employed. Having a strong personal brand can help bring credibility to the company employing you for your skills. More and more companies are realizing this and are in search of those who are externally facing to have a brand. Creating your own brand is just as important as your company creating its own brand – especially in the “tech” space. Here are some very good examples from the technology industry of those who have done an outstanding job creating a personal brand.
If you just search on the names of these individuals you get pages and pages of results, I’ve also included each twitter handle in this blog so you can easily follow if you so desire. Creating a brand, especially a personal brand, does not happen overnight, it takes a great deal of effort, consistent engagement and creativity.
Where do you begin?
I have outline three basic steps where to begin, this by no means is an exhaustive list and it by not means is THE way you must go about your personal branding process. This is from my experience, my failed attempts and my successes. I thought three steps would be a good way to begin and not overwhelm you with too much detail.
Step one, what will be the brand, your brand? First Name, First Middle Initial Last Name, ‘Nickname’ Last Name? You need to decide and then you need to be consistent. I have broken this rule with my own twitter handle, @davidchapa, but I have had it now for four years tied to my consistent brand, David A. Chapa – fortunately I didn’t have a problem – but breaking ranks like that can have repercussions, so beware.
Step two, whatever your industry, make sure you are fully engaged, whether you are an externally facing asset to your company or not, remain engaged. By that I mean, share with your community through blogs, twitter, linkedin, etc. Jump in to online dialogues with meaningful and compelling thoughts, ideas and comments. If you have an opportunity to present at a trade conference, take the opportunity and make sure you use your brand whenever and wherever possible.
20 years ago, while working for Cheyenne Software, a co-worker smartly suggested I always announce myself by first and last name whether calling Corporate, visiting customers or partners. He said, “it will help begin to form your brand.” From then on, I have always been David Chapa and David A. Chapa on business cards not Dave, not David, not Chapa but David Chapa. If after my brand was established people wanted to shorten it, that was completely in their hands.
Step three, always network. When I get a chance to speak to new hires I often ask the question, “who in this room is in sales?”, inevitably there will be hands that remain down. My response is always to say, “wrong, you are ALL in sales. Whether you are representing this company or yourself, you ARE in sales.” It is true – we are all in sales, in some form or fashion, but we don’t have to be overtly selling to the point where we are obnoxious. Networking takes some salesmanship, some people guard their network very closely, as a result you want to make sure when you do network you are delivering value – think about how you describe yourself and what it is you do. Take the time to write it down, create a 30 second, 120 second and 180 second version, then try it out. Record yourself saying it, listen to yourself, critique yourself, and when you are feeling especially confident ask your spouse or significant other to critique. Always look for ways to improve and more crisp to get your point across quickly. Sometimes networking can be like speed dating, so hit the highs, be honest when asked about the lows and build your network.
Whether you are an externally focused person in your company, that is to say, you are in sales, marketing, technical advisor, executive management, etc. or not, this matters. Rest assured if you are an externally facing resource and have a meeting with a big prospective customer, the chances are extremely high someone from that prospective customer will do a little background check using its favorite search engine to understand your experience, your background, your brand.
I personally started this journey of creating my own brand back in 1990, it was as simple as making sure my business cards were printed with my proper first name, middle initial and last name.
My suggestion to you is to be an influencer. Influencers, thinkers, do’ers are those others want to be around because they challenge conventional thought. Be an agent for change, share your experience, build your brand. Get yourself noticed by submitting thoughtful comments to blogs or articles, submit your own articles for publication, ask if you may contribute to a particular column or online magazine. Update your linkedin profile, which many have called the modern day rollodex, keep your brand fresh, keep your brand yours and elevate your own profile so you may have a greater affect for the company or organizations with whom you are affiliated.
Chapa, I mean, David A. Chapa, signing off