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, and quite candidly, the entire process is a labor of love and sometimes hate.
Why is my personal brand so important if my company’s brand is bigger and more broad?
To Brand U
To begin with, lets define what brand is.
- a class of goods identified by name as the product of a single firm or manufacturer
- a public image, reputation, or identity conceived of as something to be marketed or promoted
Based on that definition, what is your brand? Whether you like it or not, your brand is already out there unless you have been living under a digital rock for the last few decades. For those of you who have been in this industry for some time what is the first thing that comes to mind when people hear or search your name? If you do not have an answer, then do what most people do, search for 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 “David A. Chapa”, you get pages of hits that point to me and the work I have done.
So, what shows up about you? What does it say about your brand?
I believe you should hone your brand, since there are things out there already about you and even more so 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 that employs you. Having a strong personal brand can help bring credibility to the company employing you for your skills and acumen. More and more companies are realizing this and are in search of those who are externally facing to have a good brand reputation. 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.
- Greg Knieriemen @knieriemen
- Greg Duplessie @gdupe @execevent
- Rob Peglar @peglarr
- W. Curtis Preston @wcpreston
- Steve Duplessie @stevedupe
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, but this by no means is an exhaustive list and it by no means is THE way you must go about your personal branding process. This is from my own experience combining 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 nearly two decades 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 on 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 my 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 if 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 succinctly get your point across. 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 their 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.
In closing, here are a few suggestions.
- Be an influencer. Influencers, thinkers, do’ers are those that others want to be around because they challenge conventional thought.
- Be an agent of change. Thinking outside the box is so cliche, but essentially this is what you do as a change agent. Dare to ask, “why do we do it this way?”, and present solutions.
- Share your experience. When you share your insights and experience, you 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. Many have called LinkedIn the modern day Rolodex, so keep your brand fresh, keep your brand yours and elevate your own profile so you may have a greater effect for the company or organizations with whom you are affiliated.
- Lastly, be vocal. Raise your voice above the noise and your brand will be noticed.
Chapa, I mean, David A. Chapa, signing off