Sometimes, effective personal branding requires nixing conventional wisdom. Here are five tips to help you increase your visibility, influence and success.
1. Be Lazy. One misconception about personal branding is that you need to constantly create new content to build your brand. For the overworked, never-a-spare-minute among us, that’s stressful. And it’s not necessary.
Effective branding doesn’t mean you have to become your own full-time writer and media developer. Be lazy. It’s good for your brand. Being lazy – at least in this context – is about repurposing, reusing, referencing, and therefore reinforcing your existing content. It means shaping a series of tweets you wrote into an article, or breaking up a whitepaper into a series of Blog posts. It’s about finding content that exists elsewhere and providing your commentary on it, or using SlideShare to post the presentation you delivered in-person to a local networking group – making your presentation available to a much larger audience via the web.
Laziness helps you maximize the value of all your brand communications and amplify your voice. It also supports one other critical element of personal branding: consistency (more about that in #3 below).
2. Repel People. Strong brands often repel as many people as they attract. Think Steve Jobs, Christiane Amanpour, Donald Trump, Sheryl Sandberg, Bill Maher. Branding is not about pleasing all the people all the time. It’s about taking a stand, well aware that not everyone will agree with you. All brand masters have a point of view and are willing to own it and share it. I’m not suggesting you be disagreeable or contrary for the sake of it, but I am recommending that you have a position you believe in and express it openly.
Are you the executive who thinks leadership is about creating a vision and inspiring others, or are you the one who believes leadership is about collaboration and building a diverse, engaged team?
In Ditch. Dare. Do!, we say “Neutrality is for Diplomats, so unless your job is at the UN, get on your soapbox!” What’s your opinion?
3. Resist Change. Although adapting to the change around you is an important skill for everyone, knowing your brand and delivering on your brand promise consistently and constantly is critical to personal branding.
Strong brands are known for something – not a hundred things — and they deliver it with everything they do, over long periods of time. Look at Apple. They scream innovation with every element of their brand. It’s not just their products that are innovative. Think about their stores (glass staircases, large tables where you can “play” with the products, no check-out lines, etc.), packaging (you hesitate to throw away the box your iPhone came in, it’s so creative) and support (genius bars, one-to-one appointments, etc.). You need to employ the same strategy of consistency.
Resisting change does not mean you should welcome stagnation.
If your brand is all about creativity, inject creativity into everything from the agenda you prepare for a meeting to how you facilitate the meeting to the ways you follow-up once the meeting has concluded. And don’t just do this occasionally. Do it for every meeting going forward. Branding is about consistency, so don’t be changin’ when you should be maintainin’.
4. Flaunt Your Quirks. It’s often people’s quirks we find interesting and memorable. Ever the notice the space in Madonna’s front teeth, Tracy Morgan’s catchphrase “What’s happ’n, chief?” or Fran Drescher’s unmistakable laugh? Ellen’s incessant dancing has become such a trademark for her, American Express hired her to do a commercial in which she does nothing but dance. Howie Mandel’s Germophobia has him fist bumping instead of shaking hands. Yes, it’s quirky. It’s also memorable!
Often, it’s the things that make us a little different – sometimes, it’s even the things we don’t like about ourselves – that actually get us noticed and can even be endearing to others. Who can forget Adele’s Grammy acceptance speech delivered in her North London accent with pure authenticity as she exclaimed: “Oh my God, I got a bit of snot.”
Your quirks become trademark traits that are recognizable and associated with you. Don’t manufacture them; just sit back and emphasize them. Effective branding is based in authenticity.
Work your quirks!
5. Be Promiscuous. When it comes to networking, especially online networking, being promiscuous is a good thing. According to dictionary.com, the word promiscuous is defined as “characterized by or involving indiscriminate mingling or association.”
To show you how promiscuity works to build your brand, let’s use LinkedIn as an example. The LinkedIn search algorithm favors networks of connected people, LinkedIn groups, and profiles replete with the same keywords. If you’re a market research expert and want to be found by a CMO who is using LinkedIn to find someone to build a market research strategy, you need to be connected to someone he’s connected to (in addition to having a stellar profile with the right keywords repeated in your summary and experience). That’s because in response to queries, profiles are displayed with 1st level connections first, then 2nd level connections and so on. So being too selective in your connection strategy could keep you from pursuing ideal opportunities – those you don’t even know exist.
Think of being promiscuous as planned serendipity. You don’t know who might be looking for you, but you need to make it easy for them to find you.