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In the past few years, personal branding has become a hot business topic. News anchors and journalists refer to individual brands when they cover business leadership superstars and business losers too. Executive recruiters consider a candidate’s brand when they are on a search for the best professional for a position and most entrepreneurs’ success depends on their strong, personal brand to attract employees, get funding and be an ambassador of their company.

Last month Daytime, a nationally broadcasted TV show that airs in over 35 markets, invited me to help out with a special segment called “Getting back to work”. The goal was to take two professionals who had lost their jobs and with an improved personal branding program, help them find the ideal career or opportunity.

Even though the segment focused on getting people back to work as employees, these lessons can apply to entrepreneurs as well.

Here’s the first segment that aired before Thanksgiving and a special shout out to Kendra York who owns Kendra & Company in Tampa for providing the hair, make up and style updates for our two makeover participants.

From here the plan was for me to give one-on-one coaching along with some branding tools provided by Staples that includes printing of business cards from their print and copy centers, Schtickers that provided a branded laptop skin and my design team that updated their brand identity.

These are some highlights from the coaching sessions.
Personal branding is no different than product or business branding which we all experience everyday. When a company has a strong brand, we as buyers have positive opinions about them, which in turn prompts us to select that brand over another choice. Product brands are competing to be the brand of choice.

The same concept applies for people and their personal brand.

A personal brand is what people think, feel and expect from you as an individual.

A personal brand is derived from the sum of what a person does, how they act, how they look and how they keep their promises.

In branding we call these brand opportunities, touch points.

Consistent brand touch points help a person manage their brand and peoples opinions of them.

A personal brand is one’s image, reputation and the impression they leave when they show up for a job interview, a business networking event or even after a phone call.

We all have brands even without thinking about them or consciously working on them, because people, our friends, colleagues, clients and employers are judging us and these opinions are stored in their heads, which become our brands.

The key to successful personal branding is making sure everything you do is lined up with your goals and that you consistently send out the accurate message that reflects the true you.

So when people find themselves in a down state, like being without a job or career they love, it’s time for action.

They need to follow these three brand-building steps to make sure they are projecting the right image that gets them closer to their goals.

1) Assessment and goal setting
2) Create an action plan
3) Work on it, with consistency and passion

I call the process, personal brain tattooing.  Like a regular tattoo, a brand sticks to the minds of the market and it’s put there by choice.

Getting hired is often about risk and if your brand ensures the employer or client you are not a risk, but a good investment that can add value to their organization, that’s the ticket.

Step 1Assessment of what is.
What skills, persuasive assets and traits does the person have to build on and leverage?

When I’m working with an individual on their personal brand, I ask these questions.

  • Can you tell me about yourself in a 60 second window? Please do.
  • Why are you jobless?
  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • Describe your ideal job or next career?
  • What are your 2-3 most important life goals?
  • Have you experienced rejection and “No’s” in your job hunting?
  • Did they give you reasons? What were they?
  • Why do you think you were passed up?
  • What tangible branding tools do you have? And what do you need to work on?

I also ask people to do a Google search on their name and see what comes up.

If it’s bad stuff that can tarnish your reputation, see what you can do to change it. Many times you can.

If it’s bad stuff that’s out of your control, like a criminal record, it’s good to know about it and sometimes you need to share this with a potential employer or client.

Next, I ask “What tangible branding tools do you have that reflect your desired personal brand?”

They can include:

  • Your resume
  • A strong cover letter of introduction
  • A personal business card, laptop skin, brochures
  • The appropriate wardrobe for interviews and meetings
  • An appropriate web presence and social media footprint

I always recommend people buy their name URL, if it’s just a landing page with your contact information of social media links. If your name is not available, get something close, like with your middle initial in it.

As an example: I own www.Karenpost.com

Step 2- Next, one must develop a personal brand action plan to help get them from where they are “unemployed” to where they want to be, “in a great job or opportunity they love”.
A personal brand plan addresses:

  • Goals
  • Brand essence
  • Target audience
  • Strategies (behavioral changes)
  • Tactics (specific things to do)

I always start with the end in mind. What are your goals?

Strong personal brands are visible, memorable, distinct and relevant.

To “brand up” you, one needs to have:

Your personal essence defined.
A personal brand essence is the foundation around whom you are authentically.

Purpose – Why are you here? What do you do? How can you contribute to a company’s success?

Points of distinction– What is unique about you?
Your name
Your background
How you look
Your skill set
Who you have worked with

Personality – What are 3-4 adjectives that best describe you?
When building a personal brand, one’s personality attributes should be aligned with your desired job, career. Like in my case, being creative, having a sense of humor and being confident. Work well with my career choice being a consultant and speaker.

Promise – one’s promise is what they commit to delivering on.
For example – if you are in sales, you’ve got to be able to successfully sell. If you are in Healthcare administration, your attention to detail and problem solving must be mastered etc.  One must be able to deliver on commitments and promises. Walk the talk.

After your brand essence is complete, then you must weave this platform into all of your touch points.

Who are your target audiences?
Who are the key company decision makers? Who are the other influential people in your network, who can make  recommendations and introductions? Friends, former employers, people you do business with etc.

Touch points fall into three categories and need to be aligned with one’s goals.

These are:
1) One’s visual package

Research shows that visual elements are the #1 influencer in impressions people draw from others. This means your wardrobe, hairstyle and grooming all matter. Depending on the job and position you are seeking will determine the best look for a person.

Additionally, your tools like resume, business cards and thank you cards also impact the judgment you may earn.

2) One’s communication skills and style.
Next to the visual items, people are judged by their communication skills and style.

Communication style has three equally important areas.

Verbal
How do you sound? Is your choice of words the best they can be and aligned to your goals? And the confidence and attitude you exude, is it consistent with your goals and does it lower the risk of the potential employer?

Written
How do you write? From your resume, to a thank you note and your social media footprint, do these items communicate an impression that aligns with your goals?

Body language
What is your body language communicating? This includes your posture, handshake and eye contact. Are you poised and confident or unsure and down and out?

3) One’s substance and behavior.
The objective in personal branding is to be authentic, but based on your job goals; one must consciously increase the volume and clarity of their brand, offering potential contributions to a company’s success.

And finally, one must have substance and behave in a way that validates their position and image and supports all other touch points.

You must demonstrate evidence that you walk the talk, and are what your packaging communicates?

This means be really good at your craft and your job. The most skilled and competent people get the jobs first. And that’s where you want to be.

This may mean taking classes, accepting an unpaid internship or doing volunteer work with another job just to pay the bills.

And you must work the plan with passion and consistency everyday.
Think before you move. Stay in tune to the ideal brand you want people to have in their heads about you.

As a wrap up, here are five small things that have big instant impact on your personal brand.

1) Have a strategic online footprint that depicts you as you want your buyers to view you
This means have a LinkedIn account, a Twitter account and if you have business appropriate videos then a YouTube account too.

A landing page about you is a good idea, one that is hosted with your name.com. And if you’ve got something to say, a blog is extra icing on your brand cake.

2) Keep your promises
This means do what you say, say what you mean and walk your brand talk everyday.

3) Associate with people that are consistent with your brand
This means birds of a feather flock together. Don’t be hanging with bunch of crows if you are an elegant, sophisticated swan.

4) Look your brand
This means put the costume on when you are in public. Whatever your image is, support it with the right wardrobe, car and office.

5) Be consistent
This means frequency of a message, makes the message stick. Look at all your touch points, web, business communications, email, phone message, thank you notes, resume etc.

Need a little help with your personal brand? Check out some of my ebooks that can help you brand up your image and reputation.

Below is the second half of the Daytime segment that aired on 12/15/11