“How are you marketing yourself?” This is a question that one my marketing professors asked our class about ½ way through our senior year. You might imagine our ‘deer in the headlight” response to this inquiry since most of the semester had been spent on a massive promotional project to increase the interaction of the student body with our surrounding city. We were neck deep in planning a bar crawl, designing T-shirts, and brainstorming promotional slogans, so this question about how we were approaching our personal brands seemed a bit poorly timed. However, with only a few months left in our college careers, it was better late than never.
Our professor continued to discuss how each of us needed to take what we had learned about branding/marketing businesses and apply it to ourselves. She assigned some reading; in particular a book entitled You, Inc.: the Art of Selling Yourself by Harry Beckwith that discussed applying sales techniques to effectively ‘sell yourself’ to potential employers and then went on to talk about things like appearance, resume building, well-roundedness, etc. It was kind of like the information you get in high school when you’re presenting yourself to colleges for admission.
It wasn’t until about a year and ½ into my life at Broadreach PR that I got a better understanding of what a ‘personal brand’ actually means and how it’s a lot more than making sure I look presentable and sound competent on a daily basis, because, let’s face it, everyone can master looking presentable and sounding competent, whereas developing and maintaining a personal brand that stands out and works for you goes far beyond that.
A personal brand is like a company’s brand- it shows other people who you are, what you value, and how you think. It’s the image you project to the world that can help build your road to success or undermine your reputation into the depths of failure- ok that was a bit dramatic, but essentially it’s true.
The first step in this personal branding process for me was to actually step back and figure out what my goals were. I’m not saying a goal like ‘I’d like to run a marathon (which I would), but ones like “When people are looking for brilliance in PR, I want them to think of me” or “The words I want people to associate with me professionally are: reliable, creative, and efficient.” Similar to needing some solid business goals before starting a sales program, you need personal goals to give you a direction to travel in; from there you can figure out how to go about shaping your personal brand.
Stay tuned for pt 2 of the personal brand journey- Who cares? And accepting the fact that not everyone is going to like you.