There is an ongoing debate about the need for a business brand versus a personal brand. After reviewing current literature and crowdsourcing colleagues, the consensus seems to be that you need both – a clearly defined business brand and a compelling personal brand.
A personal brand is essential from the start, but what is the process for crafting a personal brand statement when you are in the introductory stages or even the launch stage of a new business? Don’t you need to know what people are saying about you before you develop a personal brand? Here are some steps to take do develop a personal brand statement from the very beginning.
Start With a Situation Analysis: Define Your Values, Attributes and Passions
First, look internally. What attributes do you bring to the market? What are you passionate about? I use an exercise called the “Values Game” with my students to help discover the value they add to the classroom, and later, to their employer. Use this process to uncover your distinguishing attributes and passions.
- Using a PostIt note, brainstorm and in five minutes, list every personal attribute, value and/or passion that comes to mind. Put one descriptor on each piece of note paper. Challenge yourself to write consistently for the full five minutes without stopping. Aim for quantity in this exercise. If you need help coming up with ideas, scan some websites that list values before you start the activity.
- Sort through your values, attributes and passions and narrow the list to the 12 characteristics that best represent who you are and what you offer to a potential employer or client. Throw away the other notes.
- Narrow the 12 concepts to five. Write the five on a sheet of paper. Next to each, write your definition of the value, attribute or passion and actions you can take that express it.
- Narrow your list to the top three. Imagine that you are known only for these three qualities and no others. These are the three qualities that will represent you, the core of your personal brand.
Plan for the Business You Want to Represent
Your external scan should be forward-thinking. Consider the advice given to interviewees, “Dress for the job you want.” This idea is transferable to your personal brand. Don’t just think about the introductory stage of your job search or your new business. Who do you want to serve five years down the line?
- Use the Internet to research what customers are saying about your competitors. Remember to think about your competitors both now and in the future. What do customers complain about? What makes them loyal? Make a list of the ways your personal qualities (see step above) will help you exceed customer expectations.
- Contact people you’ve done business with in the past and cross-check your ideas against their assumptions and perceptions. You may be at the beginning stages of launching a new business, but you’ve had a history as a professional. What do you know about how people see you? I recommend a tool like this free Johari’s Window tool. By clicking on the values you’ve identified for yourself and then sending the questionnaire to anyone you’ve done business with, you’ll discover two things: First, how well your conscious view of yourself matches those of others, and second, attributes or qualities that you weren’t aware of.
- Gather data from an ad-hoc advisory group through a survey tool or an informal focus group. Identify the baseline, above-average and exemplary needs of the customers and other stakeholders you will serve in your business. Break your questions down by stakeholder group (community, customer, employee, etc.) so you receive a complete picture of what it takes to succeed in your market.
Perform a Gap Analysis
Put simply, where are you now compared to where you want to be? Plan to bridge that gap using the three qualities you identified as the basis of your personal brand. How can your passion for what you do take you where you want to be?
Determine if there are areas of strength of which you were unaware. What strengths did your contacts see that you did not? How will you use the three elements of your brand to incorporate these strengths into your brand statement?
Identify how businesses want to be served in your industry now and in the future. How do you deliver that value in a way that is purely you?
Write Your Statement
Now, put it all together. As you draft and refine (and refine and refine) your personal brand statement, keep the following in mind: What will you do? How will you do it? Why do you do it?
Here’s an example of how I thought through my personal brand statement. You’ll notice from my biography that it is not my job description or title.
What will I do?: Create a business graduate that is excited about their role in the marketplace and the value he/she offers
How will I do it?: Through a globally focused, rigorous education
Why do I do it?: I am a passionate educator with the needs of my most important customer, the employer, in mind
My personal brand statement is, “I inspire passion for business through rigorous, globally focused education.”
Keep it focused and concise, and you can use your personal brand in all your networking opportunities, whether face-to-face or online.
Craft your personal brand as close to your business plan as possible; don’t wait for others to anchor your value to the market based on externally produced perceptions. Approach the development of your personal brand as you would a strategic plan for your business. However, remember that your personal brand is not a product or service. Your unique qualities and value to the market are what make your personal brand, so focus the planning on you during this exercise.
The Final Word
This may seem like an involved process when you’re busy working on getting your business operational–but it’s important to take the time to do it. Crafting a personal brand has many benefits. It allows you to make decisions about what projects to take on and what tasks to prioritize, because if it doesn’t fit your brand, you don’t need to do it.