Managing Brand YOU

By Jerry S. Wilson and Ira Blumenthal

The following is adapted from Managing Brand YOU: Seven Steps to Creating Your Most Successful Self, by Jerry S. Wilson and Ira Blumenthal (AMACOM, 2008).

What if you thought of yourself as a brand?
Successful brands—Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, Godiva, and so forth—convey a consistent message and create an emotional bond with consumers. Don’t we all want to convey a consistent message and create a similar emotional bond with those important people around us? The process of building such brands is widely used in the commercial world, and now you, too, can use these techniques to build a brand-new you—a Brand YOU!

Just imagine, for a moment, that you are, in fact, a brand. Step outside yourself and look at you: your background, lifestyle, philosophy of life, and your views on right and wrong, as well as the expressions you use, the stores you frequent, the foods you eat, the clothes you wear. Think of your educational background, your experiences, your special areas of expertise. Consider the features that others respect about you, the features of people you respect and why. These are your personal brand attributes. And now you’ve made the first move toward establishing your Brand YOU.

Why is personal branding so important?
You may be someone who doesn’t believe in “tooting your own horn” or drawing attention to the things you’ve done, or do, or plan on doing. You may also believe that if you just do the best you can, good things will automatically come to you. Well, this may be the case for a few lucky individuals, but the majority of people are confused about how they can, in fact, stand out in a crowd, how they can succeed, how they can clearly stand for something, and how they can gain the respect of others. Each of us, regardless of our position in life, wants to be special, hopes to be noticed, craves attention from others, desires respect, and regularly wants to feel important, to make a mark on the world we live in, and to truly make a difference to the people around us.

Personal branding is relevant to anyone who wants to unleash his or her inner passions and proactively build a fulfilling future, as well as grow in importance, relevance, and reputation. Too many people are just floating down the river of life, expecting that everything will work out in the long run. But why settle for the possibility of life’s taking care of itself when you can draw the roadmap that captures the kind of life you envision for yourself? Why not create your own future?

Being proactive, being committed to building your personal brand, will allow you to:

  • Identify your inner passions and core essence
  • Stand up for what is important to you and stand out in the crowd
  • Focus your energy on meeting your top priorities
  • Stop spending time doing things that do not excite you
  • Execute your own personal Brand YOU plan
  • Achieve fulfillment, personal success, and, ultimately, happiness

How to create Brand YOU
To begin, imagine yourself as Chief Branding Officer for Brand YOU, Inc. Ask yourself:

  • What personal attributes are worthy of promoting?
  • What are my challenges; in what areas could I improve?
  • What are my brand assets?
  • What are my brand deficits?
  • How do I want to be perceived?

Next, find out how others see you. Ask your friends and family:

  • How do you perceive me?
  • What kind of image do others have of me?
  • What do you believe are my top three personal strengths?
  • What three areas in my life need improvement or development?
  • What have I not asked you that you think I should know about how I am viewed by others?


In addition to the above general questions, the following will help you elicit more specific comments from trusted friends and family members:

  • Am I reliable?
  • Do I overpromise and underdeliver in my commitments?
  • Am I punctual?
  • Do I show respect to others?
  • Do I reach out to others?
  • Am I manipulative or sincere with others?
  • Do I seem happy?
  • Am I optimistic?
  • Am I a team player?
  • Do I listen to what others have to say?
  • Am I too judgmental?
  • Am I too self-centered?

Keep in mind that putting people on the spot with this type of questioning could make them uncomfortable and you may not get the honest feedback that you seek. When you discuss your image with a friend or family member, be open to whatever comes out of such a conversation. Do not become defensive or try to rationalize the feedback. Take written notes for you to refer to later. Listen intently and probe for greater clarity. Be appreciative of their help and of the personal risk they are taking by being open with you.

Regardless of the comments, criticism, compliments, and recommendations that come forth, consider yourself extremely fortunate. Very few people have such allies willing to contribute to a better Brand YOU.

The feedback you receive from the above questions will help you formulate goals for achievement. A good way to approach goal-setting is to use the SMART method, a concept introduced in 1981 by George T. Doran. To succeed, make sure your goals conform to the SMART acronym:
Specific: Understandable and simple to communicate to others
Measurable: Can be checked and tracked
Achievable: Can be reached, not “pie in the sky”
Relevant: Allowing you to stretch, but still reasonable
Time-bound: Set in a framework of completion; accompanied by a due date

Rebranding yourself is a lot like running a marathon race. You’re in it for the long haul, so having clear and simple goals and being well prepared will help you reach the finish without collapsing.

To learn more about creating a personal brand that will help you become the person you want to be: Managing Brand YOU, Seven Steps to Creating Your Most Successful Self (AMACOM, a division of American Management Association, 2008).

Author Bios:
Jerry S. Wilson (Atlanta, GA) is a noted speaker and senior vice president at the Coca-Cola Company.
Ira Blumenthal (Atlanta, GA) is a highly respected brand consultant, author, speaker, and university educator.

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