Are you “results-oriented?” Do you have a “proven track record?” Would you consider yourself a “problem solver?” According to LinkedIn, these are some of the most overused buzzwords on profiles across the popular professional social network.
A problem in today’s saturated marketplace is finding your unique place as a professional. Whether you are a self-employed entrepreneur or an executive at a large corporation, you are in charge of your own career. A successful brand relies on its unique positioning in the marketplace. Likewise, a successful businessperson must understand the importance of crafting a personal brand. Your unique identity sets you apart from the competition and contributes to the overall success of your company, says Jenna Drenten, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing, Department of Management, Marketing and Logistics, Boler School of Business, John Carroll University.
“We choose one product over another because it offers something special. The same is true for today’s professionals,” says Drenten. “In today’s competitive marketplace, business professionals must perfect the art of what I call personal branding — developing a unique personal brand and actively promoting that brand to others. Personal branding is not only beneficial for your own career, it also benefits your company’s brand image.”
Smart Business spoke with Drenten about the importance of branding yourself and key strategies for managing a successful personal brand.
What does it mean to brand yourself?
Branding yourself means to develop a unique professional identity and coherent message that sets you apart from others either in your company or in your industry. If you are a CEO or an entrepreneur, you may say, ‘I have enough on my plate by building and managing my company’s brand, much less my own.’ But branding yourself is just as important, if not more so. Think of business leaders like Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey. Their personal brand images are synonymous with their companies. Regardless of your career status, you must commit to being the brand manager of your own personal brand.
What is your unique selling proposition?
In branding yourself, the goal is to differentiation from others but consistently within your message. What specific characteristics and field-related expertise do you have that others may not? Try to develop a personal positioning statement. It should be a concise, one- to two-sentence statement that reflects your unique value as a business professional. Consider creating a short tagline for yourself that captures who you are and what sets you apart.
What is your personal brand management strategy?
Once you have pinpointed your unique brand, you need to communicate it to others. Your goal is to actively promote and manage your personal brand. Branding yourself involves creating a unified message across all outlets. Consistency is crucial, especially in today’s digital age. If someone were to search your name on the Web today, what would they find? Take control of your online brand image by creating a personal website outlining your achievements or by starting a blog that allows you to share your distinct industry-related ideas. Your personal brand management strategy should be proactive and should reflect your natural capabilities. For instance, if you excel at face-to-face communication, attend networking events and schedule coffee meetings.
How does branding yourself benefit your company?
In marketing, a phenomenon called the ‘halo effect’ suggests consumers make more favorable judgments of a particular product because of positive biases toward associated brands or people. For instance, consumers are biased toward brands endorsed by their favorite celebrities. The same is true for personal branding. If you develop a unique personal brand, your company gets included in the positive halo of your success. The connections that you make and the network that you develop can be transferred to your company.
How does branding yourself benefit your career?
You are the product and your employer is the customer. Branding yourself allows you to market your skills to meet the customer’s needs. Regardless of the stage at which you are in your career, it is important to stay marketable by creating a unique brand for yourself, separate from your identity within your company. This gives you more opportunities for mobility both within and outside of your organization. As your personal brand awareness increases, you may be invited to speak at industry events, contribute to industry related stories, and so on not because of your status within a company, but because of your branded expertise within the wider industry.
Jenna Drenten, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Marketing in the Department of Management, Marketing, and Logistics in the Boler School of Business at John Carroll University. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.