electionThe US election day finally happened and we all woke up this morning and the earth continued to rotate.

It’s been an event that captured the imaginations of mainstream media across the western world. Something we can take away from the campaigning event (or circus depending on your perspective) has been the stark differences in candidates and their voter facing personas. Some have been highly curated, consistently on message with every movement or speech well rehearsed. Others appear to have been somewhat more authentic, with mistakes made, inconsistencies of message, reactive emotional responses.

As the weeks have drawn on however I have wondered increasingly whether President Elect Trump’s “authentic persona” hasn’t been a highly orchestrated and curated performance for us the “viewing public”? One thing I think we can all agree is the Personal Brands of every US election candidate were clear and easy to identify with or rally against.

US elections aside, what does this mean for us? more than you may think.

Your personal brand matters, investors invest in both the business itself and the team, board members sign up based on both the business and the team, staff sign up based on the leadership, customers buy from companies and people they trust – the list goes on and on. How you make people feel is usually about a person, as I have said before, tell your story with passion and leave strangers with a feeling (hopefully positive, competent, trustworthy one).

Visualise what you want to be known for

I remember Kim Crawford’s wife Erica speaking on brands once and noting the challenges they faced when selling “Kim Crawford” wines. Kim was the name given to her husband by his mother so the link between personal brand and business brand was extremely blurred. The challenges to both sides were complex – if the new owners did anything to bring the brand “Kim Crawford” into disrepute this would reflect on “Kim Crawford the man’s” reputation as well. Equally if “Kim Crawford the man” suddenly became a terrorist (or something) it would reflect on the new owners business “Kim Crawford” reputation. Quite a dilemma.

Understanding and visualising what you personally want to be known for is slightly confronting for many of us when we look beyond our technical skill set. It is easier to do for our businesses which are held at more of an arms length but can be hard for individuals, some people even struggle on a technical level when writing their own CV’s. Two of my brand examples are:

  • OptimalBI – making information visible through teaching, coaching and doing; with values of “don’t be dodgy”, “our people rock” and “it’s all about a happy ending”
  • Victoria – building great businesses, growing the digital technology economy & ecosystem; with values of honesty and transparency (don’t be dodgy), positivity and sharing everything I learn.

OptimalBI’s brand is underscored by my own values and persona elements as you would expect but in prioritising what each wants to be known for you see the differences. My list is actually longer than this but I wanted to keep it short!

Three things you can incorporate into your Personal Brand

Founders and business owners are usually the externally facing evangelists for their businesses products and services. Consistency of messaging about those products and services is incredibly important but consistency of how we present ourselves is just as important in this fast moving, fragmented content world. Everyone working in business has a CV to represent their skill set – which is just a different shop front for a personal brand.

As someone who wears her emotions on her face I do struggle to curate myself at times so asked people I respect, who come across as their authentic selves and are able to control their emotions (vs reacting), for advice. With loads of great advice the three key tips I have taken into my life are:

  1. Learn to pause before you speak
    • Shooting from the hip or reacting with emotion comes across in business as toddler like behaviour. Learning to pause, consider what you just heard and most importantly the perspective of the other party is hard but the most valuable thing I have ever done.
    • If you are liable to react to an email or vocalise via email – write down everything your emotional self wants to say and send it to yourself! Only use that email as your venting mechanism, do not take any of it into your reply or reaction messaging into the actual correspondence.
  2. Fake it at your peril
    • There is a common phrase in business “fake it til you make it” to be honest it’s a fine line between talking yourself (or your business) up – and bullshit. Depending on your brand and values (see below) over promising and under delivering is a dangerous place to be in business and rapidly leads to loss of trust.
    • People generally respect honesty and will respond in kind with honesty vs finding themselves in a position where they are let down, so if there is a challenge to overcome or shortfall in your offering be honest it usually works.
  3. Business isn’t personal
    • Remind yourself business is business, unless you are being personally attacked (which is incredibly rare in my experience) people are usually delivering a factual message, accept it as such. It’s about the outcome (and happy ending) not whether they agree with you all the time.
    • Like learning to pause before you react – learn to see past the emotion and accept feedback, input or advice at the face value it’s given. I struggle to wrap things up with a pretty spin so sometimes can be blunt and direct which some sensitive people struggle to digest.
Personal branding is a tough concept for many to grasp

A question women in business often ask me is how they decouple their own personal brand from that of their business. I know just how hard this is to do and remember the day my business partner realised our first business OptimalBI had grown up to be more than “Shane’s company” and moved on to have a brand and momentum beyond his own – quite a watershed moment that enabled us to move into a new growth phase.

The exercise I suggest to anyone looking to understand their own personal brand drivers is similar to the one I take startups through – visualising what you want to be known for. Basically you write up what you want to be known for, and what you don’t want to be known for, on post-it notes. Prioritise those on a wall or table – most important to least important. This can inform the language and style you project, help where you focus your attention and preparing your own “elevator pitch”.

In a startup context these key words can go into a pitch document and business plan, in a personal context into your personal brand plan (yes I will write a blog about those soon). The keys to success of this exercise include both being authentic and talking someone else through your thought process – collaboration in this instance is a powerful tool especially if you aren’t naturally self reflective.

Give it a go

We’re not all politicians I know. We do all need to interact with others whether job hunting, selling our products or services, partnering, investing, whatever. So it’s worth giving this personal brand exercise a go. If you have a goal in life to promote yourself further – perhaps to becoming a politician – then find a personal branding coach like Lou Draper of Draper Cormack Group (one of the startups I incubate) she has a whole programme to follow which will help raise your profile and with an end game of speaking or media coverage.

Dilbert as you will know by now always has the best take on these topics. Here is Scott Adams perspective on Personal Brands. Enjoy, Vic.