"A great brand is a story that’s never completely told. A…
4. Maintaining Your Brand: Personal Branding (Part Four)
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
We’ve arrived at the final post in my series on personal branding. In this installment, I’ll talk about how to maintain and evolve an established personal brand, and about how to stay in tune with how your brand is perceived. If you haven’t already, I recommend reading parts one, two, and three first!
Building your brand isn’t a one-time endeavor. To maintain a strong brand once you’ve built it, you need two things: ongoing awareness of how you’re perceived, and openness to evolution of your brand over time.
- Awareness: Just as a corporation tracks its brand value, you should check in periodically on how your personal brand is perceived. Ask a spectrum of contacts—perhaps the same list you made at the beginning of this post—to describe your values, impact, and style. Compile their feedback in writing, and make a wordle to identify common descriptors. Do they reflect your brand design? Are they consistent with what you need to succeed in your current role, or in the role you want? If not, look for ways to better align your brand messaging with what you’re trying to convey.
Talking to your network can also help you surface emerging brand attributes that deserve greater focus. For example, when I last I went through this exercise, two of the descriptors that came up surprised me: Listen and Question. With some reflection, I saw why these attributes had emerged as part of my brand image: I had been leading an organization through a significant transformation, and listening to ideas and concerns, as well as asking probing questions to surface unspoken issues, had been essential to that effort. I realized that I wanted to put more emphasis on listening and questioning as part of my brand; these attributes are essential to much of my work, and are a core part of my coaching approach.
Finally, it’s important to be aware of the impact that those around you can have on your personal brand. When I ask colleagues for feedback on my brand image, I’m struck by comments like “before I worked with you, I thought…and after I worked for you, I thought that, and…”. These comments remind me that perceptions are complex; while I believe my intentions are good, others only experience my actions. And their experiences color their perception of me, sometimes in ways that diverge from what I intended.
- Evolution: As your life circumstances and professional focus areas change, your personal brand will need to evolve. Being open to evolving your brand will help you reach your career goals—as long as your brand image becomes more authentic, not less, over time.
For example, when I succeeded a six-and-a-half-foot tall, male VP as the leader of a global sales team, I knew I’d need to adjust my brand to fit the new position—but I also knew I couldn’t grow 12 inches, or change my gender overnight. So, instead, I focused on drawing out the elements of my authentic self that were most relevant to the job, including integrity and accountability to results. When I left that role, I heard that customer executives had called me “the velvet hammer”—definitely an indication that my effort to establish a reputation for fair, effective leadership had paid off.
Wherever you are in your career, it’s never too early (or too late!) to start building the personal brand you want. The process takes time and dedication, but the outcomes—faster career growth, more genuine personal and professional connections, and a clearer sense of self—are well worth the effort.
Now, it’s your turn to share your personal branding tips and ideas. What are you doing right now to design, build, or maintain your personal brand? Whose personal brands do you admire? Let me know by commenting on this post, or on any of the previous posts in this series.