Martha Stewart has “it.” Donald Trump has “it.” And, Oprah has “it.” What is “it?” A personal brand, of course. While they are the superstars of personal branding, we can all use the same techniques to start a career, revive a stagnant one or build a business.
The management guru Tom Peters (See what I mean about branding?) labeled the concept of personal branding in an article in Fast magazine in 1997. In reality, personal branding has been around since Cleopatra, unnamed and, for the most part, unrecognized.
Personal branding starts by thinking in a new way. It’s not all about “you.” It’s about “them.” It really is a new way of looking at you—not from the inside out, but from the outside in. It isn’t about reinventing yourself; it’s about identifying, communicating and maintaining the characteristics, qualities and talents that make you uniquely qualified and marketable.
I think of it as the David Boies effect. When Mark Mulholland, co-managing partner of the law firm, Ruskin Moscou, talked about Boies to a group of aspiring litigators, he pointed out that Boies was a litigator who had never specialized in anti-trust cases when he was selected to represent the Justice Department against Microsoft—in the largest anti-trust case in history. The next year he represented Al Gore after the 2000 US election. Was Boies an expert in election law? Of course not. But, the Boies brand had made him the go-to guy because his brand as a legal titan gave potential clients confidence he could handle the toughest cases—in any field.
In reality, personal branding has been around since Cleopatra,
We all brand ourselves every day by making decisions that shape the perception of who we are. Who is considered a promising star in an organization—the one who comes in early to get to work on a project that he or she initiated or the person who saunters in at 9:15am, chats about the weekend with a coworker for ten minutes, works on an assigned project and then shoots out the door at 5:05?
Marketing your qualities is an essential part of branding, but the real stuff, doing what you do really well, doing it consistently and communicating it clearly is what builds a personal brand. That personal brand is what will make you and your company different, credible and able to attract a loyal following. With a strong personal brand you have the reins of leadership and a more secure future in your own hands.
Katherine Heaviside is president of Epoch 5 Public Relations. Epoch5.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.