Following one of my recent Learn-n-Share updates I was asked about personal branding for senior managers. One definition of personal branding is “the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group or organization” (Los Ellis 2009).
Much of what is written about personal branding focuses on how to use social media to convey your brand, but I think you need to start much further back than this. Before you think about how you want to be seen and how you convey this (in person or online) consider what you are already saying about yourself – probably unknowingly. So here are a few things to consider in your audit of what you already say about yourself (and your brand).
As a therapist I am always aware of the concept of self-disclosure, because it is important to be aware of factors that may influence how a client perceives me and therefore may influence the work we do together. I think this is equally important in the business world. At its simplest, self-disclosure is what you reveal about yourself and can be categorised as:
- Deliberate. This includes things you specifically say about yourself or the conscious choices you make: e.g. the clothes you wear, the choice of car you drive or the photos you have on your desk or office wall, the books on your book shelf etc.
- Unavoidable. Some self-disclosure is unavoidable: e.g. your gender, accent, height, size, physical presence, disabilities etc.
To a greater or lesser degree you have awareness of and can manage these two categories of disclosure and so can influence how others see you and how this contributes to your personal brand. But not totally, because, to mix a metaphor, perception is always in the “eye of the beholder”. Even if you make a deliberate choice to be seen in a certain way, you cannot control how other people will perceive this, which may be different to what you intended. Just to make this whole thing a little more complicated you can add in a third category of self disclosure:
- Unconscious. While you may have made deliberate decisions about the areas I listed above, the chances are you may not have made them fully consciously – or at least not consciously considered how they will impact your image or brand.
So before you spend time and money on developing your personal brand – do a quick audit of yourself, your behaviour, the environment you create around you, the people you mix with, how you interact with others etc. and what image and impression of you this is already creating today. Once you know what you are already saying about you, you can make more informed choices about how to create your personal brand.