Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Brand Yourself

Amidst the doom and gloom of the economy, talk of job cuts and inevitable corporate restructuring, there’s never been a better time to look after Number One. Whether you work for a big corporation or are self-employed, it's all about You.

So you’ve got to be good at selling yourself. Not just at selling your company’s products and services, but at You; at selling ‘You Ltd’ or ‘You Inc’. Forget an aptitude for spreadsheets or a talent for speaking Mandarin; ‘Personal Branding’ is the latest must-have in any professional's toolkit. It doesn’t mean just having a well-designed business card or wearing a smart suit; it's about your whole business DNA - how you position yourself in the marketplace, about how you communicate your strengths and skills to people that count: clients, employers, targets you need to impress, and even the guy who signs off your expenses.

As the business guru
Tom Peters observed as early as 1997, wherever we work, we are all the CEOs of our own companies and workers can learn lessons in market positioning from the big brands. Peters' concept of ‘Brand You’ should be at the heart of everyone’s personal development strategy and increasingly so in a competitive market, where you have to stand out from the crowd. Personal branding is now a movement in its own right, with advocates making sure that from their Facebook profiles to their CVs and blogs, they are giving a good sell.

That communication of your values and philosophies is crucial if you work for yourself; clients have so many suppliers to choose from and you need to make sure your values are communicated in all you do, from proposal to invoice. I realised that fact early on in my career; whether office junior or board director I strove to ensure my own brand values were communicated to both internal and external markets, making sure I got noticed, that I put my signature on all I did. I never called it 'personal branding' back then; it was just an instinctive - and to me, rather obvious - guiding principle. That philosophy contributed to my early success in my career and became essential when I set up on my own in 2000. Personal branding was, and continues to be, at the heart of my business strategy. I ask myself in all I do, in writing my book, in delivering projects, in business communications - did I give 100% Ian Sanders? Make sure you do the same. From customer service to your business communications, it reflects what you’re about. I met a bloke once who presented me a business card with ‘Consutancy’ spelt wrongly. What does that say about his business? A supplier I was meeting turned up to late to meet me and also got my name wrong. Not a good brand experience. So consider what your brand equity is: what is your message you want to send out, what makes you special?

For those sitting in their offices at big corporations, you need to embrace the same principles. As companies merge, downsize or grow you’ll need to make sure you get noticed, and to survive you need to think of yourself as an entrepreneurial unit with all the attitude of a start-up. And it’s not just about having a smart-looking CV when you are seeking your next job; it’s about making sure that everything you do has your personal stamp on it: your style, your approach, your achievements.

So be different, be remarkable and be your own brand. You might lack the resources of a super-brand like Nike or Google, but even with a one-man personal brand, you still have the power to make a difference.

Survival of the fittest in work is about getting noticed so whatever you do: Go And Brand Yourself!

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