Me Inc.

The impressions we make on others can have a major impact on networking,

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The impressions we make on others can have a major impact on networking, our personal brand, building our own business, working with others and our earning capacity

Because of the back-and-forth nature of a networking relationship, a commitment to being distinctive and relevant to others has important carry-over effects for you. Determining ways to be relevant to others reflects your desire to learn and grow.

This, in turn, is expressed by continually creating, solving problems and making things better for others and yourself. But because someone else determines whether you’re effective at personal brand building or not, your relevance to that person is, ultimately, their decision. And, sometimes, the connection just simply won’t be there.

You won’t always get along with everybody. You can’t. Nobody can. Your values, however distinctive, simply won’t appeal to everyone. Neither will they be relevant to everyone. You can’t be all things to all people, nor should you try to be. Said Bill Cosby, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

The relevance of others

One key determination you need to make in building your personal brand is how relevant other people are, or can be, to you. If you’re going to be true to yourself and be acknowledged, accepted and recognised for who you really are, your core values must be respected in each relationship, not compromised

You also have to decide if any particular relationship is worth the effort. Clarity in relationships is a key advantage of a strong personal brand. As your brand becomes better-defined and known, people find it easier to figure out who you are, where you stand and, consequently, what value you can represent for them.

“Everyone has a personal brand but most people are not aware of this and do not manage this strategically, consistently and effectively,” says Karl Smith, a personal brand and networking strategist. He defines personal branding as “what others say about you when you are not around them”. That message is based on their perception of you, how they consider your knowledge and skills and the things that make you unique and different from every other person out there—your unique promise of value. It is what makes you one of a kind, even in the midst of all the others who have the same or similar skills. This is what makes people choose you and only you.

The importance of personal branding

Why is personal branding so important? Personal branding is very powerful because it sends a clear, consistent message about who you are and what you have to offer. A strong, authentic personal brand helps you become known for. Moreover), it helps you to better understand yourself, increase your visibility and presence, control your identity and influence the perception others have of you and the services you offer, make a mark on your organisation or company, increase your compensation, increase your job security, expand into new business areas, thrive during downturns in the economy, increase your confidence and achieve your personal and professional goals.

Perception is reality. So unless you bring something unique to the table and communicate it consistently, you run the risk of being seen as a commodity. In essence, personal branding is for executives, entrepreneurs, employers, employees, leaders and other individuals who want to market themselves as something different from the rest of the pack.

Step one

The first step in creating ‘Brand Me’ is to learn to know yourself. Before you even think about your personal brand, you have to think about who you really are and what you really want. No matter how much people try, they can’t avoid projecting who they really are. They may fool themselves into thinking people see them differently but, ultimately, the truth comes to the surface. The brand you design must be true to who you are.

If you find it difficult to analyse yourself, get external feedback by asking peers, colleagues, clients, friends or relatives to describe your best qualities and greatest achievements. I call this ‘personal branding from the inside-out’.

‘Me Inc.’, a relatively new term, in essence, means that to survive and thrive in a highly competitive and information-driven new world, we must all see ourselves as companies. Just like companies must consistently look at what makes them relevant and different, so must individuals, and then market it. In fact, I passionately believe that our most important job today is to be marketing executives of the brand called ‘Me Inc.’.

Staying afloat

It’s easier for ‘Brand Me’ to stay afloat in this difficult economy, as opposed to ‘No-Name Brand Me’. Having a strong brand propels you to the top in the minds of your audiences and it creates a sense of individuality and ‘separateness’ in the marketplace. In short, you are more visible to your target audience as opposed to ‘No-Name Brand Me’. It’s that simple—and that difficult. And that’s inescapable.

In today’s competitive world, it is important to separate yourself from your competitors in order to really stand out. A strong personal brand leads to many advantages. If you have a strong brand as an expert, you will have more demand from consumers or clients. Why? When having to choose, people prefer to do business with a recognised expert. Also, you will have the ability to charge higher prices or fees. Why? A higher demand and greater credibility give you the ability to charge more money and maintain a successful reputation. Lastly, it increases your chances of getting a job. Why? You differentiate yourself from the competition.

The biggest challenge in marketing oneself

When it comes to marketing oneself—and I think this is true of the majority of people—the biggest challenge is finding a simple, memorable way to sum up professional essence and unique value. When you know who you really are and what you really want to offer your audiences, being able to put that information together succinctly can be a real challenge for many people.

Personal branding should not be confused with self-promotion. A personal brand is something you build on many levels, first by getting to know yourself better and then by understanding what you want to communicate to your target audience before even opening your mouth (or posting on social media). Simply, it is a vision. When you do open your mouth, it becomes all about the message, not about shameless self-promotion.

Use who you are

The essence of a personal brand is the authenticity in who we are or who we would like to become as well as the unique promise of value. Your unique promise of value is the promise you make to your target market that your brand will fulfil. You must be able to live up to this promise. Most importantly, whilst the value you offer to your target market must consume you most of the time, you should never forget about your vision. Everything you do should be in support of your vision and what you want from life. Ask yourself the big question: where do you I see myself in three years, five years or 10 years? Then ensure that your personal brand plan underpins your vision and what you want from life.

People often ask me what role a personal brand strategist can play in creating a personal brand. I help my clients to release their dreams by guiding them through a personal branding process. Together, we develop a deep understanding of their personal brand and expertise through a series of questions and exercises that allow them to step back and look at their career, role or business. It’s a real game-changer as far as how they see their career, role or business and themselves. Once they have defined the qualities that make their brand one of a kind, the next step is to help them to develop a communication strategy to ensure their personal brands gain recognition and traction.

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