Building a Personal Brand

We all know what branding is: for a graffiti artist it may be a particular tag and color scheme. For a company, it may also be a particular “tag” (except we call it a logo here) and, yes, a color scheme. I went to a pub trivia night recently and one of the trivia rounds was to identify companies based on logos. Let’s just say it was a relatively easy challenge.

But, how do we translate that from things such as logos and color schemes to our own individual selves?To be clear, I am not referring to wearing a particular style of tie or pair of shoes, or dressing only in black so as to save “cognitive energy” every morning. It is more than that.

1.   Know your communication style and own it
Some of us are big talkers. We can’t help ourselves. I once knew someone who had her jaw wired shut for a procedure and still managed to mumble/choke out words; it was both horrifying and impressive.

Then there are those of us who don’t say very much. We are more inclined to put something in an e-mail or a document. Or maybe we prefer to use images and diagrams. Then again, we could be talkers, but our verbal style is staccato, or well-paced, or argumentative, or a stutter, or soft-spoken—

The point is that we all have a particular communication style that we are comfortable with and that defines us. Instead of reshaping ourselves to fit a different work culture— be honest, we hve all tried it to varying degrees of success, likely failure — give some real thought to how you communicate and how you can explain and/or teach that to others so that they can understand you.

2.   What are the characteristics of your visual design?
A former manager once assigned one of my subordinates to do research and provide a response. Before the end result was submitted back to my manager, the person asked me to review it and to “tighten it up.” That meant not just checking for content, but for how it looked; cleaning up the slides, formats, colors, etc. It’s the type of finishing work that I care about and I had been emphasizing to my team.

After that was done, it went over to my manager, and I forgot about it. Two minutes later, he was in my office and he asked me, point blank: “I thought I’d assigned this to X, did you do this?”

In a few minutes it quickly became clear that he had assumed that I had stepped in and did the work myself because the style of the presentation was something he had come to associate with my personal brand. From Day 1 at every company I recreate the setup which allows me to create documents that have a particular fit and finish; it is a habit that I carried with me from the days where I did some desktop publishing and it is so distinct that all it took was a single glance from my manager to see my fingerprints all over it.

What are the characteristics of your visual design? It seems minor, but there are some people that we work with who will never meet us in person and they will never hear our voice on a conference call. The only way they will know us is through the work we produce – it matters. Make sure that they get to see the best version of you that they can.

3.   How you do business
“Ethics” and “core values” are big, big words in today’s workplace. Companies are falling all over themselves to control and shape their images through these areas because their customers are starting to care.

It is not any different for those of us who are in the workforce. Companies are looking for people who match those ethics and values and likewise you want to be at a place that you feel comfortable in. You can’t do that if a) you don’t define what your values are, and b) you don’t live up to them.

As a manager, I defined my core leadership principles that first time I had a team to manage. The more years I spent working, the more deliberate I became about voicing those values and ethics, but also sticking to them in a way that was not obnoxious, but was firm.

People notice; don’t think that they don’t. They know who they can call for honest advice and evaluation. They know who they can trust to stay late and get the job done. They also know who is great for happy hour but not for holding the line. They also know who waffles under pressure and who steps up.

Which person do you want to be?

Build It and They Will Come
The truth is that much of the above will happen regardless of how much attention you give it. From a work standpoint we all grow up one day and we find ourselves asking our friends “when did people start (or stop) coming to me for advice” or “when did this start (or stop) making sense”?

That said, there is no reason to risk the willy-nilly development of your personal brand. It is something you should be aware of and you should make an effort to have accurately reflect who you are and what you stand for. It could be the difference between having a series of jobs and owning your career.

It could be the difference between merely doing a good job or being wildly successful.

Ask yourself: What is your personal brand and how are you making it work for you every day?

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You may also follow me on this blog and follow me on LinkedIn where I post other items similar to this. Or catch up with me on Twitter @cabigail2.

If you prefer a one-to-one conversation, you can always e-mail me at

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