Who Are You – What’s Your Brand?

by Charles Shillingburg

Personal-BrandAs a professional recruiting and staffing executive, I am amazed at how few business owners and corporate executives have consciously built their personal brand. Perhaps they don’t think of themselves as a brand, but in the competitive business marketplace, they can ill afford not to do so.

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.” But it is more than this. It is the sum of all the characteristics, personalities, behaviors and associations made with goods and services that differentiate them, either positively or negatively, and this includes tangibles and intangibles like openness, quality, caring, trust, social consciousness, reliability and follow-through. Brands simplify choices.

Whether you know it or not, you are a brand, just like a company, because people have already formed opinions of you. And those aware of you have already differentiated you. The question is, “Are you in control of these perceptions?” If not, you had better start thinking about it and start controlling it. When someone Googles you, what comes up? Nothing? Something? Is it good or is it questionable? Same thing with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. What kinds of pictures come up? Do they show you partying or are you doing something socially redeeming? What about your narratives — are your conversations negative or positive? Stand back and look at all of your communications objectively. Do you see someone who is mature, positive, a problem solver, and someone who will make or is making a positive difference? Or do you see someone who is immature, negative, a complainer and a poor influence on others? All of your social media conversations and pictures are out there forever.

Whatever you have done to date, it isn’t too late to alter your image. You can change the tone of your conversations to be more constructive and your pictures to be more inspiring. Your future content will begin to dominate your old content and you will become a changed person. Importantly, you need to think about how you want to be perceived, so you can build and reinforce this image. For those who do have a positive image, keep reinforcing your image and broaden your base, and you’ll definitely find it makes dollars and sense.

Personal Brand Identities

There is the individual who, when you Google his or her name, literally nothing comes up. No LinkedIn, No Facebook, no link to a company, nothing. As a brand, this person is a nonentity.

A person may be a de facto nonentity even with entries on LinkedIn or elsewhere if his or her name comes up on a Google list with others sharing that name and there is no picture or details of information. Without some link to a company or some other identifier, you have no idea which — if any — is the person you are looking for.

Everyone can relate to the drinking, partying pictures. Sometimes they do depict a sophisticated connoisseur, but usually the person comes across as an out-of-control lush.

There is the critic and complainer. Everything this person writes is negative, scolding and criticizing. I have seen this in my alumni blogs — individuals whose gift-giving had made them appear initially as caring, giving individuals suddenly became uncaring bullies due to their scathing criticisms and attacks against others on the blog. Their good works and giving (sometimes in the millions of dollars) were undone because of their attacks, and, as the alumni community turned against them, they became more defensive and abrasive. It will take a demonstrable effort for these individuals to redeem themselves and be viewed positively again. Better to treat all with respect and provide positive solutions. Don’t make personal attacks. Keep to the facts and/or ask questions others can consider.

Then there are those who have a detailed LinkedIn profile with a professional picture. Their profile is complete, with an overview of who they are and what they stand for. Their work history is complete, full of positive contributions and benefits to those they served. Their affiliations relate to their history, their interests and contributions. They provide articles and books they have written, recommendations from others and recommendations for others. Also, their other accounts, such Twitter and Facebook, deliver a consistently positive message. When you Google these individuals, you see a consistently positive profile of work accomplishments and personal achievements in the areas they care about and that make a difference to their organizations, community and maybe the world at large.

Charles Shillingburg is vice president of Marketing and Business Development at
APN Staffing and Employment Solutions, a national recruiting firm based in Phoenix that has been providing personnel to the automotive, transportation, motorcycle and healthcare industries. An expert in operational excellence, sales and service delivery, marketing and branding, he co-authored Driving Operational Excellence: Lean Six Sigma Secrets to Improve the Bottom Line.

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