Ultimately, business is all about people. The people who are driven to build a brand and the people who feel a connection to that brand, and then become its loyal customers and advocates.
In a person-driven, crowdfunded, social engagement business reality, both new and established brands and companies need real people to represent them. You cannot just hide behind a logo. When applied in alignment with your corporate brand strategy, personal branding can build and continuously strengthen a relationship of loyalty and trust with your customers.
Personal branding of key people within an organisation is very powerful. To explore this idea, and what drives personal branding from theory to business practice, I spoke to Jack Perlinski, a personal branding strategist and author of the BrandMe programme (www.thinkbrandme.com). He has developed a practical framework to put theories into practice, and to measure and quantify the effect of the investment in personal branding not only to the individual, but also the organisation.
Creating Customer Connections In The Trust Brand Economy
We are entering a new brand economy. Perlinski calls it the Trust Brand Economy. We are looking to brands to deliver more than a promise, we want to trust them to consistently delight, surprise and deliver on their brand promise to us. If we catch them not delivering, that broken promise will be immediately shared and visible to all.
The passion of the individual or their team to champion the brand promise, brand agenda, ethics and values. If you are going to be that champion, you have to ask yourself whether you really love what you do, and whether that is driving a connection to your customer. Because when the customer looks beyond the veneer of your brand they find what they are going to connect to--or not.
Perlinski’s work with personal branding often evolves from questions like “What are you passionate about?” When applying the answers, and linking them to what people actually have to do, it allows them to bring a completely different problem-solving mindset to the table; one that can create revolutionary ideas. Connecting what you do to the thing you are most passionate about is absolutely critical to creating and unlocking innovation.
When The CEO Asks To Be Made Into A Personal Brand
Your own journey of personal branding is one thing, but how do you handle it when the CEO asks you to make him or her a personal brand? After all, are you not working in branding and marketing?
First, a bit of advice: Do not immediately show any emotional reaction, as that is fraught with danger. Go back and give it some thought, then challenge the CEO to dig a little more deeply into what mobilises them, and what their own brand promise is. What is their motto? What drives them as a leader within an organisation?
You have to develop a narrative that allows others to understand the answers to these questions. It‘s your elevator pitch for the CEO. We’re used to thinking about the idea of a USP in a corporate brand framework. Well, what is the CEO’s USP? Try to either get it from the CEO themselves (which is rarely easy), or take on the responsibility of developing a brand proposition for the CEO and present it back to them to see the reaction. Then you will make the CEO value the process and the responsibility they are about to step into as a stakeholder in the communication, rather than a delegator. The CEO needs to understand that now will be the time to step up and get into the spotlight.
That means that now you have to go beyond usual marketing mechanics and really dig deep to understand the passion of the brand you represent and your market. If you can do that, you are really tapping into a unique angle, and a unique voice that will keep your customers connected to your brand.
The Pitfalls Of Personal Branding
According to Jack Perlinski, the pitfalls of personal branding come in two categories.
When you start talking about building your personal brand, company decision-makers percieve a risk. They worry that you are you going to get full of your own importance and leave the organisation for greener pastures, so why should they invest in your brand with that risk in mind? However, in Perlinski’s experience, that rarely happens. When people passionately connect to what they do, they enjoy their job. So they tend to stay and be connected more deeply. Those leaders that do not consider the benefits of personal branding for someone on their team--because of their fear of that person leaving--are losing an opportunity to unleash incredible innovation within their business.
Another pitfall of personal branding is people getting intoxicated with the idea that they are going to create a personal brand and everyone is going to notice how amazing they are. This is actually the complete opposite of what building a personal brand is about, because it is not about your desire, it is about your commitment. You are committing to what it is you are going to do, so that others recognise your brand through your performance. It is not about what you say you are, it is what you are prepared to do so that other will recognise your own brand. Some people think they are going to become famous instantly, but the process of personal branding is like running a marathon. You have to commit.
Building The Brand That Is You
Perlinski defines four domains to building a brand, whether it is personal or corporate:
DEFINITION of your brand.
ALIGNMENT of the tools, mechanisms and resources you need to deliver the message from your definition.
COMMITMENT to building your brand. You need to implement processes of organisational behaviour that are valued, replicable, scalable and teachable to ensure your brand can consistently deliver on its promise.
SUSTAINING your brand, setting up ways to measure effect and to define the right next innovation.
In practice, most organisations stop at the first two. They DEFINE and ALIGN, and think the job is done. They think these two will deliver the brand return, when in fact they are creating a negative return, because all they are doing is spending money. Not moving further means your marketing and branding efforts will be perceived mostly as expenses, not investments in the business.
When people move into the COMMITMENT phase and have to make certain everyone is fulfilling their part of the agenda, things get a lot harder. So many tend to not do it so well, or so often. But for successful branding, corporate or personal, commitment is key.
Want to know more?
Jack Perlinski authored the program BrandMe (www.thinkbrandme.com) - a program that helps you define, align, implement and sustain your personal brand into action. It is focused on behavioral strategies rather than theoretical principles. He is about to publish his book “Inspired by You”. At the end of the book there’s an exercise that generates and creates a personal brand mobilization statement. It will confront you with whether or not you have lived your passion. Is your personal brand low or high?