There’s a lot been written about branding – how do clients and customers perceive your business, what values does it represent, is its reputation good or bad, what impact are these perceptions having on how much you sell and who to, and so on. But more and more, your own personal brand is being held up as a critical part of your business success – particularly in smaller ventures and entrepreneurial setups where the business owner is often so closely identifiable with the business itself that the two are inseparable. In these circumstances, what you say, what you do, what you wear, even what you eat, all become part of your personal brand and, by extension, have a fundamental impact on the success of your business.
Put simply, your personal brand should speak clearly about you, your key areas of expertise, your attitudes and values; essentially it’s what you want to be famous for (or notorious for) as the representative of your business. On a day to day, customer interaction level, your Personal brand is defined by the following factors:
How people perceive you includes the clothes you wear and accessories you carry. Of course, you don’t have to abide by any notion of a business dress code for your industry but do be aware that first impressions (and ongoing ones) are powerful and your wardrobe is a large part of what registers with people when they meet you. It’s worth spending time considering exactly what impression you want to create, what you feel comfortable wearing, and creating your own ‘dress code’ accordingly. Then stick to it, because branding is created through consistency.
If your business has premises which welcome clients and customers – maybe a retail store or especially a personal office for meetings – it’s critical to consider the image that those premises are presenting. How you keep your personal workspace says a lot about you and leads to assumptions about how you might be to work with or deal with. Do you have art on the walls? What kind of seating do you provide? Is there a dedicated meeting space? Is it sober and functional or vibrant and funky? All these issues and more are influential. Similarly, if you use a car for your business then the brand, model, color and features are all unconscious factors that impact on how customers perceive you and your business. For example, driving a gas-guzzler when your website loudly proclaims your green credentials will strike a wrong note leading clients to wonder what else might not add up about you; driving a Prius on the other hand would be a perfect match and create a reassuring image.
Of course, these days, before people even meet you face to face they think they know you because they’ve checked you out online. Your LinkedIn profile is likely to be presenting your main business-related image but even though Facebook tends to be more personal that won’t stop potential customers and partners searching for your profile and taking a look at what you’ve posted publicly. Likewise Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. This is not to say that you must have an account with any of these platforms (although in some industries their absence might be seen as unusual) but if you do then you must manage them with your personal brand in mind, as follows:
Before posting anything always read it through and mentally edit it from a customer/client point of
view. Post in haste, repent at leisure, as the saying might as well go.
Be cautious when posting pictures. The office party might have been fun but do you really want the post-midnight pics online for all to see. Similarly, adjust your account settings so that when others tag you in images, you have power of veto over that tag.
Be wary when reacting to other people’s posts, especially if your reaction is in any way emotional. Give it a few minutes at least and bear in mind that your response will be out there for others to see and may be taken out of context.
And just to repeat: consistency lies at the heart of good branding – if you’re having an ‘off’ day then that day may not be a good one to be posting on Facebook. Remember: reputations (and brands) are built slowly but may be lost quickly.