Personal Branding: In Need of a Makeover?

By: City Bible Forum

“I think I need a personal brand makeover”.

This is something I never imagined ever saying to myself! But as it so happened, I’d been discussing with my line manager how I could generate some work from colleagues. He said to me: “The problem is, you’re just not known”.

I thought that was a really interesting observation given I’ve been working for the company for 16 years. But then we nationalised and adopted hybrid work practices post-Covid. The fallout from those two changes meant I had become – well, invisible.

Hence my conclusion that I think I need a personal brand make-over.

What do we mean by “personal brand”?

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is quoted as saying, “Your brand is what people say about you when you aren’t in the room”.

Now that’s a sobering statement! For me, it reveals two things: Firstly, I have a personal brand because I’m sure people talk about me when I’m not in the room (I talk about others when they aren’t in the room so the reverse must also be true. And if they aren’t talking about me – well that could be saying something too). Secondly, it shows me that I care about my personal brand, because I care what people are saying about me when I’m not in the room.

Reputation and Brand

How is reputation different from personal brand? It’s a fine line but the Harvard Business Review came up with some distinctions:

“Your reputation is made up of the opinions and beliefs people form about you based on your collective actions and behaviors. Your personal brand, on the other hand, is much more intentional. It is how you want people to see you. Whereas reputation is about credibility, your personal brand is about visibility and the values that you outwardly represent.”

Personal Branding and Self-Promotion

I must say I wasn’t an early adopter of the concept of a personal brand. To me, it smacked of shameless self-promotion. It was only when pondering my invisibility problem at work that I realised there might be something in this personal brand concept.

I also realised that personal branding doesn’t have to be about me and for me (in other words, shameless self-promotion). It could be about me and for something else.

I liked what the Harvard Business Review had to say:

“Being able to articulate your brand will help others understand who you really are, what you stand for, build authentic relationships, and ultimately, realize your goals.”

For me, I care what people are saying about me when I’m not in the room because I want them to know the real me – and I want them to benefit from knowing the real me. I want to have a positive impact on the people around me.

4 Steps to Building a Personal Brand

There is a lot of wisdom out there when it comes to building a personal brand. Inspired by this TED talk, I came up with 4 simple steps.

  1. Work out what you want your personal branding to help you accomplish

These might be general goals based on how you interact with others – or specific goals such as applying for a job, asking for a promotion or vying for a leadership role.

  1. Work out what you want to be known for

Our personal values represent what is important to us. So articulating our personal values can be a good place to start.

This isn’t easy, but this personal values identification exercise can be a good place to start.

There’s also a role, I believe, for feedback from “truth tellers”- trusted people who will do just that (tell us the truth). If our brand is what other people are saying about us when we’re not in the room, then feedback from “truth tellers” can at least help us to know what other people are prepared to say about us to our face.

This kind of feedback will help us to know whether what we want to be known for exists already, could do with some work, or is really pie in the sky.

It’s also worth considering whether what we want to be known for is what our organisation rewards. We will be and do our best and find work more fulfilling when there is some sort of alignment.

  1. Work out who can benefit from what you have to offer

I like this step because it helps to prevent our personal brand from becoming shameless self-promotion (about me and for me).

Some useful questions to ask ourselves could be: Who can most gain from what I have to share? How exactly do I see myself helping them?

I think there’s a place for vulnerability here. Not being strong and having it all together all the time, and seeking support and help when we need it, can give others a little breathing space to be themselves.

  1. Embody your personal values

Basically every interaction is an opportunity to reinforce our brand. So complaining about the commute, for example, is a lost opportunity to communicate more appealing aspects of your brand, says one expert.

Although ‘every interaction’ does sound a little exhausting. Perhaps being a little bit more intentional sometimes or with some of our colleagues is more sustainable.

When it Gets Hard

Building a personal brand is hard work

It isn’t just trying to always embody your values that’s hard work. It’s hard to identify our goals at times when we’re just not sure. It’s hard to hear feedback from truth-tellers whose version of us is different from the one we’d like to believe about ourselves. It’s hard to work out how we can help others when it’s not immediately obvious.

This is where my Christian faith gives me a beautiful coherence. I have something that is bigger than me and outside of myself telling me what really matters in life. It gives me a lens to see the world and myself clearly. It both models and encourages service of others. It includes resources to assist with transformation and deal with failure. Jesus says:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28-30]

I think this means it’s possible to strive and rest at the same time. I can be intentional about how I want other people to see me. The core of me can rest too, knowing that Jesus is running the world and that I have a place on his team. It can be shamelessly not about me! I am Jesus’ person, and Jesus is all about serving others – that’s why he came to die for us.

“Your brand is what people say about you when you aren’t in the room”

So, circling back to my invisibility problem at work.

The first step to take will be to talk to my line manager about what I can do to raise my profile. This isn’t easy because I’ll need to swallow my pride to ask for help. It’s worth swallowing though, because I really believe I have something good to offer.

And as I take this step, I will be reminding myself that I’m not invisible to the one who runs the world, and whose opinion really matters.

Questions to Think About:

  1. Are you concerned about what people say about you when you aren’t in the room? What drives that concern?
  2. What’s your goal? What do you want your personal branding to help you accomplish?
  3. What do you want to be known for? What are your personal values?
  4. What does your workplace value and reward? What doesn’t it?
  5. What keeps you going when building a personal brand is hard work?

Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.

Feature image: Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash 

About the Author: Caroline Spencer is an experienced speaker, writer, mentor and trainer with City Bible Forum.