Friday, March 30, 2012

Personal Brand: How to Maintain One

Brands, like virtually everything else are subject to diminishment, decay, and dissolution. Cut across any age group and ask and you will get a walk down memory lane for brands which no longer exist - half remembered commercials, snippets of jingles, even the thing the brand was known for. But the brand itself - gone, by purchase or failure. Or, worst of all, it continues exist, sadly diminished and tarnished from its former glory.

That's why brands - both corporate and our own - need to be maintained. Periodically, we need to review how our brand is perceived and functioning in the world around us. If we don't maintain it, we will lose it.

How do we do this?

1) KPI (Key Performance Indicators): Just as in business there are Key Performance Indicators which demonstrate how the business is doing, so for our brand there are key performance indicators as well. Unfortunately, they're not nearly as well defined as they can be in a business so they require some thought and definition. If your brand is wisdom, how many times have you distributed it or suggestions been adapted? If it's perseverance, how many things did you finish this month that you started? If it's joviality, have you been consistently jovial, or only when the mood strikes you?

Obviously, these need to be defined up front. Just as obviously, they will probably need to be changed over time. But the important thing is to have some to measure against.

2) Feedback: Just as in business companies attempt to gather the information about how their product is perceived by surveys and customer feedback, so we also need to gather information from our "customers" how our brand is doing. Sometimes this can be measured indirectly by things such as greater or lesser number of interactions, projects, etc. Perhaps the most effective way - and the most vulnerable - is to simply start soliciting the opinions of others. "I'm trying to work on these areas - how do you think I'm doing?"

Yes, it can be very painful to take criticism - especially when I find out that I am not being perceived at all as I intended. But without actual knowledge of how my brand is being perceived and used, I'll have no real idea of how successful I really am.

3) Goals: The purpose of any brand is to do something, whether "make money" or "solve a critical need". How is our brand helping us hit goals we have set, professional or personal? If I have set a goal - for example, promotion within x years - and I have not arrived there, it's probably a safe question to at least ask "Is my brand doing what I thought it was doing?" If not, is the brand the correct one? Or is the goal something I can't achieve with this brand?

I believe that personal branding, properly done, can be a great aid - both to focus ourselves on what we want to do as well as helping us to achieve the goals we set. But just as with any marketing company, without taking thought of where we are, what we want to be, how we can do it, and how we can maintain it, our brand will be perceived less as a "brand" by others and more as a phase we are going through, soon to be replaced by another personality trait.

Be different. Be your brand.

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