Personal Brand

by Dawn Bentley

Factors contributing to your brand

When someone thinks of you, what comes to mind? Often, it’s what you are good at and the skills you bring to particular situations; occasionally, it’s what you are not so good at or what went wrong. Along with this picture, there is also an image of how you come across, how you stand and what you typically wear. All of these are factors contributing to your brand. In developing your brand, it’s worth considering these and whether they convey the image you want. Do they suggest the confident person who has great self belief or something different?

Your personal brand is everything that you are, whether you are aware of it or not. It’s what people see, hear and feel when you walk into a room and is therefore made up of the following elements:

  • Your skills and experience, which make up the cognitive skills that enable you to do the work you do
  • Your behaviours, which are driven by your values and beliefs and goals
  • Your personal appearance – what you wear and how you look, the latter of these being not just your grooming, but how you sit, stand, walk and talk.

The question to ask yourself is this: what do all of these say about me? In other words, what is the positive impact you want to create? How can you use all of these to create the maximum impact?

Skills and experience

Your particular skills and experience can be a key differentiator in particular situations. For example, when applying for a new job, you want to be absolutely clear that you have the appropriate skills and experience to deliver the job to the standard required. You can only do this if you are crystal clear about the skills and experience you have gained and have sufficient evidence to back this up. Be clear about the situations you have faced, what you actually did in a given situation, the responsibilities you had and what you specifically achieved.

In considering this, be sure to include elements of your life outside work, particularly if you have any hobbies or are involved in any charitable work.

If you have worked through some of the other exercises in this topic, you should by now have a good idea of the strong points that go to make your brand, and this will make it easy for you to answer questions such as ‘What is it that makes you the most appropriate person for this role?’ or ‘Can you describe one or two of your most significant achievements?’

Behaviour

Consider for a moment how well your behaviour reflects your brand and the person you really are. Be aware of your key attributes and how they are helpful to you. Also be aware of those that are less helpful to you and what you are doing to either overcome them or manage them.

It is particularly helpful to understand what happens to these attributes when you are under pressure. After all, when you are in an interview situation, you may well feel under pressure! Often, your best attributes can go underground at this crucial time. To avoid this happening, it will also help if you are prepared for questions such as ‘How would you describe yourself as a person?’ or ‘What would you describe as your greatest attribute?’ (See Interviewing - Getting That Job)

If you understand your values (assuming you have completed the exercise Define your values), this will also help you understand your behaviour, as your values act as your internal compass. It will help you see more clearly how you make decisions and why some decisions are uncomfortable for you. When you are feeling uncomfortable, it is often because one or more of your values are being denied. Become aware of how you react in these situations. Understanding your values will also help you make some assessments as to whether the job or company is right for you. Will it fulfil your needs? It will also help you answer questions such as ‘What’s important to you at work?’ or ‘What frustrates you the most and how do you cope with it?’

Appearance

This is not simply a matter of what you wear. It’s about how you speak and your whole physiology: how you walk and stand, what facial expressions you use and how animated you are.

Research conducted by Mehrabin and Ferris in the 1960s showed that a large part of the message we deliver is conveyed through our tone of voice and our physiology, with the rest coming through the words we use. To come across congruently, you need to ensure that these three elements – words, tone and physiology – are all giving the same message.

Sounding the part

So let’s start with voice tone. How loudly or softly you speak and the degree to which you vary your volume conveys much about your confidence and your gravitas. One way to recognise your voice tone is to do the following simple exercise.

  • Think of your voice as having three zones, the head, the heart and the belly. Now speak from each of these areas, starting with the head. Put all your attention in your head and breathe from the upper part of your chest. You may find that your voice pitch is higher than usual and that you talk fairly fast.
  • Secondly, speak from your heart. Put all of your attention to your heart and speak, breathing from the middle of the chest. You will find that your tone is slightly lower and you speak slightly more slowly.
  • Lastly, speak from your belly. Take your breathing down to your belly, breathing from your diaphragm, with all your attention focused on your belly. You’ll notice that your voice tone is even lower and slower.

Having completed this exercise, you’ll now be more aware of where your natural tone is pitched.

Most conversations happen at a rate of between 100 and 130 words per minute. To maximise your impact in presentations, it is best to slow down, creating time for people to consider what you are saying. Actors, for example, are normally trained to speak their parts at 60 to 90 words per minute.

In terms of your brand, you need to consider what it is you are trying to portray and then check out whether this is coming through in your voice. Use someone you trust to give you feedback or listen to yourself via a recording. In your assessment, consider the following categories – energy, enthusiasm, expression and volume:

  • What degree of energy is portrayed in my voice?
  • What degree of enthusiasm is portrayed in my voice – does what I’m talking about sound interesting?
  • How expressive am I being? Am I conveying the emotion I want to put across?
  • Am I too loud, too quiet or just right?

In all situations, it is important to consider what message you want to get across and who your audience is. After all, you don’t want to come across as loud and energetic when you are giving bad news, do you? (see also Voice Skills.)

Acting the part

People are often amazed when they see themselves on a recording, or get feedback about some of their bad habits and the message they can give. For example, someone may find they are constantly tapping a pen, doodling, fidgeting with coins in their pocket or frowning. They are often surprised by how transparently their feelings are conveyed, simply by how they sit or stand. Our body gives off big clues as to how we may be feeling and it may therefore make sense to learn how to come across differently. For example, if you come across as hesitant and nervous in certain situations, you will want, instead, to appear calm and in control of your brief.

Finding your centre is a technique developed from the martial arts. It’s also used in yoga and pilates. The body and mind are at their strongest when the body is centred and the mind is thinking positively, so we feel calm, confident and in control. We are open and receptive to external stimuli and our thinking is clear.

By centred, we mean that the physiology is balanced and symmetrical, with the weight distributed evenly across both legs, feet a hip’s width apart and the knees slightly bent. When you are centred, your breathing is low in the belly, using the whole of your diaphragm, and all your energy and attention is focused one inch below the navel (your centre).

Using energy from this point enables great feats of strength and endurance. It’s relevant to managers, as it allows you to operate while fully present and in the moment. It ensures that your mind and body are fully aligned, allowing you to deliver the maximum impact without stress or strain. When presenting, this stance helps you stay in one space and minimises the possibility of distraction that could be caused by fidgeting hands and feet.

Finding your centre takes practice if, as is often the case, you are undoing bad habits that have probably taken years to establish themselves, so practice, practice, practice.

Now look at your brand values and reflect on how you currently act. Do you accurately portray what you want to? What new actions do you need to learn? Get some feedback too, especially if you are practising something new.

Remember you are on show all the time, sending signals to people about who you are and what you stand for. Be conscious how you come across to others, even when you think it might not matter, such as when you are buying lunch, sitting at your desk at the end of a long day or at the office party. See the topic on Body Language.

Looking the part

For me, this is the packaging piece. Does how you look convey your brand and your values? If you were a brand on the supermarket shelf, how would you want to be seen? Would it be bold and brash, a quality brand or value for money? Think about how you want to be seen and what this might mean in terms of how you dress. There is no right or wrong answer and there are lots of experts on image consulting who can help you get this right for you and your brand. You do, however, have to take into account your environment.

Tip

Whether your environment is formal or informal, there are certain things to aim for:

  • The look is yours, not someone else’s
  • At the very least, you’re what we expect
  • At best, you are more
  • You look comfortable
  • Your grooming is impeccable, but seemingly effortless
  • Nothing jars
  • Nothing is contrived
  • The fine touches are just that, fine
  • It looks as though you have chosen your things with care
  • You look now, not yesterday; you also look timeless
  • We want to know you because of how you look, even before you open your mouth.