Published: December 14, 2008 in California JobJournal (Cover page); http://jobjournal.com/article_full_text.asp?artid=2534
By Dr. Hubert Rampersad
In life, as in business, branding is more effective, powerful and sustainable than marketing and sales, and an effective way to best the competition. It’s about influencing others, by creating a brand identity that associates certain perceptions and feelings with that identity.
Branding isn’t just for companies anymore. Successful personal branding entails managing the perceptions effectively and controlling and influencing how others perceive and think of you. In today’s instant-message, online, virtual age, a strong personal brand is becoming increasingly essential and is key to personal success. It is fundamental to the positioning strategy behind the world’s most successful people. Icons like Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods, Warren Buffet, Donald Trump, Bill Gates and, most recently, Barack Obama.
Everyone has a personal brand, but most people are not aware of this and do not manage it strategically, consistently or effectively. You should take control of your brand and the message it sends and affects how others perceive you. This will help you to grow in a specific direction and distinguish yourself as an exceptional professional.
Most traditional personal branding concepts focus mainly on personal marketing, image building, selling, outward appearances, promoting oneself, and becoming famous, which can easily veer into an ego trip and lead to perceptions of egocentricity and selfishness. They define personal branding from a personal marketing (selling) point of view.
Personal branding is more than just marketing and promoting yourself. Your personal brand is the synthesis of all the expectations, images, and perceptions it creates in the minds of others, when they see or hear your name. Consider the images which come to mind when we think of some well-known individuals:
Most people see Oprah Winfrey as powerful and influential, but also warm and caring.
Tiger Woods is considered an intense competitor and the greatest golfer in the world.
Bill Gates brings to mind gadgets, geeks, and philanthropy.
Donald Trump is associated with ego and a decisive ruthlessness.
Mother Teresa is the epitome of helping the poor, selflessness and saintly behavior.
Albert Einstein is remembered as a great and gentle genius.
Barack Obama is seen as a man of intelligence, integrity and vision, who is fighting for change. His passion for change is the pillar of his authentic personal brand, and it is the primary theme of many of his speeches. “America is a land of big dreamers and big hopes. . . And it is because our dreamers dreamed that we have emerged from each challenge more united, more prosperous, and more admired than before. . . The true test of the American ideal is whether . . . chance of birth or circumstance decides life’s big winners and losers, or whether we build a community where, at the very least, everyone has a chance to work hard, get ahead, and reach their dreams. . . I don’t want to settle for anything less than real change, fundamental change – change we need – change that we can believe in. It’s change that I’ve been fighting for for over two decades. Because those dreams – American dreams – are worth fighting for.”
Note how many times he references authentic dreams. Barack Obama has succeeded by living according to his dream and doing related work that he loves. It’s important to be true to your own dreams and to become the CEO of your personal brand.
The Genius Within You
Anyone can deliver peak performances and be successful in life, because all of us have the genius within us to do so. Success is not something that will come automatically or something that the world will define for you. It’s what you define in your ambitious dream (hope) and in the way you pursue this dream. Remember what Marva Collins said: “Success doesn’t come to you . . . you go to it.” You must have a dream in life, follow your heart and love what you do, if you expect exceptional success. Take the initiative and the responsibility to develop, implement and cultivate your authentic dream, and keep it at the forefront of your mind each day.
Your personal brand should be authentic. Authentic personal branding provides a roadmap for a journey toward a happier and more successful life. Your personal brand should therefore emerge from your search for your identity and meaning in life, and it is about getting very clear on what you want, fixing it in your mind, giving it all your positive energy, doing what you love, and developing yourself continuously. Your personal brand should reflect your true character, and should be built on your values, strengths, uniqueness, and genius. If you are branded in this organic, authentic and holistic way, your personal brand will be strong, clear, and valuable to others. You will also create a life that is fulfilling and you will automatically attract the people and opportunities that are a perfect fit for you.
If you are not branded in any unique way, if you don’t deliver according to your brand promise, or if you focus mainly on simply selling and promoting yourself, you could be perceived as egocentric, selfish, and a unique jerk – and branding will be a cosmetic and dirty business.
Love and Respect
Love is an important element in this personal branding equation. It is about loving yourself (self-respect), loving others, and loving what you do. You should love yourself in at least equal measure to others or things. This can be found in most religions: “to love others as you love yourself.” Abraham Maslow said, “We can only respect others when we respect ourselves. We can only give, when we give to ourselves. We can only love, when we love ourselves.” Without knowing who you are, it’s very difficult to love yourself or others. You need to make a positive emotional connection with yourself and find yourself interesting before others can do the same.
An organic, holistic and authentic personal brand will help you unlock your potential and build a trusted image that you can project in everything you do; a brand that is in harmony with your dreams, life purpose, values, passion, specialization and genius.
With an authentic personal brand, your strongest attributes and values can separate you from the crowd. Without it, you look just like everyone else.
This article is based on Dr. Hubert Rampersad’s new book “Authentic Personal Branding: A new blueprint for building and aligning a powerful leadership brand’ (Information Age Publishing Inc, 2009). You may email him at email@example.com.