Managing Your Personal Brand

What is personal brand and why is it important? We've got suggestions for managing your personal brand and creating a plan to improve how others see you.

“Managing your personal brand” was a recent discussion topic for my Lean In Circle. What is personal brand? In his landmark book Think and Grow Rich, author Napoleon Hill introduced the concept of personal brand in the late 1930s—the idea of thinking about yourself and your work as a product with a brand.

Everyone has a personal brand, and if you’re not aware of your brand, promoting your brand and setting goals about where you want to improve your brand—you probably should be.

“The question is no longer IF you have a personal brand, but if you choose to guide and cultivate the brand or to let it be defined on your behalf.”—Shama Hyder from Forbes

Think about a few celebrities. What adjectives come to mind when I say these names: Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian, Bill Gates. Think about how a person’s brand has changed over the years (what adjectives would you use to describe Bill Cosby 10 years ago vs. today?).

Now think about your colleagues? Who is the most reliable? Who always finds a way to get it done? Who isn’t very responsive? Who can’t handle being wrong? That, my friends, is the idea behind “personal brand.”

Part of what’s fueling your personal brand is your social media presence. The Internet never forgets—so think about your future promotion or next career move before you post or share content on social media. And think about your kids… please, please, please think about your kids! They are going to grow up and see your social media footprint.

6 ways to start managing your personal brand

How do you care for and cultivate your personal brand? Here are some ideas to get started.

So how do you care for and cultivate your personal brand? Well, I’m still working on that part. But here’s some ideas that came up in our Lean In Meeting:

  • Decide what you want your personal brand to be. What three or four adjectives would you want colleagues to use to describe you?
  • Once you’ve made a list, publish it. Put those written words somewhere where you will see them often—computer monitor, planner, journal.
  • Take a poll. Ask your colleagues about your brand. What three or four adjectives would they use to describe you? And don’t just ask those you work with the closest. Ask outside of your immediate department or group. What have they heard about you and your work? Allow them to be honest with you—don’t get defensive or upset if their feedback isn’t what you want to hear. It’s better to know where your personal brand stands than to have colleagues tell you you’re great when that’s not how they really feel.
  • Compare lists. How does your list compare to the list from your coworkers?
  • Confide in a few trusted coworkers. Share your vision for your brand with them, and allow them to signal you when you’re actions aren’t consistent with the brand you want to have.
  • Set actionable goals to move your brand forward. For example, someone in my Lean In Circle said she wanted to be a more authentic leader. So her actionable goals for that are to close her laptop and silence her phone when meeting with her employees. She wants her team to have her undivided attention when in her office. Another leader in the circle said she wants to be seen as friendlier to colleagues in other departments, so she set a goal to eat lunch once a week in a shared break room space where she can build those relationships and foster collaboration.

Love it or hate it, like a bad reputation in high school, your personal brand is here to stay and will be a guiding factor in your career. The good news? With a little effort, awareness and personal PR you can change your personal brand to be the best representation of who you really are.

What about you? What ideas do you have for managing your personal brand? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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