Personal Branding is not only a big part of International Women’s Day . . . it’s a yearlong activity
Under the tagline “A Brand Called You!” the city of Brampton along with the Ontario Provincial Government has sponsored an event “in celebration of International Women’s Day.”
While there are undoubtedly similar type venues and events the world over this one stood out because it clearly recognizes the fact that effective branding is a cornerstone for truly acknowledging women’s contributions in an increasingly global society. The fact that according to 2009 studies the number of women-owned businesses increased by 40 percent provides testimony to just how broad a presence (and influence) women have in the world today.
Focused on learning, improving, building and growing, the Personal Branding 2.0 conference empowers as much as it engages in that it helps women to establish a clear guideline for stepping up and standing out, and after all, isn’t this the point of the day’s celebration.
But what about after the day comes to an end and we rejoin the mainstream of everyday business and life? What can we take away from International Women’s Day to ensure that our branding efforts are not confined to a single date on the calendar?
One of the key principles of a strong and enduring female brand is that women do not have to assume the male persona to succeed in business! (Note: ironically, this is a point that I had stressed during my Art of WOW seminar . . . WOW stands for Wisdom Opportunity & Wealth for Corporate Women.)
Further to the above reflection, the following are my key branding points for your consideration as we look to make our mark each day of the year starting with rule number one . . . YOU DON’T OWN YOUR BRAND. In other words, it’s how others perceive you that determine how you are seen and valued. The biggest gift therefore that you can give yourself is to become your best PR Person. If you don’t take responsibility for self-marketing, you are giving others the power to define you.
VISUALIZE HOW YOU WANT TO SHOW UP
Work on how you approach others. Now is the time to let your personality shine. Understand your natural makeup and leverage your best interpersonal qualities. It begins with making people feel comfortable in your presence by engaging them, treating them with respect and also with warmth. The time you spend developing your people skills will make it feel more natural to lead people on any level. Simply put, adopt a host mentality. Make people comfortable with you and establish commonality quickly. Treat everyone, regardless of title, as if they are a guest in your home. (Note: this is something that Janice learned the hard way in my case study on being politically savvy.)
MANAGE YOUR IMPRESSIONS
Be current and congruent. If you want to elevate, shift or rebrand perceptions, you can quickly facilitate this process by changing the external image first. You must see yourself as a product you are marketing. In order for others to give your product a chance, you must have packaging that compels others to pay attention. Use your visual presence to be your calling card initially when people meet you in person. Invest in a wardrobe and grooming that are current and appealing to others.
MASTER THE SILENT LANGUAGE
What messages are you sending with your body language? Until you become more conscious of what you are transmitting, you may be sabotaging outcomes by projecting mixed or negative body language. When others misinterpret your body language, they may react to subliminal messages you never meant to send. Your body posture conveys how you feel about yourself and those around you.
• Straighten your shoulders. This conveys authority and pride. It tells others you have healthy self-esteem and encourages them to notice and listen to you. Stand tall. This tells people you are ready to face life head-on. Avoid the model’s pose if you want to be taken seriously. Avoid holding your arms across your chest which looks defensive or weak.
• Gesture from your waist out. Never gesture down as this is perceived as negative. Use big gestures initially. This will camouflage your nervousness. Use higher gestures to show passion. Avoid gesturing above heart level to avoid being perceived as too emotional. Show open palms to project trustworthiness. Avoid rapid, jerky movements and gesturing with wide fingers. Try to hold each gesture for a split second.
• Eye contact determines your comfort and confidence. In a sales or other influencing situation, increased eye contact can make the conversation seem more congenial and casual. Try to deliver one thought per person while maintaining the eye contact simultaneously. Use the triangular method. A good way to make eye contact in a non-confrontational way is to look at the person’s left eye, then the right, and finally the mouth.
SEEK FEEDBACK AND MAKE COURSE CORRECTIONS ACCORDINGLY
Don’t assume everyone knows your value. Be proactive and conduct market research to learn what people say about you, how they perceive your value and what they think about your communication style. Seek feedback from trusted colleagues so you’ll know your own blind spots. Ask how you are perceived and see if it matches your own vision. At a minimum, acknowledge and accept the brand you’ve created up to this point. You’ll have invaluable insights to help you create your bigger future. Don’t interpret feedback as criticism but rather as a gift.
BUILD YOUR NETWORK AS YOUR NET WORTH
Take the time to build professional relationships. Your strong relationships with your senior leadership, colleagues and cross-functional team members will be critical to your success. When you take the initiative to cultivate relationships, you are inspiring people to become your sponsors and champions. Eating lunch with a colleague, reaching out to mentor someone, joining company sponsored events, virtually connecting through emails and LinkedIn all help to expand your personal brand. Look at networking as an investment in your future and don’t make it optional. You never want to build a network when you need one!
BUILD A REPUTATION AS AN EXPERT, NOT A GENERALIST
Are you stretching yourself to be all things to all people? Are you diluting your brand reputation for the sake of staying employed? Are you of the belief that generalists have the edge? Identify your unique abilities, and invest time in showcasing your value to your company. This will give you a distinct competitive advantage that directly translates from job security to career opportunities. Where possible, give away your expertise as an act of goodwill. Showcasing your talents and abilities also allow you to rely on your strengths instead of compensating for your weaknesses.
BE COMFORTABLE TOOTING YOUR OWN HORN
Last but not least, tooting your own horn is no longer an option. Building a reputation for making things happen and being able to talk about it are critical to your personal brand and future opportunities. Ultimately, helping those above you see what an asset you are to the company is your goal. Modesty is considered a virtue, yet modesty in corporations just hides all those bright lights by the bushel-full. Keep your boss informed of all that you are doing. Prepare a 30 second commercial that explains what you are most proud of when you have that chance meeting with senior management.
• Do I understand the needs of my organization and the problems it is trying to solve? If not, where can I learn about them so I can offer my strengths as part of a solution? How can I use my network to expand my insights?
• Do colleagues and senior management seek out my expertise? If not, what can I do to promote my capabilities? How can I give away my expertise to make a bigger difference?
• Do I manage relationships and serve as a role model? If not, how can I engage others to connect with me? How can I enrich my relationships?
• Do I hold my head high even when things are uncertain? If not, what do I need to do to demonstrate calmness and confidence? What can I say to demonstrate a positive attitude in times of uncertainty?
• Do I have the courage to ask for feedback? Who can be candid and share what I need to know? How can I ask for feedback to make others comfortable in being honest?
I encourage you to find the time and invest in you! Be the best of who you are right now but you’ll never promote your unique brand if you aren’t seen, heard or followed.