By Patricia “Wynn” Norman, Ph.D.
Public Relations Program Director
South University, Online Programs
She was a successful basketball player in high school. Today when she strides into a room, she still uses her height and athleticism to her advantage. She doesn’t need skirts above her knees to emphasize her fit legs, nor does she want to. This game isn’t about attractiveness. It’s about confidence and power, just like it had been back in high school.
Except now, it’s business.
When you make a conscious effort to present yourself and your work in a specific way in order to sell what you have to offer, that’s the process of personal branding. And no matter what business you are in, to get that job, to keep that job or to get that promotion, you have to sell yourself. Competing for career opportunities requires more than just knowledge, skills or even experience.
Your personal brand is formed by how you dress; how you walk up to people; how you engage in conversation; how you offer your ideas and respond to others; how you work in or lead a team; how you make use of technology, on the job or online; how you organize your time and use other people’s time—your personal brand is all that and much, much more. Anything about you that influences the impression you make on people should be a well-considered element of your personal brand.
For example, when you meet Lesley Francis, owner of the Savannah public relations firm Lesley Francis PR, and recently the moderator of a QEP (Quality Enhancement Plan) panel discussion on personal branding at South University, you recognize her brand immediately. Whether she is in elegant pastels, basic black, or a combination of the two, Lesley’s look is tailored to bring out the peaches-and-cream complexion of her native British Isles. Modest heels do not strain to enhance her stature: her composure and directness don’t require that she be tall to be noticed. Meanwhile, however, the creamy pearls that often adorn her neck and ears speak wordlessly of her success.
“As a British born business woman in the USA, I had to modify my personal brand,” Francis explains. “I also had to change my elevator speech to be more appropriate to a North American audience. It is always about being honest and consistent and taking care not to overwhelm – and in my case, sometimes challenge British stereotypes and reassure clients and contacts that I do understand and belong to this business culture – albeit with an international flair and understanding.”
So what can you do to start developing a personal brand that will tell the world you’re open for business? Lesley recommends you stay true to your own values, but also consider the impact you will make on different audiences.
“Analyze your audiences and moderate your behavior accordingly,” says Francis. “Remember most people make snap decisions within seconds of meeting you – and sometimes even before you speak. And don’t forget to get serious about your virtual image – what does your email address, Linkedin profile and Facebook photos and postings say about you? Choose how much you want to reveal about yourself online and in person. Tone aspects of yourself up or down, depending on different audiences, but don’t try to live a double life.”
More detailed information about how personal branding can help you reach your career goals is available here.