Tuesday 20 June 2017, Bristol

On a scorching June day, professional services marketers braved the midday sun as they made their way to the hidden gem that is JLL’s office off Park Street.

David Bittiner of The BD Consultancy was giving a talk on personal branding. After a light lunch, a bit of networking and some stunning views across the city, we got down to business. 

David opened with some contrasting definitions of personal branding: 

“A calling card...a frame through which the world sees you...your unique promise of value... and then someone proclaiming, “screw personal branding”! 

So, there we go - it’s either the best thing since sliced bread or a waste of time. 

We assumed that for the rest of the talk there was some merit in it. Because let’s face it, even if we don’t all rush out and write a personal branding plan, there is bound to be some useful tips on how to present oneself.

David described three elements of a brand: 

  • How you position yourself.
  • Your image (or aura).
  • Your behaviour (or reputation). 

Your brand is not just your reputation. It requires concerted and strategic effort to create. If reputation is something that happens to you, brand is something that you make happen. 

So why is it important to have a brand? Answers came in from the floor here and words like “control”, “selling yourself”, “trust” and “career goals” were cited. 

Next up was a slide highlighting the qualities that someone with an excellent personal brand might have. Here we go: 

  • Interesting
  • Coachable
  • Likeable
  • Confident and positive
  • Trustworthy
  • Emotionally intelligent
  • Reliable
  • No pushover (tough)
  • Humble
  • Candid
  • Willing to challenge appropriately
  • Willing to listen
  • What you see is what you get 

There is quite a parallel between these qualities and with those you might expect in a leader, right? One audience member related them to the qualities of a good parent. 

Devising a personal branding strategy

So, we have a picture painted for us of what a good personal brand looks like. And whilst it may be pretty difficult to tick every box on that list, it gives us something to work towards. ‘Aim high’ and all that. But how do we start on that journey? 

David recommends a PwC workbook to do this. It guides you through considering: differentiation, vision, core values, strengths, weaknesses, passions and purpose. And then, bringing it all together. 

Your personal brand and your employer

One specific tip was to align your brand with your employer. It’s all very well being a free-thinking rebel, but does that fit in with your partners’ vision? And if it proves impossible, are you in the right job? This is important for your digital footprint – things like your LinkedIn profile. 

How not to do a personal brand

Illustrated by Heinz’s infamous Green Tomato ketchup on display in the Museum of Failure in Oslo, David took us through some things not to feature in your personal brand. He did stress that these are not set in stone and just one line of thinking. They included: 

  • Calling yourself a guru, mogul or expert.
  • Zombie branding, i.e. hiding behind jargon and buzz words.
  • Listing your trophies, e.g. where you went to university, what professional qualifications you have.
  • Describing yourself as the best, the one, the only...
  • Listing all the things you can do.
  • Calling yourself a disruptor, a ruckus maker... 

Closing thoughts

We were coming towards the end of our informative talk, and David left us with three closing thoughts: 

  • How do you measure your value? This will depend entirely on you and your role. But it could include something easily quantifiable like the number of new clients you bring in, or something less tangible like your importance in driving cultural change.
  • How do you communicate your personal brand? This includes every touchpoint – your emails, how you answer the phone, giving presentations... And remember, lawyers and accountants tend to be ‘detail’ people. They like to see evidence.
  • What is important in promoting your personal brand? Keep your career vision and goals in mind, show that you are well informed, get buy-in for your ideas and become a ‘go-to’ person. 

And finally, an action plan: 

  1. Write down your goals.
  2. Consider your audience.
  3. Try to be seen as a ‘mediator’ within your organisation. It is a powerful position to be in.
  4. Know your job description.
  5. Align yourself with your organisation.
  6. Communicate the benefits of what you bring.
  7. Be visible and memorable.
  8. Get appraised... as much as possible.

Written by Huw Bendon, South West Regional PR
Managing Director and Founder, On Point Copywriting