Featured in Crain’s Cleveland Business: How’s your personal brand? By Laura Sheridan, President, Viva La Brand

You manage your finances. You manage your business. What about your personal brand?

What do Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Sheryl Sandberg and Ellen DeGeneres all have in common? It’s not just wealth, millions of Twitter and Instagram followers, and countless endorsement deals. It’s also a mastery of personal branding.

Personal branding isn’t just for the rich and famous. Everyone has a personal brand. As Tom Peters, management consulting guru and inventor of the phrase “personal brand,” said, “We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc.”You don’t have an option.

Everything you do, both intentionally or not, contributes to the way others perceive your personal brand. Have you turned down a speaking engagement? Written a curt email response to an employee? Butted in line at Starbucks? Like it or not, it is part of your footprint. And, anytime you like, share, comment or post online, you are doing so as an ambassador of your “personal brand.”Technology is changing virtually everything in our lives.

While exhilarating, everything around you is changing. Skills you needed yesterday may not be valuable today. What you can control is how you appear to others.We live in a brand world.

Everything from that fitness tracker you’re wearing, to the swoosh on your shoes, and the S’well logo on your travel mug boosts a brand. And you’re every bit as much of a brand as Uber, Capital One and Amazon.

Establishing a great personal brand means being more of yourself at your best. Amplify what you stand for. Promote how you’re different and better. It all counts. “Personal brand is what people say about you when you leave the room,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO.How do you develop your personal brand?

Step 1: Determine how you’re perceived today.

Just as we conduct a brand audit to understand how consumers experience a brand, you need to determine how others view you. When was the last time you conducted a Google search on YOU? When was the last time you asked a client or peer how your presentation, analysis or facilitation of a strategy meeting went? When was the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile to ensure it synced with your personal brand?

Step 2: Develop a strong value proposition.

Great companies create value propositions for their products. They define how the product is different in ways that their target audience values. Value propositions go beyond just products. Your personal value proposition is at the heart of your career strategy — and your life.

Lady Gaga is known for her outrageous costumes and stage presence. Joe Thomas, the former Browns lineman, was famous for working hard not to be in the limelight. He went fishing with his father instead of being on TV during the 2007 NFL draft. Martha Stewart makes an afternoon snack look like tea at Buckingham Palace. Each of these celebrities offers something that stands out from others in their field.

What makes you uniquely attractive to your target audience?

Step 3: Be consistent.

Look around the internet for photos of Sheryl Sandberg. Think it’s a coincidence she’s wearing white or black every time, and simple jewelry? I think not. Her look is consistent with her brand: no-nonsense, elegant, all substance.

Well-respected brands have diligently protected their image by sticking to the same messaging, visuals and values across all communication types. Think Volvo and safety.

Step 4: Look for opportunities to promote yourself.

Ellen DeGeneres is a master of gaining attention by capitalizing on the hype of the moment. Ellen’s brand is about sharing hot trends with her audience. She’s known for snagging an interview with the latest viral stars and celebrities in the news. Ellen makes frequent and effective use of her social media platforms, steers clear of controversy, and only features content relevant to her personal brand: fun, trendy and caring.

How’s your personal brand?

It’s time to take control so there are no surprises when you leave the room.

Laura Sheridan
Laura Sheridan, Founder & President of Viva La Brand has a proven track record of effective branding and advertising, spanning over twenty five years with some of the best in the business: Foote, Cone & Belding in Chicago; Hill, Holliday and Polaroid in Boston; and, Progressive Insurance and Viva La Brand in Cleveland. Laura founded Viva La Brand to offer large and small organizations alike strategic marketing expertise to catapult their visibility, growth and profitability. Viva La Brand develops effective brand strategies and conducts ad agency searches that successfully match clients with the optimal ad agency partners. Laura is proud to work with smart, innovative leader Brands in a wide range of industries from health care to manufacturing to technology and financial services. In addition to her work with clients, Laura is an author and speaker on all topics related to Brand.
More articles by: Laura Sheridan
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