Ever wondered what all the fuss was about when it comes to personal branding for Executives?
I’ll show you with a quick exercise;
Tell me the three biggest selling products or services your organisation offers. Go on, give yourself ten seconds or so to think about it, then say them aloud.
Now, do the same, but tell me your three best skills or attributes. Say them aloud.
Which was the more difficult to do? Did it take you longer to think of your ‘best bits?’ Did it feel strange saying them aloud?
I am willing to bet that you pay a significant amount of your budget towards marketing your organisation. According to recruitment and social media circles, it is time to invest in marketing you, so you can be first in line for promotions, a new job or a pay rise. Executive personal branding can also have a significant impact on business performance.
Your Personal Brand And The Effect It Can Have.
When you think of someone like Bill Gates – what three words immediately spring to mind? Geek? Philanthropist? Entrepreneur? IT Legend? Now, what three words would somebody use to describe you if asked?
Gates has developed a personal brand that sells him across three different areas – IT software provision, business leadership and charitable activities. It has not happened by magic, but through sophisticated marketing of himself to the right people at the right time. You know exactly what he represents and what his skills are. As a result, he is word renowned for these positive attributes, which has a direct effect on the perception of his business.
In contrast, consider the case of Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair and one of Ireland’s wealthiest businessmen. Whilst Ryanair itself has a fairly good reputation as a budget air travel provider, O’Leary’s attempts at developing his personal brand as a hard-nosed, business focussed leader and entrepreneur have stepped over into controversy and poor public perception. Three words now associated with him in the press are abrasive, hostile and aggressive following altercations with staff, clients and partners. Business performance has been affected due to fewer passenger numbers as a direct result of his behaviour.
Executive Resumes & How They Help Your Personal Brand.
Developing your brand is an on-going enterprise, not a one off event where you can prepare a few documents, set up some social media accounts and describe how you see yourself to all and sundry. Personal brand development is about gaining 360 feedback, developing clear, concise and consistent messages about you, walking the walk and delivering results to back up the ‘talk.’
The first step to developing a robust personal brand starts with your Executive Resume. Even if you are not looking for a new role, a resume can act as your own individual mission statement, a cornerstone to your personal brand development and a reference document to help you stay focused when advertising yourself to prospective employers, partners and customers.
Treat your resume as you would a business marketing plan and reap the benefits of a positive personal brand.
Developing Your Own Personal Branding Plan.
The Profile section in an executive resume offers the opportunity to identify your target customers and offer an executive summary. It also enables you to a) define where you want to get to b) the resources you have at your disposal to help you get there and c) a highlighted sound bite that will pull your target audience in. Once you have these three key aspects on paper, it becomes a lot easier to identify your ‘best bits,’ meaning that saying them out loud will be significantly less awkward than that exercise you were asked to do earlier.
What Are Your Boldest Attributes?
Most Executive Resumes have a section for Key Assets or Skills. This is a gift for working out what you want to represent to the outside world.
• What do you want to be known for?
• How do you want the world to see you?
• What are the things that you consistently get great feedback for and want to expand upon in future activities?
This is the same as your business marketing plan’s Unique Selling Proposition. It distinguishes you from your competitors. Burger King makes things your way, FedEx gets things to you overnight and you… well, you can turnaround organisations, exceed all sales targets, build key relationships, develop competitive advantage and a host of other things. Whatever it is that you can do well, include it here.
Show Me The Money!
Marketing plans have a pricing and positioning strategy, so how do you let people know what you are worth? This is actually the easy bit. Your summary of your current and previous positions should not only include a run-down of your responsibilities, but also the achievements that you made.
When faced with a pile of resumes from candidates with similar working experience, your ‘above and beyond the realm of duty’ achievements will make you stand out above the crowd. After all, just because you have been doing something for 5 years, does not mean you are necessarily good at it – ask anyone who has failed to meet his or her goal weight on a diet!
Highlight those activities that made a contribution to success or those key organisational achievements that would not have occurred if it were not for YOU. This not only helps when negotiating salaries, but will also pitch you at the right level when it comes to identifying you with a potential role. It can also give you a bit of an ego boost if you are ever challenged to justify your position to anyone.
Get Your Brand Out There.
Next, work out your Distribution plan. Where is this information about you going to go? A positive personal brand is only useful if people can see it. Will people be able to purchase ‘you’ directly or via other ‘retailers’? Consider the following outlets:
- A personal homepage, outlining your achievements, history and resume;
- A well designed and written LinkedIn profile and participation in LinkedIn groups and forums;
- Twitter/Facebook accounts following industry related groups;
- Networking events, meeting industry experts and players and raising awareness of your proposition.
- Register with Executive Search Agencies;
- See if any trade magazines or websites would be interested in an interview or opinion piece;
- Get involved in local community and volunteering initiatives to increase exposure, network and free advertising of your skills.
Increase Your Saleability.
Offers and Promotions are key in supporting the development of brands and this is no different in supporting the growth of your own personal brand. Identify opportunities to raise awareness through voluntary work, giving speeches and presentations at network events and where possible, supporting your teams in their own endeavours. Being described as a great boss or colleague by the people you work with can be the most valuable advertising available, especially in the current economic climate where cultural fit is just as important as ability when trying to reduce recruitment costs.
Quality Goods Or Bargain Basement?
Another thing to consider when developing your personal brand is your marketing materials. It is worth developing hard and soft copy versions of resumes, cover letters and social media profiles, as well as business cards that say more than just your telephone number. Carry out some research into what is considered appropriate for the market – this means no documents in Comic Sans! Think about presenting yourself through an infographic, perhaps. Develop a 30 second ‘elevator pitch’ so you can use those unexpected opportunities when you run into a business leader you admire to sell yourself and your services.
Keep The Personal Branding Wheel Turning.
Finally, think about your conversion strategy. Once you’ve developed a robust set of documents, have become involved in distribution and awareness opportunities and have produced clear and concise marketing materials, how are you going to convert yourself into a sale?
You keep improving your sales pitch. You update your resume with achievements and new skills. You network more. You join new groups and seek new opportunities. You participate in more conversations on social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn and G+. You update your marketing materials in line with market trends. Afterall, you never take your eye off the ball when it comes to reviewing sales figures, P&L accounts, customer feedback and market share for your organisation, right? To do so means failure for the business. Treat yourself the same way.
As personal branding influences Executive success and is key to the ultimate prosperity of your job hunting activities, raising your profile, increasing your public perception and maintaining a positive reputation via treating yourself as a product (marketing yourself on an on-going basis) is super vital so ensure your personal brand is clear, concise and consistent AND speaks the YOU that you want the world to see.