Promoting your Personal Brand with a Positive Mindset

(Overcoming your inner groan)

If you’re asked to define your own personal brand, do you have a sudden urge to run for the hills rather than give your finely crafted elevator pitch? Yup, me too. But it doesn’t need to be this way if we approach this potentially daunting subject with a positive mindset.

Many of us don’t like the term ‘personal brand’, but the concept is critically important and I was recently reminded of this while undertaking the surprisingly stressful task of researching primary schools. I took it for granted that all schools will have a well designed website that contains not only practical information about their location, admission policy etc., but which also describes their philosophy and approach to education, and gives you a ‘feel’ for whether this is a place where your child will be happy, learn and thrive.

“Big deal”, I hear you say, “surely they’re all pretty much the same? No school is going to make themselves look bad?”. Well, they may not intend to give a negative impression, but just as with personal brand, everyone who arrives at each website or who visits each school, will draw their own conclusions from what they hear and see, influenced by their own biases and prejudices.

To illustrate my point, here’s what stood out for me from two different school websites and my reaction to each.

School 1

  • The website looks bright and welcoming, and photos of the school and its children take centre stage
  • The head teacher’s welcome is personal, talks about excellence but also about valuing everyone. It features a portrait of the head teacher drawn by a pupil

“Looks great, I think my son will be happy here” – I booked a visit to see whether my positive first impression was correct.

School 2

  • The website design looks extremely corporate
  • The welcome page focuses on the excellence of the Federation, their SAT scores and the Knighthood of the Executive Head

“They get results but this is a sausage factory more concerned with its own reputation” – I didn’t visit the school to test or challenge my initial negative first impression.

So the brand had a clear impact, not only on my thoughts and feelings about the school, but on my willingness to engage with it.

The same is true when we talk about personal brand. The way in which we talk about what we do, our values and the impact we have, or fail to have, has the ability to encourage or undermine people’s willingness to actively engage with us and experience these first hand.

So what do we do about it? Here’s my ‘defining and promoting your personal brand in 3 (moderately) easy steps’

Step 1: Positive mindset

For those of us who aren’t natural personal brand cheerleaders, the first thing we need to do is overcome our own apathy and passivity. This involves shifting our mindset to recognise the positives associated with defining and promoting our personal brand. Here are some statements to help counter the negative voices in your head:

  • Articulating who I am and what I do gives me control over how other people perceive me and avoids people misinterpreting me
  • I get results and have a positive impact. To continue to be given the opportunity to do this, and to get recognition from others, people need to know what I do and how I do it
  • What I do is interesting and other people want to know more about it
  • Sharing my knowledge and insights can help others to achieve their own objectives and improve their performance
  • This is about helping people understand me and my value so that they can make an informed choice about working with me, it’s not about giving people the hard sell or ‘bigging myself up’

Step 2: Self-awareness and openness to change

To have the impact we intend, we first need to think and reflect ‘What kind of person / worker / leader am I? What motivates me? How do I deliver results / engage with others / add value”… “Do others also see me in this way?”. Taking time to reflect and asking others for honest feedback can be difficult, but both are invaluable to understanding and then shaping the way you do things (i.e. your personal brand).

A lack of self-confidence can also stop people from actively promoting themselves. Reminding yourself of the value you add, and getting feedback from others, can help to challenge and dispute any negative thoughts you may have about your capability, giving you the self-confidence needed to promote your brand.

Step 3: Living and promoting the brand

Once you’ve identified what’s important to you, how you want to be perceived and what needs to change to make the shift from now to the future, it’s time to start living and promoting your personal brand. Living the brand simply means acting in a way which is aligned to how you want others to see you. What do you need to do this well?

  • Pick a personal brand that is authentic and not a fantasy version of yourself, this will make it much easier for you to behave in a way that aligns with your brand
  • Be aware of how stress or pressure might negatively impact your behaviour so that you can effectively manage these tendencies
  • Get regular feedback from others to help keep you on track and ensure you are having the impact you intend

Promoting your brand is the area which is likely to feel most uncomfortable for many of us. Perhaps just binning the phrase ‘promoting the brand’ and replacing it with ‘sharing your knowledge’ is a good place to start. What do you know / have you done that people would benefit from knowing about? Who should you be telling so they can personally benefit or so they can share with others who might benefit?

Once you’ve identified that, you can choose how you share your knowledge:

  • Through informal conversations and meetings
  • In formal presentations and meetings
  • Through a personal website or blog
  • On the company intranet or knowledge sharing platform (e.g. Yammer / Slack)
  • Through your CV and LinkedIn profile

Finally, getting feedback from people will help you adapt how and what you are sharing (is this useful for them?), and help maintain your energy around continuing to share your knowledge.

So, for those of you who still get a knot in your stomach when you think about taking these steps, all I can say is take a deep breath and give it a go, it might not actually be as painful as you think.