Whatever you do about your personal branding, just don’t be a “Paris Hilton”. She might be in the news all the time but none of them are in a very favorable light. Most of us savor snickering at gossips now and then, and we enjoy seeing people put on the spot and laughing at them, without any ill intentions, of course. It’s all harmless because the “target” has nothing to do with us. It’s just a source of amusement. Paris Hilton, unfortunately, is a poor little rich girl who provides lots of entertainment. What is the image that people conjure when her name is mentioned? The key words could well be “heiress”, “pretty’, “beautiful”, “glamorous”, “party girl”, “socialite”, “celebrities”. But what about “poor little rich girl”, “spoiled brat”, “celebrity trash”, “bimbo”, “air-head”? Her personal brand is a hotchpotch of good and bad. Just look at the banner above, do you want to be seen like that? Do you want to send such a mixed signal to your clients, business partners and associates? Isn’t corporate personality and identity quite enough? Everyone has a personal brand. Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, Hilary Duff; just think of any popular persona and you will see clear evidence of the markets they speak to and the images that the promote.
When I attended the 8-day Excellerated Business School for Entrepreneurs (BSE) in April 2006, Datuk Maznah Hamid left a very deep impression in me. As she walked onto the stage, she started gesturing with one hand and addressing us at the same time, “I’m known as ‘The Iron Lady of Malaysia’. Do you have a personal branding?” The Malaysia media sees her as a successful entrepreneur and a business icon who towers over a male dominated industry. She bought over an unknown security company and turned it into a multi-million dollar empire. Her nickname is her personal branding, and it goes hand-in-hand with her personality and her trade. Her talk gave me a new perspective to branding.
We always talk about corporate identity, corporate personality, corporate persona, corporate branding and yet, somehow we forget about personal branding. This is especially important if you are the founder of your corporation or the one of the key persons running the show. The public will not know much about any corporation but they will co-relate what they read about the CEO to that corporation.
There is much controversy on the practices of The Body Shop. According to Wikipedia, critics called the organisation hypocritical in its pursuit of profit while espousing “social equality”. In 1994, Jon Entine reported that the records of Britain’s Charity Commission records show no charitable contributions from the company in its first 11 years of operation. But does the public remember all of these? Even though the company has been taken over by L’Oreal, people still remember Anita Roddick and her values, especially her stand against community trade and against animal testing. In fact, these are the brand values that the general public relate to and not about dollars and cents, profit and loss, stock and shares of The Body Shop. So Anita Roddick left a legacy for The Body Shop – her personal branding.
As a business owner or key personnel, what kind of values, beliefs, perception, image you want to show the world? Don’t think that you are just a small town provision shop owner, you will still need a personal brand. Randa Clay shared this story:
There was a small town in which there were two candy stores: Smith Candy and Jones Candy. A mother asked her son which he would like to visit for a treat. Her son replied immediately that he wanted to go to Mr. Jones’ Candy Store. Why? He believed he got more candy for his money from Mr. Jones. The truth was that Mr. Smith’s and Mr. Jones’ prices were exactly the same, but Mr. Smith’s practice was to put a large pile of candy on the scale and then remove it piece by piece until he reached the correct weight, while Mr. Jones put a few pieces on the scale and kept adding and adding until the correct weight was reached. The little boy’s perception was that he was getting more, even though the end result was the same.
What you say, what you didn’t say; what you do, what you didn’t do – will evolve into your personal brand. Your personal brand will inevitably be linked to your corporate identity. So if wearing all black is you, make that a distinction. If you love saying “No problem, it will be done in 3 days”, make sure your staff understand that, practice it and make it a corporate policy. What is written on reports isn’t half as powerful as when your people deliver the message with their actions.
So what is your personal branding? You have one already, you just need to think a little deeper and dig it out. Maximize it when you know what forms your personal brand.
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