Take Control of Your Own Narrative in How Others Perceive You
It was Thursday evening, and you just walked out of your annual performance review. You just received a Strong/Satisfaction rating despite exceeding all Key Performance Indicators set forth by the company. “Even though you have done a fantastic job throughout the year, but we just want to see if you can remain consistent.” That was the feedback that you have received from your manager. Despite your performance ranks at the very top of the company in comparison to your peers over and over again, you were once again cheated out of your supposed annual bonus. Like usual, you felt you have been undervalued with your year of hard work went unrecognized. You asked yourself, “How do I get a fair rating? How do I make others believe that I am so much more than they perceive? Why does the management give opportunities to others instead of me?”
Does the story resonate with you? What do you think is the reason that people with talents and reliable performance records got passed on opportunities? One of the main reasons why some people thrive in their careers while other people remained staggered is because of their Personal Brands.
What is Personal Brand? In short, the personal brand is a promise that you make to the people who deal with you and how well people think about your ability to keep them. Think about the last time you went shopping for clothes. Do you tend to select a particular brand of clothes over others? Why? They were all made of similar types of materials, but why are some more expensive than others? The same reason that you will trust Gucci handbags’ quality in comparison to those sold in Target is the same reason why some people advance in their careers while others don’t.
For over 15 years, as a life coach, I have dedicated myself to helping others to achieve success in core components of life, which are personal, financial, and career. Throughout my career, I have seen many talented people never get to use their talents to the fullest or being recognized fairly, while others thrive with opportunities because of their brand. Unlike natural talents, building a personal brand is a skill. It takes dedication, time, and effort to be successful. Over the years, I researched and studied the importance of branding and controlling the narrative of others’ perceptions. To help anyone in building a successful brand and start getting ahead in life, I composed a simple guide of 3 Keys to Manage Your Personal Brand.
Key 1 Determining Your Brand
There is an old saying, “Humans decide emotionally and justify logically.” To build your brand, first, you have to determine what your brand is and how it impact others emotionally.
Your brand is your promise. To start, you have to decide what you are promising. Is it your value? Or you choose the qualities of your work? Maybe you want to focus on your integrities? To make it easier, let us use Lexus as an example. When Lexus first launched, they had only one mission statement, “Beat Benz!” They used Mercedes Benz as a benchmark for quality, services, designs, comfort, and security. They started building toward a brand that aims to surpasses the well-known German automaker. Decades later, we now recognize Lexus as a luxury brand that stands for what they believe in, an automaker that is comparable to Mercedes Benz. So, how do you determine what your brand will be?
To determine what you want your brand to be, we need to take a trip Back to the Future (If you want to know more about Back to the Future, visit my story Wait! Are you Setting the Correct Goals?). Imagine, it is five years from now, and you are sitting on a sofa in your corner office with a journalist. The journalist asks you various questions about your lifestyles and challenges that you have overcome so far. A few days after the interview, you received an email draft from the journalist. As you open the attachment, what do you wish to see as the title of your interview? That title is your brand. Do you wish the title says, “Fierce Leader Who Leads With Strategic Bold Actions”? Or maybe, “Leader That Embraces Cultural Diversity Changes Norm of the Industry”? Better yet, why not, “For Nature, How One Can Win by Putting Environment First”? Your brand does not have to be as dramatic as examples listed, but it has to stand for something that you believe in and what you want others to know you for. Do you want to be known for your leadership? Do you want people to recognize your specific skills? Do you want people to associate your name with consistency in quality? Maybe you want to be known as a great team player?
Remember, specialization is the key to determine your brand. You want to focus your brand on one core area of achievements, such as your work, product, or service. Don’t try to be all things to everyone at the same time because it will only backfire. Just think, if you want to enjoy a nice meal of sushi, will you choose a restaurant that sells sushi, burgers, tacos, and Chinese food all at the same time? Or you prefer to patron a sushi restaurant that is operated by a reputable chef? Once you have determined what your brand is, let us talk about how to build it.
Key 2 Building Your Brand
One thing to remember when building your brand is Everything Counts. Everything you do can build your brand or destroy it. It is essential to consider all the actions and the consequences when building a successful personal brand. There are three steps for building a personal brand.
Step 1 Established a Leadership Image
First, you have to develop an image of being the expert of the brand that represents you. If you are focusing on building a brand of a community leader, then you shall start researching and have a clear understanding of the subjects and the conditions of your community. If you want to create a brand as a team leader, then you shall focus on volunteering and organizing team activities within your professional environments. Remember, to establish a leadership image; you have to improve your knowledge and stay relevant to the subjects continually. In this day and age, you can easily find resources to enhance your expertise in the field, such as education, professional training, or even news subscriptions. It is essential to be recognized as a specialist in the area of achievement that you set as the foundation of your personal brand. After all, don’t you trust a specialist for your medical condition instead of a general health advisor?
Step 2 Build Your Brand Around Your Personality
To build a successful brand, you have to be able to relate to the emotional aspect of your target markets. To do so, you have to be genuine. You shall build your brand around your personality with all the goods and all the flaws. Keep in mind, you are human, and human has flaws. Being able to displayed flaws and demonstrate vulnerability can help to build trust by relating to your target market. However, just by keep showing off your flaws without a strategy often destroy your brand before it is built. It is crucial to control the narrative when building your brand around your personality. The key is to control what is shown instead of being forced to show. You may not control what challenges are coming to your way, but you always have a say in how to react.
Step 3 Being Distinguished and Unique
A successful brand is unique and easily distinguishable. If your brand is similar to your competitors and other peers, how are you going to stand out when opportunities arise? Think about the last time you visit your local food court in the mall. Do you tend to try a restaurant with themed decor which has samples to offer instead of the one in the corner with a generic look? When you are shopping for flowers, do you always choose the one that stands out in colors and presentations among others? Being able to have a unique presence that resembles your brand will help you to stand out. I have a friend who is a realtor that solely built her brand in dedication to serve families in her community. Every holiday season, she will give pies vouchers to her current and past clients to exchange a free pumpkin or apple pie at her office. She also periodically emails the best family activities in town to her network and hosts multiple events throughout the year. As a result, she is the top choice of realtor for any family looking to relocate or size up.
As you have chosen your brand and build a strategy around it with your personality with uniqueness, let us explore how to showcase them.
Key 3 Showcase Your Brand
There is an old Chinese saying, “You can’t sell the best items if no one sees it!” Your brand represents you. To have a successful brand, you will have to be able to showcase it properly. There are three platforms that make your brand visible to others. They are Professional Networks, Community, and Social Media.
Professional networks and associations are great ways to showcase your brand. By participating in local professional networks or industry associations, your brand will be endorsed by the values and statues of the group. For example, if you are a member of Toastmasters International, your target market will relate your brand to public speaking experts, leadership, and great presenters. If you are a member of the National Realtor Association, you will be viewed as a real estate investment experts. However, if you are known to associate with a network that has a bad reputation, then your brand will go down with it.
Community is another great way to make your brand visible. Your local non-profit organizations, religious groups, or even public offices, are great showcase platforms. If you are active in an organization that cares for the homeless and less fortunate, you will be viewed as a caring and loving person. If you are actively involved in town hall meetings and city planning discussions, you will be considered as a community activist. Being involved in local non-profits is essential, but you have to choose which organization to be involved in to avoid potential reputation risk. For example, Chick-fil-a got themselves in big trouble with all sorts of different groups back in 2018 because of their donations to the Salvation Army, which known to be anti-LBGTQ. From that example, you can see that it is crucial to select the right community to associate with.
Last but not least, Social Media is a fantastic platform to build your brand. Your LinkedIn is a great platform to build your brand. Your Linkedin profile is like an open resume. Just like the restaurant in the mall, if your profile looks generic and boring, your brand will be associated with such descriptions. Remember, whatever you post on your social media, they will not stay private. There are many stories in regards to how a person’s brand got trashed because private photos and posts became public. As we have stated before, everything counts, which means all your actions that are visible to others around you will help you to build or destroy the brand.
The last thing to know about building your personal brand is the importance of persistence. Like mastering a skill, building your brand takes time and effort. You have to invest and nurture your brand throughout your career continuously. There will be a time that your actions may damage your brand, and it is ok. You just have to restrategize your plan to strengthen your brand continually. Remember, building a brand is not a sprint but a life-long marathon.
For over 15 years, as a life coach, I have dedicated myself to helping others to achieve success in personal, financial, and career. Throughout my career, I have seen many people with tremendous talents never get the recognition that they deserved due to how they were perceived. Like any skills, building a personal brand takes strategies, dedication, time, and effort to be successful. With the 3 Keys to Manage Your Personal Brand, you can take control of the narrative of how people perceive you. Now, as you are opening that email from the future journalist, ask yourself, “What do you want to be the title that best describes you?”
Kevin Yang is the host of Life Plus Up Podcast. For over 15 years, he has been in many roles, such as financial executive, board member of many non-profits, career mentor, education curriculum director, and online columnist. Regardless of what title he held, he will always view himself as a coach who dedicated to helping others with personal and professional skills. You can find his podcast on all podcast platforms. You can also find more information on IG, Twitter, and Facebook Fan Page.