The importance of branding for your company and for you
In this increasingly visual world, image is a big thing. It is not a form of narcissism and I am not saying that it is the most important aspect in the world of business, but it is something that people always take notice of whether they seek it out or not. Impressions, in particular first impressions, can sway people’s opinion and it is important to always try to give the best first impression to allow people to be more intrigued to learn more about you and your company.
Branding is important in both a corporate level and a personal level. In both, the aim is to visually represent your best traits and ‘selling points’ in a quick and accessible manner to your ‘clients’ — what sets you apart from the rest. There are numerous benefits to having a strong brand such as the ability to thrive during economic downturns, charge a premium, attract great employees, partners and customers and are instantly recognisable in a competitive market place. As you can see, this can apply in both a corporate level and a personal level.
To know if you or your company have a strong brand, you must exhibit the “three C’s” of branding.
Are you clear about what you are and what you are not? What are your key differentiators? What sets you apart from others? What is your unique promise of value? What are you known for? What are your goals? Strengths? If you want to be an expert at something, become that person. To showcase your identity in a competitive world, you must be clear about what makes you unique and craft the right message that is clear, true and concise. Not only do you have to say what you are with conviction, you must also represent the success you are trying to achieve by both looking and acting the part. You can demonstrate this both visually and in communications and should be the ‘statement’ that encompasses who you are, what you do and what makes you different.
A company can project an image of ‘transparency and forward thinking’ by having a brand that is clean and minimalist and stating the same values in their corporate communications. For an individual, you can project something similar in how you dress and conduct yourself. The cliché ‘dress for success’ is incredibly true in this case. I’m not suggesting that anyone spend large amounts of money in improving the looks of a brand or yourself, but just to be aware that people do tend to make impressions based on what they see first.
On top of being clear about what you are, you have to be consistent about it. You must not only demonstrate your success but also show that you are doing it regularly. The most important way to show consistency is through your service and work ethics and always getting feedback from people to make sure that you are achieving your goals while managing expectations. Messages on consistency can also be achieved through regular updates on success, posts useful to your industry, articles on insights to show your knowledge. This can be done through various touch points such as LinkedIn, Twitter and your corporate website. For many larger corporations, press releases and interviews convey the message of consistency and success.
However as in all things, be careful with what messages you send out and be be careful that what you say will not be taken out of context or as sound bites to be misused. This is also very true on a personal level, in particular if you have work colleagues or clients in your personal social media accounts. A negative opinion or pictures of yourself that is not work appropriate will only damage your image with those you do business with and can confuse them. If you prefer to keep a social media account personal for family and friends only, then do so by keeping it private and not visible to those whom you work with.
Not only do you have to be clear and consistent, you must be visible and always there for your customers and prospects. It would be a shame to score high in clarity and consistency and no one to know about it. First identify your audience and then find the best channels in which to reach them. Social media is a very strong tool when you want to get messages across and companies are also able to utilise their corporate website, CRM systems for email campaigns and through events. People can then get in touch with you via a medium of their choice. It is important to network in order to spread your message and identity and make yourself visible to your target audience and allow you to nurture these relationships.
Make sure you make your brand and image consistent throughout all touch points, in particular when it comes to personal branding. Having a LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and Twitter account with different names will only confuse your audience. Make sure you know who can see what in your social media accounts and apply privacy settings accordingly if you do not want to share too much about yourself, as mentioned previously, your actions and image in these accounts can affect how people perceive you professionally. Control what is seen on search engines via websites like Brand Yourself or other online reputation management tools.
As you can see, there are a lot of key things to consider when branding both yourself and your company. Once you have identified your message, the image you wish to project, your individualistic identity and the various touchpoints in which you communicate your persona, the rewards can benefit you immeasurably.
Originally published at www.linkedin.com on Aug 11 2015.