Personal branding defines who you are, separates you from the crowd and generates interest from potential clients. Your brand is your professional reputation and, like your personal reputation, it exits in the eyes of others and is therefore visible to all, regardless of how much effort you put into developing it – for better or worse.
Obviously it’s in your interest to spend time considering your personal brand and the image you project and to have it develop along your own preferred lines. Fabrication and deceit are not options ethically, or even practically – like a doctored CV people will see through it eventually.
Developing your brand is not creating a persona or playing a role it is recognising and highlighting your own core skills and values, drawing attention to your relevant experience and accomplishments and presenting your real self in the best light.
With this in mind, a lot of people can put a lot of time and effort into brand building on the ‘big stage’ only to let themselves down by neglecting the aspects they perceive as minor.
Networking and promoting yourself is an incredibly important part of brand management, and taking opportunities to deliver your message when meeting new contacts and perfecting your ‘elevator pitch’ is common practice. Not everyone puts the same effort into following up these opportunities.
If you meet someone at a networking event and agree to follow-up then make sure you do, otherwise you will not come over as authentic and will damage your personal brand. Regardless of how you have portrayed yourself, failing to honour any agreements made renders your brand as a façade in the eyes of those you have made promises to.
With the advent of social media and the absolute necessity of an online presence, practitioners now find themselves in more direct contact with clients and customers than ever before. Even when you are not meeting people face to face, your email, LinkedIn or Twitter accounts make you personally contactable and the same expectations apply.
Your personal brand exists in the perception of others. If you do not commit the time and effort to following up meetings and acting on agreements, whether online or in the real world, you will be regarded as unreliable, inconsistent and not the ‘go-to’ person you tried to portray.
Your unique brand is your chance to stand out and get noticed. Don’t let slips in professionalism undo all the hard graft you have put in to creating it. Keep your eye on the ball and demonstrate yourself at your best.