Why Personal Branding?

By Karyl Innis

I talk with thousands of people each year about their personal brands. Some weeks, the brand discussions are with hundreds of people in large conferences. Other weeks it’s with smaller groups in workshops, and sometimes its mano a mano --one on one coaching with a single client. Regardless of the size or make up of the group there is a question that everyone asks. “Why do I have to have a ‘brand’?” Sometimes it’s followed up with “I’ve done fine without it all these years,” huffed immediately after.

There are five big reasons that it’s time to focus on your own personal brand.

  1. Others are focused on your brand. They use it to make decisions about you every day. Decisions that matter to you very much. Decisions about whether you will be included in an important task force, or receive a merit raise, be considered for a promotion or selected for separation.
  2. People talk about you all the time. They are using brand statements to do so, or snippets of words that describe you to them. These snippets may be accurate or may be old news but people use them as shorthand in conversation, performance reviews, talent mapping, introductions, merit reviews, staffing meetings and the list goes on.
  3. Brands are shorthand for how people think about you and describe you. These shorthand labels often don’t tell the important part of your story; they tell the part of the story that someone else has decided to tell. Why settle for a “hard worker” brand if you created the strategy and lead the team as well?
  4. Repetition makes it real. The repeated words used to describe you have a way of hardening and create well-known shorthand that people use to describe you. They think about you over and over again in the same way—even when the label no longer fits, is outgrown or was never quite accurate to begin with.
  5. Brands have staying power. The power behind a brand is its consistency. The brand is thought of in the same way, counted on to deliver the same experience at the same quality level time after time. Think McDonald’s, Coca Cola. For good or bad, personal brands linger too. The “technical genius behind the cash cow product from 1998” is well past due for an update in 2010. That old personal brand may linger, limiting opportunity and painting the “technical genius” as stuck in the past.

My answer to the question “Why do I have to have a brand?” is that everyone must have a personal brand at work. To not have one is to be invisible at work - not talked about, not considered. To have the right personal brand only helps, it never hurts, your career positioning and opportunities.


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