Written by Esther Campi Tuesday, July 17 2012
When we think of branding, we often think of companies or products. Executives spend most of our time as evangelists for our companies' brands. That’s good. That’s what our jobs are about.
But what's your personal leadership brand?
What are you known for in your industry? Are you making career choices consistent with that brand? And when the time is right for publicity, are you ready to tell your personal leadership story?
You wouldn’t leave these things to chance when it comes to your company’s reputation, but how many of us ever sit down to intentionally define our personal leadership brand – and our strategy for building and strengthening it?
In my business, I often see executives proficiently deliver their company’s life story in an instant. But when somebody needs a few sentences to introduce them before a keynote speech or when a reporter wants to write a profile story about their careers, these same powerful, articulate executives scramble to prepare.
That’s no way to run the business of you.
Some of this procrastination is psychological. When I meet with clients who, for the first time, are getting serious about personal branding, many express a variation on the same theme: “I’m not a show-off,” or “I don’t like to toot my own horn,” or my favorite, “Shouldn’t my good work speak for itself?”
In life, humility may be a virtue. But in business, the hard truth is that it’s not enough to do good work. You have to both do good work - and make sure people know it. That doesn’t mean transforming yourself into a publicity hound overnight or becoming the hated office braggart.
It does mean deliberately crafting your story and looking for opportunities to tell it in a savvy way – a way that enhances both your company’s brand and your personal brand.
With my clients, I use a five-step process that seems easy on paper, but many confess that it makes them dig deeper and think harder about themselves than ever before.
#1 Identify Your “Personal Leadership Brand”
How and where are you known? How and where do you want to be known? That is, what are your current circles of influence? Are you known mostly inside your company, your industry, the national business community, the world? Where do you want to be known? And for what? If you had to narrow down your many talents and areas of expertise to just one thing, what is it? Most importantly, what career goals will publicity help you achieve?
#2 - Recruit “Surrogates”
Who are the current and former bosses, colleagues, clients, friends and family members who are ready, willing and able to tell your story from different angles?
# 3 – Gather Your Life Anecdotes
What are the real-life stories that support your brand? These stories are critical. They prove that your persona was not manufactured overnight, but was always who you are – part of your natural DNA. These stories paint a picture and give you credibility, authenticity and believability. That’s why successful leaders, from politicians to business leaders, pick a few real stories from their lives and tell them over and over again.
#4 - Create a “Stump Speech”
If you were awakened from a dead sleep, could you immediately recite your personal “stump speech”? This is your core message that includes your current-job accomplishments but is an even broader sweep of leadership lessons from your whole life and career. It weaves together your life anecdotes, pearls of wisdom and expert advice into a compelling message that reinforces your personal leadership brand.
#5 – Target Your Key Venues and Audiences
Where do you want to deliver your message? What podiums and stages should you seize? Is your target audience your board, your shareholders, your customers, national business forums, industry insiders, the media?
This process can seem overwhelming, and that’s why so many leaders just haven’t ever done it. But whether you want to build credibility with your boss, your industry or the wider world, you must be as deliberate about creating your personal brand as you are about representing your company brand.
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For 15 years, Esther Campi has been a trusted adviser to America’s top leaders – from Fortune 500 CEOs to U.S. senators. Her firm Campi & Company specializes in executive branding, corporate reputation management and public affairs. In Campi & Company, clients gain a partner who knows how to navigate high-stakes communications, whether in a board room, a hearing room or a newsroom.