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Personal Branding: You, Only Better

In her new book ‘Raise Your Profile’, brand strategist and public speaker Jenny Handley suggests that because people cannot afford to take risks in a soft economy it’s the prominent brands that survive and thrive. That’s why you cannot afford to be anything other than well known.

Monique Verduyn

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It’s been over ten years since the father of branding Tom Peters, writing in Fast Company, told us that “regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” Peters’ point was that whatever your area of expertise, you have to take steps to ensure that people think of you when they think of your field.

“You do that by creating a message and a strategy to promote your personal brand,” says Jenny Handley, who is an expert on building practical personal marketing and brand plans that create buzz for individuals – and their business.

What is a personal brand?

“A brand is a distinctive mark,” she says. “And more than that, it is the perception in the hearts and minds of the consumer. It is a relationship between a product or service and a person. A personal brand includes perceptions created by everything you do and say, and by what you do not do or say. It is a reflection of the real you, taking what is inside and communicating it to the outer world.”

Handley adds that a strong brand speaks for you when you are not there. Because of that, engineering a good personal brand is essential in today’s competitive world if you wish to be distinctive and make your mark. “From leader to learner, the aspirant to the arrived, employee to entrepreneur – we all need to market ourselves,” she says. “It is not the most intelligent or educated who become the most successful, but those who are accessible and make an effort to market themselves effectively.”

Why do you need one?

Handley notes that there are several good reasons for entrepreneurs to market themselves:

  • To be perceived as a specialist rather than a generalist.
    A specialist has greater status and earning power than a jack-of-all-trades. Further, a specialist gets clients and new business by referrals, or word-of-mouth advertising. “It’s more about focusing on your special talents than offering a one-stop-shop,” Handley explains. “This denotes quality rather than quantity.”
  • To be considered first choice rather than most convenient or cheapest.
    Handley equates this to the difference between a designer label and a no-name brand, the first being the one that is sought after as it is perceived to be of better quality.
  • To have easier access to decision makers.
    People who are well known find it much easier to get past gatekeepers.
  • To attain the level or status where you are called upon for opinion, comment or endorsement.
    This is when your brand has been elevated to a level where you are being invited to enhance other’s brands and help them to develop their own profiles. “This is the cheapest and most cost-effective marketing campaign you could ever embark on,” Handley notes. “It’s the equivalent of building brand equity.”
  • To solicit the work you love, rather than having to accept any work that is offered to you.
    “When you start out as a consultant or a small business owner, you may often be persuaded to take on any business,” she says. “By defining and refining your product offering, premium work will come your way.”
  • To allow more work to come to you.
    “When you have a higher and more visible working profile, work comes to you,” Handley says. “How wonderful to be asked if you would like to take on a client, with them having the thought that they are lucky enough to have you to service their business.”
  • To get paid.
    Handley says people who have visibility, credibility and good working relationships are given the respect they have earned. “They are in a better position of negotiation, and can receive higher remuneration, plus they will be paid on time out of respect alone…when a business has a cash flow problem the suppliers with the better, more valued long-term relationships are often paid first.”

The Brief

No successful business is successful by accident; it has a plan. “Every ambitious individual also needs a plan,” Handley explains. It should reflect what goals are to be achieved, and what personal strengths can be leveraged to achieve them.

To kick off your personal brand strategy, Handley suggests creating a brief comprised of three questions: Where am I? Where do I want to go? What work do I want to attract? “Goal-setting is an important process,” she maintains. “It needs to be focused and realistic. For some people, short may mean three months; for others, three years. The same applies with medium- and long-term goals.”

The Budget

Many entrepreneurs find it hard to believe that it’s possible to develop a personal brand without blowing the budget. Handley suggests that a personal budget is not only about money, but also the resources you have available to you.

She advises creating a balance sheet of “you”. “The first column will show your assets, the second your liabilities, the third perceptions (what people think of you), and the fourth your potential and areas for growth. You may want to add a fifth column called ‘loans’, listing what you can borrow in terms of skills, techniques and tactics, from those around or above you.”

One of the most vital aspects of developing your brand is to build credibility based on a worthwhile reputation – brand equity. Ideally, you should perform at such an optimum level that everyone you deal with becomes part of your marketing team, resulting in good word-of-mouth coverage. Giving excellent service and going the extra mile costs nothing.

Positioning

To measure the effectiveness of your brand, you need to benchmark yourself against your competitors and perform research in your industry to determine what your reputation is. There are several means through which smart business owners can elevate their positioning in their industries.

“One way is to benefit from continuous learning and extending your broad-based skills,” Handley points out. “Small business owners especially deny themselves the chance to attend courses or further their studies, often because they feel they cannot afford the time away from the business. One solution is to send your staff on courses and ensure they report back on the experience to the entire team so that everyone benefits.”

Joining associations that are relevant to the work you do is also advisable. Membership of associations shows that you have met certain criteria and adhere to quality standards. Related to this is attendance at lectures, talks and networking functions, which will give you the opportunity to interact with many key people in your own and other industries.

“Make sure that you have a comprehensive understanding of your field,” Handley advises. “Read trade publications and newspaper headlines. Speed read and just take in the headlines if you are pressed for time. Listen to radio news bulletins and search the Internet constantly.”

Another important element of personal positioning is making your expertise available to others – even freely, if you can. Public speaking, writing, and addressing colleagues and students are all ways to elevate your position while you help to spread knowledge.

Makeovers

We live in a world that is characterised by constant change. As a result, the personal brand you build and consolidate will also have to change over time to keep it current. “Don’t rely on the fact that you were considered high-profile a decade ago,” Handley says. “Instead, make a concrete effort to maintain your credibility, visibility and flexibility. Move with the times.”

She advises taking stock of your brand offering once a quarter or at least every six months. “It’s not always a huge shift. Make some notes or implement some minor changes. It’s taking the time and trouble to reflect that will make you become more conscious of your personal marketing and your goals.

She also suggests getting clients involved in a re-brand by inviting them to give feedback and be part of the change.

When your brand goes bad

A reputation is not only hard-earned, it’s also largely out of your hands. Damage to your reputation can happen at any time, and for reasons that may not be of your own doing. That’s when careful management is required.

“Always be honest and transparent,” Handley cautions. “Good communication is key. Tell people personally if you have a crisis. Being positive and staying in contact with all stakeholders can help you to create good perceptions of your brand and improve its positioning.”

Handley adds that creating good brand alliances is essential, as you are judged by the company you keep. For example, know that your suppliers should be selected to enhance your brand. Business is, after all, a team sport. If you are connected to a company or individual that has tarnished your reputation, stand up and speak out.

“Always remember that to be your own brand champion requires you to be genuine, to be confident and to have self-belief,” she says.

Jenny Handley is a brand strategist, public speaker, author and owner of Jenny Handley Promotions, a brand management and PR company.
Contact: +27 21 686 0287, www.jennyhandleypromotions.co.za

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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Self Development

Listening To These 8 Audiobooks On Success Is A Better Use Of Your Long Commute

Commuting is mostly just unpaid work, unless you make an effort to learn something along the way.

John Boitnott

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Commutes are getting longer, and in some cities they’re up to two hours each way. I have a friend in Los Angeles who does this. He passes the time with audiobooks. Now that’s still a lot of time to be stuck in transit, but he doesn’t view it that way. He says it allows him plenty of time to feed his personal and professional goals.

I’ve spent years listening to literature in the car while commuting, but somewhere along the line I switched over to books on business and personal improvement. I mostly gravitated toward amazing people who built their success from scratch and who experienced tremendous hardship. It stands to reason that if you’re dealing with hardships like a long commute, it’s important to hear motivational words that can help you transcend the difficulties.

Here are eight audiobooks that will help grow your success, both personal and professional, on your next commute:

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Self Development

3 Questions To Guide You To Success In 2018

Most of the goals we set have some external component to it. Some component that we cannot control. Yet, we act like we can.

Erik Kruger

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3 Questions To Guide You To Success In 2018

Goal setting as a concept makes perfect sense. At the most basic level you decide on the destination and then plot the way to get there. But as with many things, we like to overcomplicate that which should be simple.

Before you know it, you end up with 2 big goals in 15 different areas of your life and 100 micro goals that will help you reach your 30 big goals.

Complicating something simple. Some of the biggest obstacles to people in reaching their goals are:

  • The overestimate the effort it will take to achieve those goals
  • They want to go from 0-100km/h in the blink of an eye
  • Life is dynamic and static goals often do not make sense
  • They get so entrenched in the day to day running of things that goals get pushed aside.

What if instead of goals, we just focused on giving our best every day?

Of course, you still want to have an indication of where you are going.

But, if you are giving your 100% every day then you can forego the micro goals for a better way of calibrating your compass… using questions.

Related: Goal Setting Guide

I suggest you ask yourself these three questions regularly:

1. What does better look like?

The question at the heart of development and incremental improvement. This question allows you some creative space in which you can imagine a better future.

  • What does better health look like?
  • What does a better business look like?
  • What does better customer service look like?
  • What does better leadership look like?

By reflecting on this question, you materialise the gap between where you are and where you could be. Now, the only thing that is left is to align your daily actions with the better future you imagined.

2. What can I control?

Borrowed from Stoicism this question highlights the power of decision in your life. Epictetus said we should always be asking ourselves: “Is this something that is, or is not, in my control?”

Once you ask this of yourself regularly you will feel more in control of your life and more in control of your business.

Why?

Because your focus is solely on the things that you can influence. It restores the belief that you can actually impact the world around you in a meaningful way.

3. Was I impeccable with my actions today?

One inherent flaw with goal setting is that the goal setter often feels judged. As if we need more of that. In addition to the constant negative self-talk we have to endure we now have an additional source of judgement – whether we reached our goals or not.

As we discovered in question #2 We cannot control everything. Most of the goals we set have some external component to it. Some component that we cannot control. Yet, we act like we can.

So, instead of judging yourself, commit to giving your best every single day.

Related: The Tim Ferriss Approach to Setting Goals: Rig the Game so You Win


Accountability

What I love most about these questions is that they provide a built-in layer of accountability. Use them every day.

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Self Development

To Be Successful Stay Far Away From These 7 Types of Toxic People

You need a network of talented people, not toxic personalities who undermine you.

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Surrounding yourself with prospective mentors is an excellent way to build lifelong success. When Steve Jobs founded Apple, he learned from colleagues like Steve Wozniak about what it took to build computer hardware. And he learned from early investors like Mike Markkula about what it took to build a successful company and market a product. Now imagine if Jobs had surrounded himself with toxic personalities instead. It is likely that he would not have been able to create a company that is on course to be valued at $1 trillion.

If you interact with people who demonstrate questionable behaviour, you’re more likely to model that behaviour yourself or to become stressed as a result. At the very least, you will be missing out on the opportunity to network with more successful and inspiring individuals.

This article will review seven personality types that should be eliminated from your life in order to build your most successful self. Once these people are gone, you can work on building a network of people who influence you positively.

1. Micromanagers

According to a report by NPR, micromanagement is one of the biggest factors associated with employee dissatisfaction, lowered motivation and lack of professional creativity. To be successful, you must learn to solve problems independently. Micromanaging can make it difficult to develop these skills.

Related: Keep An Eye Out For Toxic Employees

2. Short-term thinkers

If you surround yourself with short-term thinkers, it will be difficult to know if an idea is destined for long-term success. Those who are narrow-minded may be more likely to dismiss one of your ideas because it will take time to develop into a meaningful success.

Take the creation of Airbnb as an example. The company was founded in 2008. At the time the “sharing economy” did not exist, and hotel chains like Starwood and Hilton dominated the lodging market. A short-term thinker would have criticised an idea like Airbnb.

In order for the company to be successful, Airbnb would need to change people’s attitudes and expectations about travel. They would need to encourage people to be comfortable staying with strangers, and they would need to find ways to mitigate possible liability should something tragic happen during a customer’s stay.

Well-respected venture capitalists decided to pass on Airbnb because of these short-term concerns. The Airbnb founders were only able to find success once they connected with people who were comfortable thinking long term.

3. Pessimists

pessimistsPessimism is not always a bad trait; at times it can help entrepreneurs to recognize certain pitfalls that might otherwise be overlooked. However, a steady diet of pessimism is toxic when it comes to taking big professional risks.

As David Armor, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale University, says, “An entrepreneur starting up a company, for example, might drive himself to work 18-hour days for months and even years because he optimistically believes that there will be a big payoff for him at the end.” Conversely, a pessimistic attitude would make it difficult to tolerate such a prolonged stressful situation.

For those interested in taking on stressful professional situations, pessimistic people should be avoided in most cases.

Related: Tips on how to Survive and Thrive in a Toxic Workplace

4. Selfish people

Relationships that contribute to success are mutually beneficial. This dynamic cannot exist when dealing with selfish people. As a result, it is best to eliminate selfish people from your life in order to make room for more giving relationships.

A recent study found that a job applicant who is referred by an existing employee is 15 times more likely to be hired than someone who applies via a job board. If you befriend a selfish person, you probably can’t rely on them to introduce you to new career opportunities. However, forming connections with someone who is altruistic could give you a professional leg up.

5. Risk-averse personalities

Business success is about making informed decisions by weighing risks and rewards. If you are surrounded by people who over-index on possible risks while ignoring the possible rewards, it will be challenging to identify good business opportunities.

Take Amazon as an example. In 2014 Amazon launched a smartphone called the Fire Phone. In the end, the phone was not successful. Following the unsuccessful launch of the Fire Phone, risk-averse people might have avoided developing another piece of computer hardware.

But instead, Amazon correctly assessed the opportunity for an in-home smart speaker, and launched the Amazon Echo just one year later. Today, Echo has 75 percent of the smart-speaker market in the United States.

6. Unmotivated individuals

People who lack motivation or work ethic set a bad example for those interested in working diligently to become a professional success. There is no worse colleague than someone who simply does the bare minimum to get by.

Rather than associate yourself with people who cut corners or avoid hard work, try to surround yourself with people who are motivated to succeed. Collaborating with people who have a healthy drive for success can instill an extra dose of motivation in you.

Related: 3 Strategies for Dealing With Toxic People

7. Spendthrifts

Financial responsibility is a critically important quality to develop if you want to become successful. Warren Buffet is perhaps the supreme example of a financially responsible and successful person.

Buffet is the third wealthiest person in the world, worth nearly $80 billion. But despite his professional success, Buffet does not spend his money on flashy cars or large homes. In fact, Buffet still lives in the modest home in Omaha, Nebraska, that he purchased in 1958.

Those who associate with spendthrifts may be more motivated to make irresponsible financial decisions in order to fit in. At the very least, it will be harder to associate with people who make good financial choices, as these personalities are frequently diametrically opposed.

Conclusion

Business is all about who you know. From landing a new job to launching a new company, your network will enable or prevent future professional success. When developing a network of talented people, it is best to avoid toxic personalities who could set a bad example or demotivate you.

Be sure to avoid people who are micromanagers and short-term thinkers, as they can make it difficult to think autonomously. Risk-averse individuals or pessimists may cause you to think twice about great business ideas, and spendthrifts or selfish people may hamper your ability to grow. Last but not least, stay away from unmotivated individuals, as your success is dependent on your willingness to work diligently in order to succeed.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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