How to build your personal brand

7 May 14
The personal brand may be more associated with celebrities and business high-fliers than with the public sector. But this need not be the case. Roger Delves examines how public managers can sharpen up their image and give their careers a boost at the same time

By Roger Delves | 7 May 2014

The personal brand may be more associated with celebrities and business high-fliers than with the public sector. But this need not be the case. Roger Delves examines how public managers can sharpen up their image and give their careers a boost at the same time

How to build your personal brand

The widespread belief used to be that if you do your best at work someone will notice. In many cases, unfortunately, that is not enough. Changes in technology, the organisation and the economy have led a growing number of people to realise that if they want to get ahead, they have to market themselves.

That is just as true of the public sector where the pressure on each individual and every department has never been greater in delivering more for less. Jobs are under the microscope to ensure that they are offering real benefits and value to the department and the organisation. 

However, to set your mindset on merely surviving could be your career downfall. To keep ahead of the pack, you need to enhance your personal brand. 

The aim is to differentiate yourself and to highlight the attributes you offer the organisation. It could be your inspirational leadership, individual expertise, your powers of influence, your willingness to go the extra mile or creativity. 

More than being seen as an individual who does a very good job, it could be that through your personal brand you are seen as someone who is not only worth keeping, but also worth promoting up the organisation. 

Your brand is the key to your progress and to your career success. To get there you need to apply some thought, attention and planning. You need to examine your strengths, image, network, communication skills, how you dress, your approach to work and how you promote yourself. You need to show what differentiates you from the others. 

A powerful personal brand has to be authentic, be based on your talents, your values and the way you serve other people. This will help people to be clear about who you are, both in person and online, and through the opinions of people whom they trust.

For your brand to attract people, it must be distinctive. You can only achieve this if your brand is authentic. It will enable you to attract people who want what you do in the way that you do it.

The aim should be to stand out in a way that is true to your talents, values and mission. To attract some people strongly, you have to be unappealing to others.

To construct your brand, identify your talents and then your mission. What is your direction in life? What do you want to achieve? Getting clear about this will enable you to build a very strong brand. Stakeholders, other departments and employees resonate with those who have a strong sense of purpose. This will help you to discover what really inspires you.

Here are 10 tips to enable you to develop your own brand, or achieve a personal brand revamp.

1 Be crystal clear about the key strengths or skills for which you want to be known 

Make sure you understand how you are currently perceived. Be clear about the important professional aspects that you want other people to recognise and associate with you. These are your stand-out professional competencies. 

2 Make the image you want to project both credible and sustainable 

You need to completely understand what is valued in your organisation. Decide how you want your style, or way of working, to be different from those of your team members.   

3 Define your X-Factor 

Successful brands are built on strength – they don’t try to paper over the cracks.  There are two aspects to brand appeal: one is rational and tangible and relates to what you do; the other is emotional and intangible and relates to how you behave. The second is the differentiator. 

How people respond to you at an emotional level is what will cause you to stand out. This is your ‘brand essence’. 

4 People will differentiate based on your ‘brand essence’ 

This will include concepts such as your personal presence, charisma, energy, loyalty, openness, emotional intelligence and attractiveness as an individual. 

Think carefully about what you want to focus on. Where are you trying to take your career? You cannot be all things to all people – this will dilute your message. 

5 Be honest and realistic in developing your brand 

Start this process by writing down your tangible and intangible strengths.  Map these on to what you know about the organisation’s values. 

Once you have decided on your brand personality – which is how others see you – then make sure that everything about you is aligned with this personality.  Simply put, if you want to be seen as a creative innovator, don’t dress like a bank manager. 

6 Conform or contrast 

One route to a personal brand is to align yourself carefully with the brand image that your organisation wants to project. Another route is to choose consciously to stand apart from the brand image of the organisation, and to stand for something important, but different to what the brand stands for. 

Go with the one that plays better to your strengths.


7 Network, get connected 

When you have decided what your brand image is going to be, you must project it. 

Get yourself introduced to people who will find your brand image exciting and relevant, and look for opportunities to showcase your unique qualities and expertise by, for example, seeking speaker opportunities and writing for the media.

Use social marketing tools to widen your brand awareness. 

8 Be prepared for challenges 

In a competitive environment colleagues may respond to attempts you make to differentiate yourself. They may seek to undermine the brand you are trying to create to cast doubts on your credibility. 

Your brand image has to be robust enough to withstand this sort of attack. If, at the first sign of competition, you are seen not to be what you say you are, then your brand image will be damaged. 

9 Understand that branding takes time

 Like brands in a supermarket, your brand image will take time to establish. Once established, it can only change incrementally and over time. Sudden changes in brand images are rarely well-received. 

10 Define it, promote it and protect it 

Building your personal brand will benefit your department or organisation, but it also helps lay the foundation for your future success – in whatever direction you choose. 

Personal branding is not a substitute for performance, but can be a vital part of how you are perceived. Your personal brand can help you remain top of mind – being the person they think of first – with those who matter most.

Roger Delves is director of the Executive Masters in Management at Ashridge Business school, Berkhamsted

This feature was first published in the May edition of Public Finance magazine


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