We’ve gone through a strange change, from people not realizing that they need to be their own brand, to people not realizing how being the brand impacts the way they do business. It’s interesting, really. Tom Peters was the first person I recall talking about it, back in the Alan Webber days of FastCompany (The Brand Called You). Back then, we were all cubicle farmers and beige employees of the cog-world (okay, not true, but that’s what it felt like). But now, we’re getting the opposite, where people have all the tools to make a brand and do so, but don’t really know how to leverage that brand into anything resembling a business. So, in some ways, there’s been a bit of a see-saw. We used to have people that would prosper by turning their wonderfulness into a personal brand.
We Got There – Kinda
In a way, lots of us have found our way to the tools that allow us to try and build a brand. I meet finance professionals with blogs. I know videobloggers who have a day job doing research for the research and quantification sector. We have access to the tools. Not everyone’s getting themselves to the promised land by blogging, but the tools are there. We CAN try and build personal brands and that’s something.
But What About Business and Personal Branding?
The trick of being in a personal brand is that there’s a big difference between being known, being known for something, and also being able to turn that into business.
I’ve got a recognizable personal brand. It took years to build it. From that, it took years to figure out how best to make business from it. Because just being known doesn’t transform instantly into business.
I met Kathy Ireland a few months ago. She went from being a model into running a successful business with over $1 Billion in sales. Her speech at the Disney Social Media Moms event made no bones about the fact that it was hard going from being known for being beautiful into being respected for her business acumen. She told lots of stories about times when she and her business partner slept on the chairs in an airport to save money between business flights. The end point: no one just hands you money and business because they know you.
Your first takeaway: make sure you’re progressing from being known into being known for something you’ve done, and then work at finding a way to build a business from that. Your second takeaway: no one wants to hand you money just because people know who you are.
It’s Still Not About You
Being a personal brand isn’t all that useful to anyone else, if it’s just about you. It just doesn’t get people as fired up to be “supporters of Chris,” for instance. But instead, if you’re “human business workers,” all committed to improving relationship-minded sustainable human business practices, well, then I’ve got the sense that we’ll do a lot more.
As a personal brand, it’s really important to talk about everyone else as much as you can. It’s just too boring and unhelpful to tell everyone about you. It’s okay to “model the change you want to be,” or even let people learn from the lessons you’ve suffered through, but make sure you bring it back to them, and be helpful. It’s about the community you can touch and help succeed.
Be a Value Brand, Not a Name
I just had a great stay at the Renaissance Hotel in Las Vegas a few days back. Every single staffer treated me like I was a friend, and like they were so happy I was part of their experience. They gave me such value. They had advice for where I could go. They knew some ins and outs I needed to know. It was pure value for me as a frequent traveler.
I try to be a value brand. I try to give everyone so much more than what I ask for, that you think, “wow, I really DO want to help Chris promote Invisible People, because he’s given me lots of actionable business ideas over the years.” That’s my angle, and it’s working really damned well. Be a value.
Story Story Story
Connect folks to the story that brings them passion. I wrote about a charter school I visited, and learned tons about people’s take on education in the US (and abroad). That’s a story I could bring via my brand, but then let go so that it found the people who are passionate about such matters. See? I become the elbow of every “deal,” where in this case, stories of meanings become the deal.
You can do that. Don’t make the brand about you. Make it about the stories you can tell, adding your value and insight and passion, and then build on that. (This is where the business comes from, you know.)
Think Community Every Day
As a personal brand, it’s not YOUR community, but it’s a loosely joined group of people who feel affinity for some of your ideas or for the space you represent. In a way, I’m saying, “make sure you realize that it’s never your community; it’s a place you’re privileged to access.” People who throw “MY” around before the word “community” are often surprised when that community doesn’t march in the same order that you intend. Surprise! The trick of this is that you have to recognize that you’re in service of the community, not the other way around. You’re possibly a leader, or at least someone that’s known, but that doesn’t make you the important part of the equation. With me?
Brands Need Refreshing
Never rest on your laurels. Madonna never did. She changed up her game every year. Soda pop companies tidy up their brand all the time. Now, think of a few brands that don’t do that, who are still in the past. Where are they?
The same is true with your brand. You. Lord knows I work on my brand that way. You think I’m the social media guy? I’m building myself to be the human business guy. I used to be the podcamp guy. I used to be just a blogger. I’m always working on the angle of the brand. Now, it won’t be there for you yet, because I’m talking about my planning, not my current situation. But that’s the very point I’m making. This isn’t accidental, or it isn’t for people who use brand as part of their success.
Brand is Only ONE Asset
A brand is an asset. But it’s only ONE asset. You can’t feed your family on a personal brand. You have to deliver something of value. You have to have a product or a service or something else where you make the real money. The brand is just the powerful emotional flag that people can rally around. If you don’t have more assets, or aren’t developing the other assets, well… enjoy that flag.