23 Apr 2013

Your Personal Brand Image

My first tangible encounter with personal branding was about 9 years ago while working in the Sales & Marketing Dept. of a top end projector manufacturer. It came through the post in the form of unsollicited mail. I could have chucked it in the bin because I just was so busy, but the savvy in me knew that key snippets of information, slogans and little pearls of wisdom were to be found in the most unusual places and marketing/ PR 'junk mail' was one of them and worked for me, keeping me abreast of trends, movers and shakers, latest fads, forthcoming events, flavours of the week, in big letters and bullet-proof bullet-point format.

(Pict source)

And there it came. It was a leaflet from a UK training/ events company inviting me to a seminar aptly named 'Walking TALL', devised and organised by Lesley Everett. The brief synopsis set the scene. Lesley devised her Walking Tall Branding Methodology based around the fact that employees are an extension of their corporate brand, and a firm's reputation - good or bad - is at the hands of its staff. Trust is at stake.

Poor dress, sloppy language, lazy approach, out-of-place comments and carelessness will be detrimental to a firm's overall image and credibility, it will make it look unprofessional and give it bad publicity. A hapless employee might not care about or even be aware of the consequences of their attitude problem or deliberate actions. Yet as employees, not only do we hold a responsibility in terms of our employers reputation, but also towards ourselves, which some of us might be tempted to overlook. In the corporate world reputation preceeds us. Word of mouth will soon spread like wildfire and that ill-mannered lawyer, untidy sales guy or moody secretary will not only dent their employing firm's image but in return have their own image dented and future employability compromised. Because yes it so happens that we have a personal image to protect and defend, beyond the realms of the firm we work in. This got my mind ticking big time.

Lindsay Lohan, photographed by Bryan Adams, via French Vogue

Look at it that way. You, as an individual, are your own personal brand. You walk and talk and breathe and eat and drink and sleep that brand. Go for the bigger picture and realise that your brand goes beyond the workplace, into your personal life, across to your leisure time, permeating your whole life. This is even more so true today right now, with the popularity of social media, where individuals have it in their own hands to write and rewrite their own life stories and reputations. Except that what is done online cannot be undone, as it gets shared, replied to, forwarded, commented upon, and distorted Chinese whispers stylee, leaving indelible traces all over the place.

Which should lead us to be wiser with that personal brand image whose reputation gets tarnished on a whim with inappropriate revelations, gratuitous slander and risqué pictures. Some people out there are finding themselves in the mess they created in the first place, because they thought it was gonna be a joke, for the fun of it, without measuring the consequences. Unlike most celebs and high-profile business people, most of us are unable to hire the big guns and afford the high-ranking lawyers and top PR teams who will work on that reputation damage limitation. Next time you feel itchy on Twitter or Facebook, just pause, log off and take that walk round the block or do fifty press-ups. You'll thank me later.


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