Posted by Bill on March 29th, 2010
A personal brand is the story other people tell about you.
And you have a brand whether you know it or not. How do people describe you when when they can’t remember your name? That’s your brand, right there.
Personal brand design is the process you use to take control of the story people tell about you. As the executive producer of your career, you choose the set of skills, projects, and network that will give your story the best chance of spreading.
Instead of letting the economy or your boss determine the direction of your career, personal brand design gives you the freedom to create your next big break.
Why You Need A Personal Brand – Now
Before Tom Peters popularized the term in a 1997 article in Fast Company magazine, a “personal brand” was simply called your professional reputation.
Peters recognized a shift in the working world that made individual reputation building more important than ever before. The erosion of the life long job made it foolish to rely on your college’s name, your job title, or your past or present company’s name (essential other people’s brands) to promote yourself. To maintain a career, workers now had to develop their own career story, their own personal brand that hiring managers would judge them by.
At the same time, the shift in the entertainment business toward the need for personal branding also happened, but for different reasons. We’ve been used to project-based work and the high turnover that comes with it.
Long term success at a record label, movie study, or television network came from having the right technical skills or networking. Being able to work a complicated piece of equipment or being friends with, related to, or lovers with the right people mattered more than being the right person for the job.
However, technology has broken down those artificial barriers. Software has made it easier than ever to produce and edit an album, film, or TV show. And social media is allowing the world’s most talented people to be a success without being slowed by the traditional industry gatekeepers.
Gone are the days where you competed with a relatively small circle of insiders in New York and LA. Now, your skills and reputation has to stack up against the most creative people in the world.
For the wider working world, personal brand design is just a good idea. However, for professionals in the entertainment industry a strong brand is the only thing that matters.
The 3 Elements of A Strong Personal Brand
All of the books, blogs, and workshops on personal brand design can be boiled down into a simple framework I call the 3U’s of Personal Branding – Be Unique, Be Useful, and Be You.
Advice on branding may use different words, or emphasize one element over the other, but the most successful brands have some aspect of all three.
Let’s unpack them.
#1. Be Unique
As Jerry Garcia said:
“You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do.”
Designing a personal brand that highlights your rare, one-of-a-kind abilities makes you stand out from the crowd.
Being good at what you do, mixed in with a go-getter attitude and brazen networking used to be all you needed to get noticed and be considered for that great gig in your field. Now you need a brand that’s absolutely unique if you want your card, or resume, or portfolio to get a second look.
Sure, the middle of the road professionals in our business will still find work. They’ll just have to fight for every inch of opportunity out there, and they’ll have to settle for low pay and boring work.
If you want your creative work to be valued, you have to have a brand that shows you are absolutely unique.
#2. Be Useful
A strong personal brand is focused on serving others.
It sounds backwards, but the quickest way to make your dreams come true is to be useful for other people’s dreams.
Your brand has to make it obvious to people how you can help their lives, their project, and even their brand. it’s much easier to gain trust from a manager or colleague when they know their own goals will be forwarded when working with you.
So, make your brand about the impact you can have on others. You’ll find that you won’t need to be concerned with self-promotion. A strong, useful brand empowers your network to spread your story for you.
#3. Be You
Nothing connects people to your brand like your personal story. Adding your personality to your brand is what gets people to connect with you, to like you.
As the saying goes,
“All things being equal, people do business with people they like. All things not being equal, people still do business with people they like.”
Even as you make your brand useful and unique, you have to avoid making yourself sound like a company, a common mistake for creative people who design their brands for the first time.
Even big faceless companies nowadays try to appear human in their branding. Your advantage as a solo professional is that you don’t have to pretend to be a fascinating human being. You already fit the description.
When you allow your brand to showcase your personality and passions, you’ll connect deeply with colleagues in our industry, including the decision makers who can offer you your next job.
Posted by Bill on September 29th, 2009
What can you do to become the one agent every client calls in your marketplace? The answer is simple – eliminate the competition by personal branding. If you brand yourself right, you can create a positive and professional image in the mind of the public that you are the only option for all their real estate needs. You want them to believe that you are the only agent who will be able to find them a new home or sell it for that matter.
Personal branding is an invaluable real estate marketing tool that holds unlimited potential for all real estate professionals. A real estate agent is in a much different position in the corporate world because they are their own products. Yet many agents spend a fortune on ineffective ways to obtain listings and create more business. Agents that do understand the concept of branding are able to take advantage of the market in a very effective way.
As a real estate professional, you already have a brand, but you may not realize it. You can shape your client’s perception of you simply by defining your strengths, goals, values, personality and presenting yourself in a professional manner. Everything about you – your appearance, demeanor, the car you drive, your office, how you answer the phone and how you deal with your clients – creates a “brand” in the public’s mind. Focus on the type of brand you want to portray; instead of letting the public create their brand for you. Express yourself and what you stand for to everyone you meet – clients, friends, colleagues and organizations. Do this consistently and you will create a lucrative and effective – personal brand.
Branding although used interchangeably with marketing is actually a distinct concept. If used in the right way branding can eliminate the need for traditional costly advertising and marketing. However, branding is a slow process and it takes time to build the image you want. Building this image relies on repetitiveness and consistency. It’s all about building your image in the mind of the public – creating a perception that you are the best choice, regardless of the market conditions.
Branding requires commitment, dedication and honesty. Branding is more than just placing your picture on a business card or a flyer and announcing that you are the number one agent in the market. Personal branding is everything you stand for and your promise to all your clients. Remember that you should not brand a lie. This is worse than having no brand at all. You cannot brand yourself as an expert in luxury homes if you know nothing about them. It will hurt your business and reputation in the long run.
Branding is a very powerful tool for any real estate professional. Branding is a very effective tool, because people sell and buy on emotion. Therefore, if they like and trust you they will be more inclined to use your services, regardless of the market conditions. Another effective way to brand you is by using a pre-listing package. Only a small percentage of agents use it and can propel your sales, listing and referrals to new heights. This package instantly separates you from the competition and shows prospective clients that you really know the business. The pre-listing package should be delivered to each and every client prior to the appointment. This will give them ample time to review the information and disclosures. When customers see that you are willing to go the extra mile for them by providing a package, which other agents aren’t doing, then they will be more than happy to refer new business your way. Follow this advice and you will be on your way to building a professional personal brand and becoming that agent your market calls for all their real estate needs. Good luck and much success
Posted by Bill on September 11th, 2009
According to the National Association of Realtors, 76 percent of people who decide to sell their home with the assistance of a licensed real estate agent, interview only one agent for the job. Are you that agent? If not, who is?
What can you do to become the one agent 76 percent of the people in your marketplace are calling to list their homes? The answer is simple – eliminate the other options. By branding yourself correctly, you can create the perception in the minds of the public that you are the only option – the only agent – who will sell their homes. Build the perception in the mind of the consumer that you are the only one.
A concept used for many years by corporate America, personal branding is an invaluable tool that if used correctly, and it holds unlimited potential for real estate agents. Real estate agents are in a unique position to have success through branding because they are their own products. Yet many agents, who arguably spend more money than most other small businesses on advertising, are missing the boat when it comes to building a business through branding. As a result, the agents who do understand branding and build a consistent brand are able to take advantage of the market. They are that one agent three-fourths of the population calls to list their homes.
So what is branding?
Commonly lumped together with marketing, branding is actually a distinct concept, which if used correctly, can virtually eliminate the need for traditional costly marketing. While marketing is a quick, active message targeted at selling a product, branding is a slow process, building your image over time. Branding relies on consistency and repetitiveness. It’s about building your image in the minds of the public-creating a perception that you are the best, regardless of the market conditions.
A great example of a person who has used both personal branding and marketing is Oprah Winfrey. Over time, Oprah has built a perception of who she is and what she stands for in the minds of the public. That perception, that emotional, innate response to the name Oprah Winfrey is her brand. Her magazine, her television show, books, etc. are products she markets to the public. She markets her products through commercials, her shows, etc. The success of her product marketing is based in large part in the strength of her brand. Conversely, her brand continues to be strengthened because her marketing and her products consistently support her promise or her brand.
Everyone makes money in a strong market. Agents who are perceived as the experts, the leaders, make money regardless of the market conditions. Oprah does not need to do anything but mention a book and it shoots to the top of the best seller list. She doesn’t spend money on advertising her products. Her branded image pre-sells her, and, in turn, her products without the need for marketing. By building your image over time, by branding yourself, you can see that in the long run, you will spend less money on marketing yourself, but get greater return.
So how do agents brand themselves?
Branding requires a commitment. You cannot read this article, or read a book about branding, pick a slogan and consider yourself branded. Branding is more than putting your picture on your business card and a park bench and proclaiming you are the number one sales person in your market.
Branding is really everything you stand for – your promise to your customers. Read any book or article about branding and each will contain certain concrete steps you must take before you can begin to build your brand.
You must first evaluate where you are and where you want to go. This step is the most important for real estate agents. As an agent you have to live and breathe your brand every day or it will fail. You have to honestly evaluate yourself and your business. What does your business look like now? How do you want your business to look? What are you willing to do to get there?
After you have determined where you are and where you want to go, its time to step out of your box and define you as your brand. Did you determine that you really want to focus your business on serving the real estate needs of retirees? Pick a slogan or word that describes the commitment you have to your target. For example, “Providing golden service for the golden years.” Then own that brand in everything you say and do. Back up your brand with what you promised “golden service.” Use your slogan or brand consistently and repeatedly. Over time, your name will become synonymous with your brand to the extent that your target, in our example, retirees and their families, will think of you first when they want to list their house, regardless of whether you took out a full-page ad in your area’s local newspaper proclaiming yourself the number one agent in the market.
Remember, evaluate your business and your path, make a commitment to your brand and back it up every day. Follow these steps and you will be on your way to building your brand and becoming that agent your market calls first to list their home.
Posted by Bill on May 14th, 2009
We tend to associate brands with things that sell. How about brands that sell us? The school from which you received your BA, BS or BEng often impresses prospective employers or clients. The allure of the institution stems not from a factual knowledge of the university’s strengths, but from a received understanding of what it stands for — its prestige, ideology and reputation. Universities are more aware of this than ever; some have groomed themselves into überbrands, leveraging their equity beyond the traditional educational arena. This article suggests, however, that their success should not be surprising. After all, universities that get it right operate the perfect forum within which the ultimate brand experience can be offered.
Isn’t it amazing how, come every commencement season, temporary amnesia sets in? Surrounded by the bubbly and bunting, brutal all-nighters and massive loans are forgotten, and everyone displays unreserved affection for the alma mater. The magic lies in the fact that the best universities are, essentially, great brands.
The benefits of solid branding are as apparent in the educational arena as they are in business. Universities cost a lot of money to run, and research costs even more. Government funding, moreover, is declining. Raising money for operating costs and endowment enhancement is thus more important than ever. Every revenue stream — alumni contributions, corporate partnerships, long-distance learning opportunities and merchandising — must be conscientiously cultivated. In many cases, this means exploiting the core assets of the organization. Like many successful brands, universities have learned that the brand is one such core asset that can transcend categories to sell almost anything. The power brands of the university industry successfully reach across and beyond the educational sector. Harvard, Stanford and Oxford credibly and successfully sell summer camp for twelve-year olds, cheerleading classes, T-shirts, holiday tours, and even financial services.
What are some of the branding lessons we can glean from universities?
1. Focus on the experience, not on the product
As in most industries, universities offer very similar “products” at first glance. But the best universities define a world of difference behind the B.A., M.B.A., M.Eng, or Ph.D. In fact, many of the best universities offer terrible undergraduate education. Students have little or no contact with the illustrious faculty who grace the university’s academic catwalk. Instead, their educations are typically guided by teaching assistants eking out a living.
No worry. The students from the top universities will tell you that the degree is merely an excuse for the overall experience, in the same way “I need new shoes” really means, “I want those Nikes.” No one remembers the mathematics class, or even that groundbreaking seminar on the Middle East. They will remember the annual football game, the “Full Moon on the Quad” tradition, the fountain-hopping, and the breakfasts with the President.
2. Stick to one idea.
The best universities stand for a single idea, one so simple that it lends itself to transposition into each stakeholder’s individual world. This facilitates a sense of complete ownership, which in turn catalyses loyalty to the brand. This was brought home to me when I attended graduation at MIT this year. The idea was simple: Live for technology. While waiting for the ceremony to start, friends tapped busily at their Blackberrys, keeping in contact with their friends. Occasionally, they would look up to inform the over-anxious parents whom they had been appointed to chaperone that the graduand they were awaiting was “turning onto Mass Avenue right now.”
A roar of approval met the Commencement speaker’s quip that he looked forward to the day an astronaut would plant her boots on Mars. A giggle wafted through the solemn ceremony as a bunch of silvery NASA balloons was let loose over Killion Court. I couldn’t believe it. Everything said that technology was a way of life; being a geek was almost cool.
3. Speak in one voice.
Keeping it simple also means presenting yourself clearly and coherently to your stakeholder. Oxford and Cambridge have more trouble than Harvard or Stanford in encouraging alumni involvement for this reason. It is true that British universities have, traditionally, larger endowments and more support from the government, making business development a lesser priority. It is, however, not the lack of need that has inhibited the development of these university brands.
The problem, from a branding point of view, lies within the decentralised college system of Oxbridge. Students are simultaneously members of the university and of a college. This arrangement splits loyalties, confusing the claims of ownership over the fond memories of those youthful days, fragmenting the power of the brand.
The muddle is further exacerbated by the perceptual disjunction amongst internal and external stakeholders. To the insider, the college (e.g. Trinity) is the true hub of social and academic activity, with which members are wont to build lasting relationships. The university is merely the aggregate of the different college. To the wider public, however, the name with the cache is the university (Cambridge or Oxford). Consequently, external stakeholders such as corporations and foundations support university-wide initiatives, whilst the colleges work at delivering the brand promise. The lack of clear brand architecture is clearest in the international arena, where the distinction between the college and the university is dimmest. Flip open this week’s Economist to see Templeton College battling with the University of Oxford for centerstage within the same advertisement for executive advancement programs.
4.The brand exists in the people.
The critic would argue that universities are not as generic as I characterize them to be, that they provide unique environments of learning and challenge. I agree. I also suggest, however, that the brand is a key component of this offer. And the brand is particularly potent because universities almost always celebrate the key element of the brand: its people.
The community that develops around the university is its true distinguishing factor. The “inspired environment” unique to a university is not due to an institution per se — its walls, architecture, gardens, its ivy and spires — but to the other individuals who, by a shared notion of mutual affirmation, collectively create that very matrix the organization is supposed to provide.
Universities are motley collections of individuals who, somehow, come together to define and redefine an idea, an ideal. By building strong emotional bonds between disparate groups of independent-minded students and professors, universities transform themselves into universes of unmistakable loyalty. This spirit transcends the individual product of the organization — the educational experience and degree.
More and more universities are acknowledging the value of their brands: those intangible assets, that single idea clear and distinct enough to bridge time, discipline and geography. No matter how distinguished, the buildings, machines and accolades are consequential, not central, to the allure of a university.
The best universities succeed because they live and breathe that cardinal rule of branding — that its value exists solely in the minds and hearts of its community — more successfully than many corporate organizations. Moreover, the university brand thrives on the persuasive power of received understanding — because a university stands for certain values, it will attract people who share in those values, who in turn perpetuate and strengthen the brand.
That’s the genius of it all. Well-managed, the university brand best displays its potency by its remarkable self-perpetuating, evolutionary propertie