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Personal Branding: Smart Strategy or Planned Narcissism?

Meg Guiseppi is a personal branding expert.  She writes a great blog called Executive Career Brand and agreed to be interviewed here. To share her knowledge with you.

Meg is also the personal branding expert over at Susan Joyce’s wonderful site Job-Hunt.org. Oh, and she is a great contributor on the Tim’s Strategy LinkedIn group.  Great advice there – for free!

So, here is my conversation with Meg:

Tim: Hi Meg, thanks for agreeing to share your thoughts here on personal branding.  There’s a lot of talk out there on this topic.  Can you start with your own definition of personal branding?

Meg: Your brand is your reputation – the combination of personal attributes, values, drivers, strengths, and passions that people know you for and that differentiates your unique promise of value from your peers.

It’s up to you to identify those qualities and characteristics within you, bring all the pieces together, and communicate a crystal clear, consistent message across multiple channels – online and offline – that will resonate with your target audience.

The great thing about personal branding is that it helps generate chemistry for you by spotlighting your “softer” skills, which are so important to employers looking for candidates who will be an overall best-fit. They want more than the right skill sets, knowledge base, and experience. People hire people they like. They want to know that a candidate will fit their corporate culture. Your brand helps to indicate good fit.

Tim: Personal branding is not a new idea.  But the adoption rate is still growing as more people have been out of work or looking to make a career change in this tough economy.  Is personal branding still hot?  Necessary? How will this concept change over time?

Meg: You’re right. Personal branding is not new. In fact, it’s always been with us. We all already have a brand. Well before Tom Peters coined the term in 1997, people were assessing other people’s reputation and promise of value before deciding whether to partner, hire, or do business with them. That’s just how things work.

Defining your value proposition and communicating it to your target audience will always be critical to job search, business development, and personal development, but it may go by a name other than “personal branding” in the future, who knows.

Tim: Is there a specific document someone should fill out to make sure they have all the pieces clearly laid out or is personal branding more about a few key phrases that you share with others?  What does your process look like when you work with people?

Meg: I offer my clients the choice of 2 personal brand assessment methods, before we collaborate on actually creating their brand communications (resume, bio, LinkedIn profile, VisualCV, etc.). Both require my clients to dig deep.

One is the 360° Reach Brand Assessment, a web-based tool that collects anonymous, confidential 360-degree feedback in real time from their chosen respondents. The other is brand assessment through a worksheet I’ve developed based on the 360° Reach process, which is ideal for clients who need to move the process along a bit quicker.

Either way, as my clients and I work on their brand-building and positioning through consultation, I furiously keyboard their thoughts and insights. Luckily, I’m pretty fast, so I don’t miss much. What’s great about this method of capturing information is that clients often feed me wonderful little nuggets and unique turns of phrases that translate to branding touchpoints. This allows me to bring their voice and vitality into their brand communications.

Tim: You wrote a post called: What Personal Branding Is Not where you suggest that there are a lot of folks disparaging the idea of a personal brand (as nothing less than planned narcissism, for example).  Can you talk more about how you differentiate personal branding from other perhaps more selfish pursuits?

Meg: I wrote that post because I get tired of reading all these far-flung things that social media wags claim branding can and cannot do for people.

In some ways it’s unfortunate that branding is so hot these days, because with all the buzz, come plenty of misinformation and therefore misconceptions about what branding really is and the value derived from defining and communicating your brand.

Branding is not about creating a disingenuous superstar image for the outside world. It’s not all about you. Authenticity is at its core, backed by giving value to your network. It’s about building credibility by sharing your knowledge and expertise with others. So, narcissistic pursuits don’t mesh too well with what personal branding is really all about.

Tim: I think of my own personal branding as being somewhat fluid. Should your personal brand be constant or is there room for morphing over time?

Meg: Sure, there’s room for growth and morphing, as you grow and your goals and needs change. We all benefit from regular brand auditing, asking ourselves what we’ve done for our brand lately. And we need to monitor and measure how well our brand is working for us. Is it taking us to the next step? Is it helping us reach our goals? Is it attracting the right people?

Tim: Are there any other resources (books, blogs, etc) that you would recommend for people looking to learn more about personal branding?

Meg: A personal branding bible for me is William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson’s “Career Distinction: Stand Out By Building Your Brand”. Along with being a big fan of your blog and tweets (@TimsStrategy), I also recommend these people, blogs, and tweeters:

  • Chris Brogan – @chrisbrogan – and his book “Trust Agents”
  • Dan Schawbel – @DanSchawbel – Personal Branding Blog, his book “Me 2.0”, and Personal Branding Magazine

And, for all things job search, Susan P. Joyce’s Job-Hunt – @JobHuntOrg

Well, a big thanks to Meg for agreeing to spend some time here.  Please take a minute to visit her blog and leave a comment there.  If you’d like to get in touch with Meg, you can do so as a member of the LinkedIn group.

Have a great week and be sure to take some time to create or update your own personal brand.

And if you need some help . . . you now have a place to go.

An Executive Personal Branding, Online Identity and Job Search Strategist, Meg is a 20-year careers industry professional and one of only a handful of people worldwide to hold the Reach Certified Personal Branding Strategist and Master Resume Writer credentials, both gold standards.

“I love my work collaborating with savvy corporate leaders and entrepreneurs who know where they’re going, but need help differentiating their unique promise of value in the new world of work and executive job search, and positioning themselves to work their passion. My clients are typically c-suite, senior-level executives and rising stars.”

Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Personal Branding

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