There’s a lot of buzz concerning personal branding, but I’ve seen just a few persons who can answer to a simple question: which are the main 4 attributes that others perceive about you?
It’s a simple question. If you ask that a brand manager for a company, he or she will know precisely which are the attributes, in which order and how relevant they are, in numbers. Some tend to believe that personal branding is different. That it’s OK just to follow feed-backs, be aware of how others perceive you, but that’s not what defines you. And that’s not what defines your brand.
You actually can’t escape from what you want to hide. You really can’t. For example, Adrian Ciubotaru is perceived as calm and patient. He doesn’t perceives himself that way. I’ve noticed at people, in general, that having high standards for a certain value, they never think it’s enough.
Actually, an interesting thing was that in a short while after this discussion, at the same meeting, Silviu Istrate offered me a brand recognition worthwhile to mention. He has seen a presentation I made and loved the style of defending my idea against the public. He didn’t like the vision, but he liked the perseverence, which, according to my 2009 personal brand evaluation (based on the feedback of more than 20 people who know me well) is my strongest positive attribute.
Now, I also considered, like Adrian Ciubotaru considered about others perceiving him as patient, that this wasn’t my strongest point.
Also, no matter how much I would try to hide it, the fact that I could significantly improve (an euphemism, of course) my self-management starting with putting order through my stuff to being more careful how I get dressed, is something I can’t hide. No matter how much I would try, there’s such a huge energy that has to be spent in covering it, that in the end, others will perceive the same patterns anyway.
But personal branding is not about being yourself. Personal branding is adapting to context. Each of us has some attributes, some characteristics, which can’t be noticed if they’re not manifested. For example, I can be funny without being sarcastic. I can comment on politics if I get informed. I can play chess to train my mind for strategy. But you won’t see all these things because they are simply not relevant in the context that facilitates our meeting. I don’t make money out of being funny, or commenting on politics, or playing chess, I make money out of what I’ve been doing for the last years and loving it. I do professional networking to get a purpose to my services, to get them into a market where they are needed and where they can provide for others. Therefore, there will always be aspects of my personality, of my identity, of what I am, what I like, and what I do, you will never see unless you can observe them in the proper context.
And this affects what happens when we try to change something in ourselves, to grow, to develop. We find that the first people holding us back are the people we care about. Our friends are our greatest manipulators because they expect us to behave in a certain way, they are familiar with. As soon as we access different behaviors, it becomes difficult for them to access new information about us. And considering each of us has just a limited attention span, it’s very challenging to acknowledge the fact there may be something else to discover. The truth is what separates us from the friends in the past are not only the values, but the values levels of perception and development. The price to pay by changing is losing the connection with some people who cannot understand us anymore.
In the social media networking, we communicate fast. Now. Here. Right now. What are you doing, in 140 characters. Who are you, in 2 phrases. Your business card is your label. What you do is what puts you in a box. Although the contexts and options of communication have changed so fast in the last 100 years, our speed and depth of perception have not.
For each context, one must have a facet. In each social context, there are some aspects that you are aware, even at a subconscious level, that is relevant to transmit, to promote. It doesn’t matter who you are in a certain environment, it matters which aspects of who you are relate to that environment. Therefore, in a market, for a public, you can only be as much as you are recognized for. It doesn’t matter what your illusion about yourself is. Others might get even what you try to hide, when you don’t concentrate on what the others resonate to.
Let’s give some examples. When you talk to someone for 5 minutes, you can get a task orientation, and talk about a project, or an information it is necessary to you, therefore, you will communicate exclusively from the professional standpoint. Like for example, describing to a programmer an idea and asking which are the advantages and disadvantages of having it written in Python and hosted in USA. Or, you can talk to somebody you would like to know, to interact, therefore leaving the mind of the conversation partner open to observe different things about you. There’s a difference between “that guy with the X project” and “that guy who wanted to say “hi” “. The opportunity for personal brand involvement is higher in the second situation. Because it appeals to the intuition of detecting in a very short while how much of what you want to express is actually relevant for the other person. Often times, out of people not actually listening one another or even hearing each other, offline conversations become online conflicts – this is how miscommunication happen in the era of communication.
Therefore, when you do not have the ability to carefully select, detect, what is relevant to honestly communicate yourself in a certain environment, that represents poor personal branding skills.
You know you have good personal branding skills when you accept yourself as you are, you are aware how others perceive you very clearly, you accept that, you decide what to change, you do it, and you are perceived in THAT certain manner. That is true personal branding. And then, you put yourself in each context as much and as selected as necessary to resonate with the context.
In “American Gangster”, Frank Lucas, played by Denzel Washington, tells his little brother that the most obvious guy in the club is the one who gets in trouble first. Those who will know to resonate with you, will do that. Otherwise, you’re out of context. Out of context, out of focus, out of business.
Be your brand.
In every way you can, by being yourself.