Personal BrandingThis was one of my favorite takeaways from the 10th annual Massachusetts Conference for Women.  The first panel presentation that I attended was entitled “Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success”.  The panel was moderated by Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career

The panel members  were

1. Laura Darrah & Sheila Nazarian, co-founders, she + lo
2. Wendy Duncan, SVP, marketing, Alex and Ani
3. Shirley Leung, business columnist, The Boston Globe
4. Cindy Ratzlaff, social media strategist

The focus of the panel was to point out the very important fact that how people perceive you or your product is vital to success. As we all know, with the internet, social media and the constant pace of 24/7 business, it is more critical than ever that a person or a company brand and promote effectively. Your personal brand, product or service might be the most awesome on the face of this earth, but if customers can’t find the value – the unique value – they are unlikely to engage. This panel was designed to help the attendees promote themselves or their product to create a powerful message so that we would better stand out and succeed in our goals.

Laura Darrah began the session by making a point that what we may think as obvious, but may often get lost.  It is a lot easier to market a brand when you feel confident in the brand.

Shirley Leung, who spends her days writing and sometimes reporting on television, reminded us that in these days of the 2.7 second attention span, it is more important than ever to really hone our message.  She suggested that we watch a bunch of TEDtalks and really observe how the presenters have taken their wealth of information and manage to condense it down to the absolute most important, most salient points in order to get the intended message crystal clear to the listener.

Wendy Duncan’s message resonated loudly and clearly with me when she told us to “Be simple. Be conversational. Tell stories.”  People may or may not remember the facts about you or your product – your blah-blah-blah – But you can be pretty sure that they will remember a story that you have told that touches them.  The stories that people share around their bracelets has been a large part of the success of the Alex and Ani product line. Wendy pointed out that it is so very important to continue to write about the core values of the company or of your self.  Embrace and promote your mission and culture.

Cindy Ratzclaff’s message – the 4 V’s of personal branding –  really hit home with me.

 – Value:
The first question to ask your self is “What is my value?”  Your client wants to know “what’s in it for them?” Clearly identify exactly what you bring to the table

– Visual:
Have a great headshot.  Look straight at the camera and smile.  First impressions are critically important. Most often, someone is going to check you out online before they meet you. You want people to instantly trust you.

– Voice
Everything that you say and do should clearly identify your authentic self, your mission and your culture.

– Variation
This seemed to be the most important point. Identify what your unique variation is. There are probably many people who offer what you do – you must offer your own spin.

As you may know, I am passionate about helping small businesses develop their online presence. I’ve got all the technical parts figured out – and I absolutely love making sure that their online listings are complete, that their social media platforms are established and have a meaningful strategy, that we have developed a strategy for keeping in touch with their clients through contact relationship management systems and through periodic and targeted emails or newsletters.  But, as I listen and learn from one expert after another, I now understand that what I am doing is helping my clients promote their personal brand.  

Some of my clients have been quite clear on what their brand is.  Brian of B&M Catering has, since the first moment we spoke, identified his business as fun.  Our first phone conversation while I rode the train home from Boston one February included the words ‘fun’, ‘good times’, ‘love people’ over and over and over. That continues to be the online persona for B&M Catering.  It’s apparent in every online platform.  It’s apparent in every conversation that the staff has. It’s apparent in every single testimonial they receive. (Seriously – check them out on Yelp – it’s crazy good) It’s especially apparent when you get the opportunity to work with Brian, Mickey and Tim on any of their catering or food service projects.  For B&M Catering, it is all about the fun, the good times and making sure people just feel great.  Their brand, their company culture, their mission is crystal clear.  The management, the staff, the vendors, and most importantly, the clients are all well aware that B&M Catering is there for quality catering food and service with a smile.

Let your clients be well aware of what they can expect from you.


More on the topic of Personal Branding:

Be Better at Teaching

Be the “Go-To”

Be a Resource