Personal Brand is the term used to describe how we are perceived by others – and the by-product of this is our reputations.  We all have a personal brand whether we are managing the process or not.  And our personal brands have a direct and measurable relationship with our ability to be successful in life and in business.

Seven years ago I came across the term ‘personal branding’ and my senses went on high alert.  I wasn’t sure about the label – it smacked of style over substance.  All a little too deeply dunked in blatant self-promotion for my taste.

And yet it grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.  I sensed that there was something simply, ridiculously, logical about it all.  I started reading all I could get my hands on, beginning with the man who is now attributed with getting the industry on the map.  Tom Peters, the Management author, speaker wrote an article for Fast Company Magazine in 1997 “The Brand Called You” where he argued we should manage ourselves as “CEO of Me Inc”.  According to an article in The Economists’ Intelligent Life “The Big Sell” (worth a read) Tom added that he could see it was a different world coming.

And yes, the world is different – Facebook was only founded six years ago and now has 800 million users worldwide.  Google has launched Google+, their answer to Facebook, now publicly listed with stumbling share prices.  A few years ago I was on a panel with Jim Margolis of GMMB, the man behind the Obama campaign.  His view is that the Obama win would never have been possible without the advent of social and digital media – the smart marketing by deep segmentation.  Taking the message to the people in the way they usually digested information on the digital and social media platforms they frequented was ground-breaking and changed the world of public relations, marketing and communications forever.  Never again shall “if you build it they will come”, as was reportedly declared by Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai, hold much water.

Is the idea of learning or emulating what comes naturally to the most successful people, different?  I think not.  How many business books, leadership road-maps, success formulas are there out there?  In an earlier chapter in my career, I was an executive search consultant.  Organisations retained me to find the ideal candidates for various senior management roles.  I would always present a shortlist of three to five candidates.  And in and amongst the group there would often be a ‘wild card’.  Someone who didn’t necessarily tick all the boxes in terms of the brief, but just had that something special.  The ‘WOW’  or ‘X’ factor.  And these ‘wild cards’ would win the role as often as their perfectly qualified, experienced competitors.

I had always put this down to the right combination of EQ/IQ (Daniel Goleman), and in those days, consumed all that I could get my hands on regarding the illusive qualities of emotional intelligence and leadership (we now add PQ, or political intelligence, SQ, social intelligence and CQ, consciousness quotient to the mix).  All well and good if you want to recognise success and leadership, but not a great deal of help if you want to help others to get there.

I have realised that applying the principles of building a personal brand, which result in us having the impact we need to be successful is a little like doping athletes.  Except its legal.  An extraordinary, accelerated, leap-frogging occurs.  Take the right combination of raw materials – education, experience, skills, experience, knowledge – and add a dose of conscious self-awareness and self-management.  It’s all down to consciously causing the effect.  People buy people on an emotional level and when we understand what others find compelling about us, we tend to deliver more of this and less of the stuff that others don’t value.

And so the media debate continues over what personal brand is and how to get it.  And behind the scenes, young people have already got it.  Have a page on Facebook?  Then your brand is out there and you know that compromising photos of a wild night out, or your opinions of your boss shared with friends may well rule you out of a job or promotion.  And if you search twitter, you will find many attributing personal branding to your social and digital media footprint.  For me, all of this is the label on the tin – vital, however, if the contents are not the authentic real deal then it will be impossible to keep up the promise offered by smart marketing and PR – on any platform.

Seven years in and I hear the words ‘impact’ and ‘personal branding’ constantly bandied about – and yet still too few are delivering real value for themselves, the  organisations they work for or the stakeholders they serve.  I have long been frustrated by the lack of resources, learning, and quality associated with delivery of personal brand services.  Way too many ex-marketeers or social and digital gurus focused on the output.  One has to begin from the inside-out.  Consciously being your brand is the key and this starts with knowing yourself.  Afterall, your BEing drives your DOing.  One can’t shortcut to marketing – if you haven’t done the internal mining and growth, you can’t deliver authentically and consistently – resulting in a “brand-lie”!  And people are not stupid, they pick up the incongruencies and flashy marketing.  What we want is the real deal.

And since September 2008 this could not be more crucial.  The world changed inextricably forever when the markets crashed and we are now focused on relationships.  Good old-fashioned, shake my hand, look me in the eye and build trust-based relationships.  The brilliant results in building your personal brand lie in the often surprising and very welcome indirect results we see.  The good stuff starts to find us rather than us having to hunt down and kill every opportunity.  When your brand is working for you incredible stuff happens, providence rules.  And the reason for this is that every personal brand touch point you have is a little marketing machine taking your reputation far beyond what you could accomplish through pure marketing.

Personal Brand is not an option.  Your brand already exists – in whatever form you are living it.  Why not consciously cause the effect you want to see in your life?  So little to lose and so very much to gain :-)