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Alf's Articles

Recognize The Power Of Your Brand

by Alf Nucifora

As a professional speaker of more than a decade, I have come to the realization that I have a personality that instinctively polarizes an audience. As soon as I've begun to launch into my discourse, a small segment of the audience will take an instinctive dislike to me... the look, the voice, the attitude. Fortunately the rest immediately become Alf acolytes; they'll drink my Kool-Aid without question. The process is both visceral and irrational, and it only takes minutes to play out. What they're responding to is the "Alf brand," which, in turn, leads to the premise that each and every one of us carries a brand personality, very evident to others and both immediate and instinctive in terms of how it is communicated and perceived.

Unfortunately, most of us don't recognize the fact that we are a brand. Nor do we take the time or make the effort to think about how we communicate our brand personalities to others. What this means is that the best person doesn't always win; the best candidate doesn't always get the job or the promotion. Joe Heller, President of Houston-based Heller International, who coaches entrepreneurs and executives, defines a personal brand "as a positive expectation, a promise to your market. It is the preferred position in your client's mind. A personal brand owns the equity stake, the mindshare on which no one else can compete."

The beauty of the process is that once a brand dialog has been established it puts the individual in a position of unassailable strength. But, that brand dialog is more than telling the buyer or the listener what he/she wants to hear. It's more a process of recognizing who you are, knowing what you want your brand personality to be, being comfortable with that personality and making it congruent with marketplace needs, be they a job, a promotion, a deal or even a marital partner.

The Biggest Mistakes

Most of us aren't aware of the value of the personal brand because, simply stated, we don't think of ourselves as a brand. Martha Stewart, Oprah, and Jack Welch do. That's one of the reasons that they're more famous and make more money than we do. Most of us also fail to appreciate the old adage, "that perception is the reality." Appearance matters. We don't do enough probing about the perception. The truth is, most of us don't want to know what others think or say about us behind our backs for a variety of reasons... we fear what we will hear, we don't care, we lack introspective initiative, etc. The result... we have no clear understanding of what our "brand perception" is in the marketplace. Or, we display inconsistency in our words, our actions and our behavior. We try to be all things to all people.

Brand Personality Has Its Benefits

In the entrepreneurial environment, the success of the company is very much tied to the personal brand of the entrepreneur/leader. Quite often it's the force of that brand personality that takes the company from start-up to success; that attracts new customers when there is little substance or credibility behind the company; when venture capital has to be raised; when new staff have to be recruited.

For the professional or the corporate player, personal branding provides career enhancement. Promotions and raises come more quickly. It positions the individual to move more quickly up the corporate ladder. And, it creates a bidding war as news of the individual's brand personality spreads. That person becomes an attractive brand that others want to acquire. Incidentally, one of the major reasons that so many talented and experienced victims of downsizing are now on the street, and can't find a job, is that they have the credentials but lack the brand packaging to wrap them in. A good-looking resume is not enough nowadays.

For the CEO of a public company, increasing the power of your personal brand has a direct impact on stock price. It's one of the reasons that GE did so well with Jack Welch at the helm; why Coca-Cola's stock price stayed so high during the reign of Roberto Goizueta; and why Home Depot can't hit a stock price that should match its performance and potential.

Going Through The Process

According to Heller, the steps in developing a personal brand are both sequential and logical. First there is the discovery process... a discussion of goals and values, a discovery of personal experiences and skills that will reinforce the brand, as well as an assessment of unique attributes, "packaging" strategies, and a determination of what you want the market to think of you.

Audit assessment follows…testing the brand message, seeking feedback and sharpening the message. After that it's a matter of implementing the marketing plan... refining leadership skills; engaging in a disciplined program of acceptable self-promotion; for females, learning how to cope with the glass ceiling. And, all the while, making adjustments to the plan as the brand evolves.

Finally, there's the issue of finding a coach. Someone who can act as Sherpa guide through the brand development process. Good coaches are nothing more than marketing consultants for the ego and id. What defines a good coach? Someone who has operational background, who has done it before; someone who has experience to take you where you want to go; and someone with whom you can bond. Never underestimate the value of personal chemistry in the coach/client relationship. Martha Eskew, an Atlanta-based executive coach defines the good coach as one "who listens underneath for what's being said and brings it out." This demands acute perceptiveness coupled with integrity and candor. Says Eskew, "a good coach must always be willing to be fired by the client."

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