Insights, tips and advice on personal branding from Rita Clifton CBE
For many people within the marketing world, Rita Clifton is regarded as one of the definitive ‘brand gurus’. Her authority in the field of branding is impressive, with previous roles including Vice Chairman at Saatchi & Saatchi and London CEO and Chairman of global brand consultancy Interbrand.
However, whilst Ms Clifton’s expertise has been dedicated to building corporate brands, I was interested to hear her talk recently about how these brand-building skills can be applied to ourselves.
As digital marketers, it’s becoming increasingly important to identify and exploit a point of difference. While some of us may specialize in a particular area, others may take on a broader, more overarching role. Whatever field we work in, it’s essential for us to make it clear to others what we’re about and what we stand for.
People are Googling us at every step of our career. How we appear in search engines, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn now counts for much more than we’d ever have imagined. Although it feels more complicated than twenty or even ten years ago, I also see this as an opportunity. Whilst the same tools are available to all, not everyone has a strategy for building a personal brand and using digital channels effectively.
Personal branding doesn’t have to be a dirty word
I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the concept of ‘personal branding’. Most of the people I admire, from music and film to science and commerce, have clear, distinct personalities and reputations. But I doubt these individuals deliberately and knowingly built their personal brands.
However, unlike Bowie or the Beatles, many of us are not operating at the upper echelons of our industry. The world is a noisy and confusing place, and just like products or services, branding enables us as individuals to manage others’ expectations, make a memorable impression and stand out from the competition. We must, therefore, take advantage of different personal branding techniques to find our voice and make ourselves heard.
Introducing the 3 Cs of personal branding
In her talk, Rita Clifton spoke about the importance of being purposeful in everything we do. Purposeful brands outperform others because they appeal to consumers’ values and connect with people on an emotional level. This insight frames the three core elements of personal branding that can help shape our careers.
Are you clear about your purpose? For many people, a job is just a job and we don’t identify with particular ‘purpose’. But just like the janitor who told JFK he was putting a man on the moon, if we can associate what we do with a grander vision, it will enable us to see ourselves and our roles as part of a bigger picture and purpose within any organization.
One of the most helpful models I’ve found to do this is Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. Many of you will already be familiar with this concept, but it’s worth highlighting again and looking at this through a personal branding lens. Starting with why and taking an outside-in approach to our careers will give us the ability to find an authentic purpose in which others can begin to associate.
I’m always going back and reviewing my purpose, but if I was put on the spot, helping others and adding value has always been at the heart of what I do. Whether it’s been agency, FMCG or financial services, I’ve always found a bigger purpose in my work. One of the main reasons I enjoy writing for Smart Insights is the thought that maybe something in one of my blog posts will help someone in one way or another.
If Clarity speaks to the substance of our personal brand, Coherence is about the style. Within any profession, it’s important to look the part, although this isn’t necessarily about following the herd. However, this is about connecting with those around us to form alliances and coalitions.
According to LinkedIn, 80 percent of professionals consider networking to be important to their careers. Effective networking allows you to share new ideas, help others and make yourself more visible among your professional community.
One of the points that Ms Clifton spoke about that really resonated with me was about learning the language of the boardroom, i.e. finance. Something we’re all too guilty of as marketers is that we can become too focused on the creative and superficial elements of our work. To be truly coherent, we need to be fluent in the language of the boardroom and be able to clearly articulate the commercial impact of our work.
The final element is about commitment. Without a clear vision of who you want to be and a plan for how to get there, there will be inconsistencies in how others perceive you and confusion about what you stand for. Whilst there is nothing wrong with changing your mind or direction, it’s no coincidence that companies with clear, differentiated brand strategies outperform their competitors. They’ve found a position of clarity and committed to a strategy over time.
Committing to your personal brand doesn’t mean that you know exactly where you want to be in ten to 20 years time. But it does mean having a broad idea of the areas you’d like to be involved and what will be needed in the short and long-term to be successful.
A simple career plan will help you to balance short and long-term results with specific capabilities to achieve career growth over time.
The example above provides a template that you can build on and tailor based on your own circumstance and aspirations. Whilst this may seem quite basic, it’s surprising how few people take the time to plan out what they can and want to do in order to shape their personal brand.
For many people, personal branding is not something that comes naturally. Talking openly about what we do so well and differently to others can be difficult. However, unless we can clearly articulate what we do and why we’re different, it will become increasingly difficult to stand out and make an impact in an increasingly competitive professional landscape.
The three Cs of personal branding provide a simple but effective formula for framing the areas we need to focus on in order to build our personal brands. Clarity in the purpose and reason for what we do; Coherence is the style and language we use with our peers; Commitment to developing ourselves over the long-term.