The first time I heard the term "brand" in reference to a person was back when I was in college, believe it or not. It sounded weird and bizarre and I could not wrap my head around how a person could be a brand - even as a Marketing major it made no sense. So for my second original blog post, I thought I would talk about how to build your own brand from my perspective - a marketing major/professor for whom it did not come intuitively.
I would say that even for my students and clients, the idea of being a brand is just not always an intuitive one. There are some people, though, who can run with the idea and successfully execute managing themselves as a brand from day one. I think that I am finally at that level of branding myself but it took me a long time, a lot of sweat and some major fears to overcome to execute on that plan. So here are my tips on how to build yourself as a brand.
Tip 1: Identify what you are great at
Know your sweet spot. What can you do better than most others? For me, this is teaching. I was always a teacher even when I did not know it - I used to tutor other kids in college on statistics and other subjects and when I did my MBA in Italy, I led some seminars on how to interview well and always had the most students vying to be in my groups - oh and led some late night Black Schole Model Training in the offices of the Rome Campus of St John's University (wow, la bella vita, huh?). Yes, I guess I am a nerd...
But I still did not realize or know how much teaching would become my passion. So how did it come about? I had a mentor (see Tip 2) who helped push me to be an adjunct - he was instrumental in me getting to Italy for my MBA and continued advising and helping me for many years after that. He encouraged me to keep applying to be an adjunct at St John's University even though each time I applied I was told that I was too young, too new out of Grad school and not the right fit. Until finally in 2003, I got the call. You see, an economics Prof had fallen and broken their neck (not fatally, thank God) but could not teach and as it was last minute, they needed someone, anyone and that person was me - what a way to begin my teaching career, right? At the time, I was working full time at Standard & Poor's but got special approval to work from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I could embark on being an adjunct professor. I taught a micro and a macro class to college freshman - could it be any more "boring"? But, I loved it and I was hooked and luckily was asked to come back to teach at nights in NYC campus and even a few super early classes on the Staten Island campus that fit into my work schedule.
Tip 2: Surround yourself with mentors and mentee others
It is important to have a team around you - people who can help you identify what you are great at and people that you can help do the same thing. This is a step deeper than networking - though networking should also be about what you can give and help other people with more so than what you will get back (because by giving, you will get back). This is having people who know you, people you rely on and trust their advice. This is a level of networking that is more focused on helping and creating long term relationships. My mentors have all been in my life between 5-18 years. But I also mentor others - and this is where I feel I truly learn and grow the most. Always work on building a team and giving back to others, too.
Tip 3: Do not be afraid to put yourself out there
I have said before that though I have been an entrepreneur since 2002, this is the first time I have taken my thoughts, my image and even videos of me and used them to communicate my thoughts and more around the business idea that I have to help people achieve their next steps. I have a vision in my head and heart for what this business is and how to execute it and this is the first time I allowed myself to be authentically out there and share that these thoughts and visions are mine. This has been the key to the success I am experiencing with this iteration of my business, in my opinion. It is because I was brave enough to write that first blog post, to send that first tweet and to be out there.
This is something you can do, too. Take something you know about, some business news you have a professional opinion on and write about it and/or use LinkedIn to share an update or to comment in a group. You can start with baby steps. You do not need to create a blog right away - but you should create a blog. Based off of Tip 1, you can create and share with the world that which is your passion. Just be careful about sharing professional opinions only and not personal opinions - that is when you can get into trouble. I would caution to avoid real hot topic issues like religion, politics, etc. Focus on building your brand out based on your skills and capabilities.
Tip 4: Never give up
I think this is important in terms of brand building for both entrepreneurs and corporate career path folks. If you do not get the promotion or the dream job you want, keep trying. Keep learning. Keep trying to espouse and represent the values you want to be known for - but make sure you followed Tip 1 so you know what those values and skills are you want to highlight.
What do you think of my quick 4 #proftips on how to build your brand? Do you think of yourself as a brand? Was it easy for you to think that way or not? Happy Hunting!
Lisa Vento Nielsen