How powerful is your personal brand?
By C. Fredrick Crum

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In the words of management expert Tom Peters, "Become distinct or extinct."

As we hear of challenges from around the world and as markets shift, we can no longer rely on job security. Climbing up the corporate ladder in a singular firm is no longer the norm. In fact, looking into the crystal ball, we all may be self-employed private contractors working for, but not attached to, any particular firm or organization. Knowing these trends, there is only one realistic advantage that's certain to outshine the others: your personal brand.


Can you easily explain your job without using your title?
  • 1. Yes
  • 2. No

Tom Peters continues, "It does not matter whether or not you are on a firm's payroll, you would be well advised to behave as if you were CEO of Me, Inc. View yourself as the boss of your own show even if that show happens to be playing at Citigroup, GE or ExxonMobil."

When we think of branding, we often think of marketing a brand of an entire organization. Very few rising executives consciously consider developing their own personal brand. It is often during coaching that our clients' realize their position or job title is not their brand. Our clients' also realize working on building their personal brand is the key to their future success.

It is easy for us to admire the personal branding of personalities like: Lady Gaga, Michael Jordan, Rush Limbaugh, Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart and Bill Gates. They have all developed distinct and successful personal brands. In fact, their personal brands time after time overshadow their employers' or company brands. While most executives are pummeled by forces outside their control — industry changes, new competition, technological innovations, globalization, these folks can write their own ticket.

These may be extreme examples of personal branding compared to executives who oversee international logistics, sales departments or lead school systems. But the same principles apply. To shield yourself from the fluctuation of the job market, you must build and protect a powerful personal brand.

To accomplish this, you must consider the qualities that separate you from the rest of the crowd? Who are you? Where are you headed? How are you unique? How can you make a dramatic difference? What is your value and your style? How do you want to be known? As you think about your qualities, contemplate how you are going to design and tell your story.

As a simple starting point, I often ask clients to work on developing their elevator speech. (The client is not permitted to include his/her position or title in their elevator speech.) For those of you who do not know what an elevator speech is, imagine meeting someone for the first time in an elevator and you only have three floors to answer their question, "So what do you do?"

To quote Tom Peters once again, "You and I are BRANDS, just as much as Coca-Cola is a brand. Thus, you and I have a (high or low) (growing or declining) (solid or fragile) brand equity."

C. Fredrick Crum is the president and founder of Effective Leadership Now.Org. He has spent more than 30 years working with leaders and leadership teams to improve their performance.