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The professional and the person

As any personnel manager would tell you, Tom Peters is right. We have all got to take responsibility for our own career development (and our private life for that matter).

Building a &#39brand called Me&#39 not only benefits you, it also benefits your employer or your business. People will always judge us and form an opinion but it is our responsibility to manage that opinion. It&#39s about reputation management. Whether we like it or not, that opinion will relate to our employer too because the personal and company brands are inextricable. We all live the brand every minute of every day.

The way we answer the telephone, the way we dress, the way we conduct ourselves at meetings, what we say to the press – all these things and many more enable others to judge us and thereby contribute to the brand-building process. Get it right and you will have an edge over your competitors – more referrals if you&#39re a mortgage broker or more members if you&#39re a mortgage network.

But not everyone agrees with Peters. Lucy Kellaway, writing in the Financial Times, labels personal branding “a hybrid of homespun psychology, self-help and dressing for success”. She continues: “It is born from the idea that each of us &#39owns&#39 our career and that we are never going to getanywhere unless we set out consciously and strategically to market ourselves for all we are worth.” But, she adds: “I am not a brand and neither are you. We are people, which is not the same thing at all.” Her conclusion: “Personal branding is distasteful for being blatantly ambitious, sneaky and superficial. Worse, it is surely bad for business… The more you focus on Me Inc., the less you are likely to be focussing on the job in hand” (Financial Times, December 4 2000).

Kellaway clearly misses the point that the personal and company brands are linked.

Just as companies brand their products to create unique associations in the minds of the target consumers, personal branding also involves the creation of strong and favourable associations in the minds of our target audience. But unlike products that have a conscious marketing programme to build and maintain brand values, personal brands are built unconsciously.

Even if a person does not play any conscious role in branding themselves, others will automatically create some associations about them based on their nature and habits. Therefore, we must all manage that process by playing an active role in creating a brand for ourselves – because will have one whether we like it or not.

The advantages of personal branding are that it:

• Differentiates you from your competition

• Positions your focussed message in the hearts and minds of your target customers

• Confers &#39top of mind&#39 status

• Increases the authority and credence of decisions

• Places you in a leadership role

• Enhances prestige

• Attracts the right people to the business

• Attracts business development opportunities to the business

• Earns recognition

• Increases earning potential.

These advantages ultimately benefit both you and your employer.

But how do we build our personal brand and then protect and nurture it? Let&#39s not forget, a brand personality can be bad as well as good.

So how do we control the ability of others to build, enhance or even destroy our personal brand, which in turn will affect our company brand?

This is a vital question and one that deserves more consideration. The Blue Sky column provides the ideal platform to return to this important issue in the future.

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